Communist Takeover of Hangzhou

Communist Takeover of Hangzhou: The Transformation of City and Cadre, 1949-1954

Copyright Date: 2004
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  • Book Info
    Communist Takeover of Hangzhou
    Book Description:

    Existing literature on the Chinese Revolution takes into account the influence of peasant society on Mao's ideas and policies but rarely discusses a reverse effect of comparable significance: namely, how peasant cadres were affected by the urban environment into which they moved. In this detailed examination of the cultural dimension of regime change in the early years of the Revolution, James Gao looks at how rural-based cadres changed and were changed by the urban culture that they were sent to dominate. He investigates how Communist cadres at the middle and lower levels left their familiar rural environment to take over the city of Hangzhou and how they consolidated political control, established economic stability, developed institutional reforms, and created political rituals to transform the urban culture. His book analyzes the interplay between revolutionary and non-revolutionary culture with respect to the varying degrees with which they resisted and adapted to each other. It reveals the essential role of cultural identity in legitimizing the new regime and keeping its revolutionary ideal alive.


    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6195-7
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. Maps
    (pp. xii-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    The Communist takeover of China in 1949 brought the promise of fundamental political, social, and cultural transformation. This was to be accomplished through national unification under a government with an idealistic vision of the future mated to discipline and confidence borne of victory after twenty-eight years of bloody struggle. The West, for its part, was skeptical of the capacity of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to govern the newly created People’s Republic of China (PRC) effectively, let alone implement an ambitious program of national integration and modernization. The new regime had to help the legions of starving and homeless, win...

  7. 1 On the Eve of the Takeover
    (pp. 11-41)

    March 23, 1948, had special significance for Communist leader Mao Zedong. In the early morning, two hundred boatmen assembled at the mouth of a gorge at Chuankou village (the nearest crossing point to Communist headquarters at Yan’an) and began preparing to ferry Mao and his staff across the Yellow River.¹ A year before, Hu Zongnan, a general in the GMD, had launched a massive attack on Yan’an, and the Communists had had to withdraw their heavily outnumbered forces. The Communist headquarters and Mao’s entire revolution were both in desperate straits. After he evacuated Yan’an, Mao Zedong took the assumed name...

  8. 2 Training the Cadres
    (pp. 42-68)

    It was extraordinarily cold in January 1949. As the Huaihai Battle (around Xuzhou) was coming to an end, thousands of wounded GMD soldiers were dying of hypothermia in the snowy weather, making it hard for the PLA to clean up the battleground. The Communist victory in the battle, however, brought a warm feel of spring to Luzhongnan, where every household had paid a high price for the war. The most remarkable contribution was made by women, who bore the double burden of working in the fields and undertaking logistical tasks along with the men. As the war came to an...

  9. 3 The First Efforts
    (pp. 69-97)

    The first group of Communist soldiers marched into the city of Hangzhou on May 3, 1949. As soon as they occupied the City Hall, the GMD’s blue sky–white sun flag was lowered. Without its own flag to replace it until October, however, the PLA raised a simple red flag to proclaim the regime change.¹ It was obvious that the red color symbolized revolution. The flag without any design seemed to reveal that the new rulers had not yet made a definite plan for the new society.

    In front of the City Hall, the president of the City Congress, Zhang...

  10. 4 One Step Back, Two Steps Forward
    (pp. 98-124)

    After coming to Hangzhou, the new city leaders moved into lavish villas on Shentang Street, facing West Lake.¹ Through their windows they could see pleasure boats on the water and hear music from nearby gardens. The Western mansions on the shores of West Lake used to belong to the foreign and local rich; boating on the lake was also a privilege of the rich. From their windows, looking around the lake, the Communist leaders were glad to see happy crowds whose dress suggested a working-class background. In a discussion meeting with trade union cadres and worker activists, Tan Zhenlin was...

  11. 5 The Korean War and the City
    (pp. 125-153)

    As it proceeds from the midtown of Hangzhou northward to the Tianshui Bridge or southward to the Song Family Bridge, the Zhongshan Road changes character.¹ It gradually loses its bustle and noise and becomes quieter and cleaner. There were two Christian mission compounds at opposite ends of the road. Both the compound grounds included chapels, schools, and clinics. As a child of one missionary family, Eugenia Barnett Schultheis recalls that the front yard of her compound was full of trees and flowers: “A weigela bush near by bore a shower of pink blossom; there was a scent of mock orange...

  12. 6 The Trial of Strength
    (pp. 154-184)

    “To serve the people, the best cigarettes on sale.”¹ This was an advertisement in a grocery store window in Hangzhou. To link everything with revolutionary slogans, such as “to serve the people,” was the fashion since the Communist takeover. To no one’s surprise, Communist discourse had a great impact on the urban dwellers. At the same time, some commercial concepts penetrated the Communists. The southbound cadres who had joined the CCP to devote themselves to the revolution were now talking about “repayments,” “benefits,” and “bargains.”²

    The economic situation in 1951 was remarkable. According to a report by the provincial government,...

  13. 7 Women Cadres
    (pp. 185-215)

    After the establishment of the PRC, the state-run film studios began to use a three-person image (male worker, soldier, and female peasant) as their new emblem.¹ As Chinese movies were showing throughout the country, images of women repeatedly emerged on the screen to represent the Chinese peasantry. This emblem reflected a wide perception that associated Chinese women with poor and backward rural life and implied the subordinate position of women, who were under the leadership of male workers.

    As spring came to the city of Hangzhou in 1953, however, some eye-catching posters appeared on the streets that portrayed women as...

  14. 8 The “Geneva of the East”
    (pp. 216-244)

    It was comparatively quiet in the city in late 1953 and 1954. The CCP’s original plan was to spend five years restoring the economy and then ten years developing it. Now the task of economic restoration was completed, and China’s First Five-Year Plan for the country’s industrialization was on track.¹ In the suburbs of Hangzhou and in nearby counties, collectivization unfolded in keeping with the strategy of advancing steadily and progressing slowly rather than rashly, while in the city the government made plans to nationalize all private industry.² However, the high tide of socialist transformation was yet to come in...

  15. 9 Conclusion
    (pp. 245-262)

    The historical treatment of the Communist takeover of Hangzhou reveals a two-pronged approach toward socialism. First, in the new setting the Communist southbound cadres were saddled with all sorts of political and economic constraints and had to use the debris of the old order to build a new one. Second, in pursuit of their revolutionary goals, they initiated a gradual social transformation with policies that were acceptable if not attractive to a population with an outlook on life that had not yet been reshaped by Communist ideology. This approach was vital to both the survival and the development of a...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 263-310)
  17. Glossary
    (pp. 311-314)
  18. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 315-326)
  19. Index
    (pp. 327-336)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 337-342)