60 years from Liberation

Updated 26 January, 2015

Turmoil in China, mostly caused by the Great Helmsman, Chairman Mao; eventually resulting in a peaceful and prosperous China, Mao could only have dreamed of.

From reform to purge, via the ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution‘, to Tiananmen Square – the turning point to socialist capitalism led by Deng Xiaoping

·         1949–1989 – Series of Five-Year Plans initially based on Soviet model of planned economy
·         1949–1956 – Generally seen as the ‘good years’ of Chinese socialism. Land is redistributed to peasants and the economy grows.


·         1950-53 – Chinese People’s Volunteers joins Korean War and enters North Korea in November 1950 as UN forces with South Korea repulsed North Korea’s attempt to reunify country through arms almost to Chinese border along Yalu River. After series of see-saw battles, initially with Chinese and North Koreans pushing far south, truce was agreed that settled border along 38th parallel. China withdraws its Volunteers.
·         1956 – ‘The Hundred Flowers’ Campaign encouraged intellectuals to give their opinions about the government. Many that did were sent to jail in the anti-rightist purge that followed!
·         1956 – Brief war with Burma when Chinese forces invaded Burma, clashing with Burmese troops and taking disputed territory in northern Burma.

·         1958–60 – ‘The Great Leap Forward’, attempt to boost production through re-redistribution of land into communes and millions of backyard ‘steel furnaces’. Apparently, Mao was told by some economists that a key measure of level of industrialisation is iron and steel production. With so many communes and neighbourhood communities at Party’s beck and call, what better way to boost this indicator! Result was two failed harvests and millions of deaths from starvation.


·         1962 – China made several attempts to negotiate its border with India delineated by Sir Henry McMahon (of British Raj) agreed by Tibetan authorities, then a vassal state of Imperial China, but not accepted by China. India refused to negotiate. China was also highly irritated by India providing refuge to Dalai Lama since1959, supporting him, in effect, to set up government in exile. After repeated threats, Chinese tanks rolled over Himalayas into western Himalayan areas and Assam in the east and captured strategic oil fields. Indian Army was totally unprepared as it thought Himalayas impassable for tanks. After several months of occupation, China unilaterally withdrew from Assam. It has however retained Aksai Chin in the west. India lost ‘face’ in a big way. The dispute has yet to be resolved.

·         1966 – After few years away from power, Mao starts ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’. Cultural Revolution was time of utter chaos: students formed into bands of ‘Red Guards’ destroying anything representing the West, capitalism, religion or tradition. Mao’s rivals within Party were purged, thousands of lives were ruined, layers of managers and professionals were sent to farms or mines – some never to return, health and education system collapsed, and much of China’s cultural heritage was destroyed.

·         1969 – 2005 – Territorial dispute arising from nineteenth-century treaties imposed on China by Russia concentrated on boundary alignment along Amur and Ussuri Rivers. Beijing sought settlement on basis of compromise, and insisted on full renegotiation. Moscow refused to negotiate and used military force to impose treaties. China responded, and in 1969 clashes on Ussuri River brought conflict to brink of war that could have involved tactical nuclear weapons! In 1986 Moscow broke deadlock by reversing its approach and agreeing to negotiate.