The death of Mao Zedong in 1976 marked the end of an era in China. The period from 1949 to 1976 was a time of significant social and economic changes.
When the Kuomintang government collapsed and Mao Tse-Tung assumed control, it marked the beginning of massive reformation for what would become the People’s Republic. Mao Tse-Tung’s rule brought governmental reform that led to social betterment. His first years of rule included careful development and reorganization, backed by Soviet support. The landlord class was wiped out with nationwide land reform, and the land was divided among the peasantry.
Equality prevailed for women and attacks were made on official corruption. Efforts were made to improve sanitation and literacy among the people. These changes generated patriotism during China’s involvement in the Korean War. While social reforms proved to be beneficial to China, attempts for industrial and agricultural growth were not as successful. From 1953-57, industrial production was expanded and agriculture was collectivized.
Disappointing agricultural production led to the frenzied Great Leap Forward of 1958-60. This program, initiated by Mao, was designed to increase industrial production to a level comparable to Britain and create a communal society without Russia’s aid, all within 15 years. However, the project was a failure and Liu Shao-Ch’i temporarily took over Mao’s position as head of state. When differences between party leaders arose and Mao Tse-Tung began feeling that the revolution was exhausted, he launched the Cultural Revolution of 1966-69.
This was intended to stir up the conservative government and military and add more revolutionary elements, with the goal of ridding the nation of the ‘four olds’: old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits. These revolutions often turned violent. When stability was restored, foreign relations vastly improved. The People’s Republic of China was admitted into the United Nations in 1971. The time period between the fall of the KMT and Mao Tse-Tung’s death was an era of revolutionary transition into a nation for the people.
At one point, China was nearly led into a civil war. The key developments that occurred during this time were significant in shaping the country into what it is today.