From a Semi-Colony to An Independent Nation
From the mid-19th to the early 20th century, most of China's vast territory was reduced to imperialist "spheres of influence." Tsarist Russia occupied five provinces in north China; Germany seized Shandong; France took hold of Guangxi, Guangdong and Yunnan; Britain seized six provinces and Shanghai in the Yangtze River valley and part of Tibet, Henan and Guangdong; and Japan occupied Fujian and Taiwan. The United States, flaunting the banner of an "open door" policy, forced China to provide it with the same privileges "granted" other imperialist powers. In the 60 years between 1845 and 1904, imperialist powers seized more than 30 concession areas, turning them into "states within a state." These imperialist countries controlled China's most important harbours and ports where the flags of these countries were hoisted. Imperialists enjoyed political, economic and military privileges in their respective spheres of influence and deprived the Chinese people of their human rights and national dignity at will. For example, the French Concession Park in Shanghai (now Huangpu Park) even put up a sign at the gate saying "No Entrance to Chinese and Dogs."
During China's battle for independence and liberation, many people with lofty ideals rose up against imperialist oppression, striving to find a new road for the nation. However, none succeeded in leading China to the road of independence. The Communist Party of China, founded in July 1921, led the Chinese people to wage 28 years of arduous struggle and finally established the People's Republic of China in 1949, for ever ending imperialist control and the oppression of China, abolishing all imperialist privileges in China, and achieving complete independence for the Chinese nation.
The Mainland: Finally United
In the 38 years beginning with the rule of the Northern Warlords after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 and ending with the rule of the Kuomintang (KMT), large and small warlords each set up a seperate regime, and the country was never truly unified. For instance, during the rule of the Northern Warlords, warlord Duan Qirui controlled Anhui, Shaanxi, Shandong, Zhejiang and Fujian provinces; warlord Zhang Zuolin controlled the three provinces in northeast China; and warlords Feng Guozhang, Cao Kun and Wu Peifu controlled Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Hubei and Zhili. In addition, warlords from other factions occupied Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangdong, Guangxi and Hunan. During the rule of the KMT government, some provinces in southwest and northwest China were still under the control of different warlords and many decrees of the central government could not be carried out. The feudal warlords levied taxes, issued bank notes, mobilized armies and set up a pass system to strengthen their control over specific areas, even varying the width of railway gauges. It was not until 1949 when the CPC led the Chinese people to found New China that this history of separation by the regimes of feudal warlords on the mainland ended and genuine unification was achieved.
In modern China, imperialist invasion and the constant scrambling for power by feudal warlords had brought about a succession of wars. Between 1840 and 1926, about 35 major wars broke out in China. Under the rule of the KMT, wars between new warlords became more frequent. In the three years between 1927 and 1930, seven major wars brought several million people into conflict and spread over more than a dozen provinces.
In a bid to bring an end to war, many kind-hearted people campaigned for peace. Yet, the war intensified. It was not until the Chinese Communist Party led the people to win the victory of the new democratic revolution and found New China that the turmoil of war finally came to an end in the country's mainland and peace and social stability which China never experienced in the previous 100 years achieved.
From Autocracy To Democracy
Without exception, every reactionary government of old China claimed that it represented the people and practised democracy. None, however, ever dared to grant the people a genuine right of democracy. In 1913, anxious to become president, Yuan Shikai declared an election even before a constitution was formulated. Moreover, he sent armed plain-clothed police to surround the National Assembly in order to prevent members of the assembly from leaving the hall before a president was elected. Deprived of food, the members were forced to elect Yuan as president after the casting of three votes between eight o'clock in the morning to ten o'clock in the evening. In 1923, in an attempt to ascend the presidential "throne," warlord Cao Kun tried to purchase the votes of assembly members by offering to pay each one from 5,000 to 10,000 silver dollars upon his election. In April 1948, an election was held in the National Assembly of the KMT for the posts of president and vice-presidents, an election which was touted as the first of a democratic nature since the KMT took power. In their competition for votes, however, the "deputies to the national assembly" brutally attacked one another and even smashed the National Salvation Daily. At that time, ordinary citizens did not have the right to vote at all.
A truly general election by the Chinese people was held only after the CPC founded New China. The Constitutions of New China all clearly prescribed that every Chinese citizen who had reached the age of 18 had the right to vote and stand for election. In all elections for the people's deputies after liberation, the number of people casting votes exceeded 97 percent of the electorate. The people's deputies directly elected by the masses of people can participate in the discussion of major state affairs and elect state and government leaders according to the people's will.
7% of Land for 22% of Population
In Old China, agricultural production was stagnant and the amount of wasteland increased with each passing year. The overwhelming majority of people were in a state of hunger. A natural disaster invariably took a heavy toll of human lives and property.
In New China, there has been a stable increase in agricultural production. In 1990, China's grain output hit 435 million tons, or 383.5 kg per capita and close to 100 percent more than pre-liberation days; cotton output, 4.47 million tons; oil-bearing crop production, 16.15 million tons, or 14.2 kg per capita; meat production, 25.04 million tons, or 22.09 kg per capita; and aquatic product output, 12.18 million tons, or 10.74 kg per capita. They all represented increases of four to 11 times. In less than 40 years, New China had solved the problem of food and clothing for 22 percent of the world's population on 7 percent of the world's cultivated land. Moreover, a considerable number of people began to lead a well-off life.
40-Fold Increase In National Strength
In 1949, China ranked 13th worldwide in terms of comprehensive national strength, with 55.7 billion yuan in social output value, 46.6 billion yuan in industrial and agricultural output value and 35.8 billion yuan in national income.
In 1990, however, China's ranking jumped to sixth with its social output value hitting 3,771.8 billion yuan, industrial and agricultural output value 2,385.1 billion yuan, and national income 1,430 billion yuan. They all represented 40-odd-time increase. With the constant growth in production, the standard of living of the people has improved remarkably. The actual consumption level of the people rose from 76 yuan per person in 1952 to 713 yuan in 1990. The balance of urban and rural bank savings increased from 1.6 yuan per person in 1952 to 617 yuan per person in 1990.