Introduced and Annotated by Manvir K. Thiara

This is a speech by Mao Zedong, who was the chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1945 until his death in 1976. Mao delivered this speech on September 21, 1949, at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).[1] On October 1, 1949, Mao founded the People’s Republic of China. Before Mao established the People’s Republic of China in 1949, there was intense rivalry between the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Nationalist Party, which resulted in the Chinese Civil War that started in 1945 and ended in 1949. The Civil War eventually led to the creation of the People’s Republic of China under Mao. Mao gave this speech to announce to the delegates that the Chinese people had stood up to declare that their nation will no longer be seen as weak.[2] This speech was a way for Mao to portray China as a strong nation of the world, as he explains that the Chinese military defeated the previous Nationalist government to take control of the country.[3] Mao speaks in unifying terms and wants China to become a stable country and a “great, courageous, and industrious nation” again.[4] He also speaks about how it was essential that the Chinese people continue to work as a collective against imperialism and capitalism in the future.

This speech directly relates to the theme of dictatorships and everyday life, as Mao references the people’s democratic dictatorship, which was how he saw Chinese civilians. Mao either saw civilians as people or non-people: the peasantry and working class were considered human while the “reactionaries” and people who did not follow orders were seen as non-humans.[5] Mao explicitly states in the speech that the Chinese “state system of the people’s democratic dictatorship” will maintain order in the country, by defeating and punishing all “imperialists and domestic reactionaries.”[6] These “reactionaries” according to Mao were non-people, meaning enemies who needed to be suppressed.[7] If the Chinese government saw an individual as a threat, then that individual was either punished by imprisonment, death, or they were “[remolded] until they learned how to live under the people’s democratic dictatorship.”[8]

THE CHINESE PEOPLE HAVE STOOD UP!

September 21, 1949

[Opening address at the First Plenary Session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference[9]]

Fellow Delegates,

The Political Consultative Conference so eagerly awaited by the whole nation is herewith inaugurated.

Our conference is composed of more than six hundred delegates, representing all the democratic parties and people’s organizations of China, the People’s Liberation Army,[10] the various regions and nationalities of the country and the overseas Chinese. This shows that ours is a conference embodying the great unity of the people of the whole country.

It is because we have defeated the reactionary Kuomintang[11] government backed by U.S. imperialism that this great unity of the whole people has been achieved. In a little more than three years the heroic Chinese People’s Liberation Army, an army such as the world has seldom seen, crushed all the offensives launched by the several million troops of the U.S.-supported reactionary Kuomintang government and turned to the counter-offensive and the offensive. At present the field armies of the People’s Liberation Army, several million strong, have pushed the war to areas near Taiwan, Kwangtung, Kwangsi, Kweichow, Szechuan and Sinkiang, and the great majority of the Chinese people have won liberation. In a little more than three years the people of the whole country have closed their ranks, rallied to support the People’s Liberation Army, fought the enemy and won basic victory. And it is on this foundation that the present People’s Political Consultative Conference is convened.

Our conference is called the Political Consultative Conference because some three years ago we held a Political Consultative Conference with Chiang Kai-shek’s[12] Kuomintang. The results of that conference were sabotaged by Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang and its accomplices; nevertheless the conference left an indelible impression on the people. It showed that nothing in the interest of the people could be accomplished together with Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang, the running dog of imperialism, and its accomplices. Even when resolutions were reluctantly adopted, it was of no avail, for as soon as the time was ripe, they tore them up and started a ruthless war against the people. The only gain from that conference was the profound lesson it taught the people that there is absolutely no room for compromise with Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang, the running dog of imperialism, and its accomplices — overthrow these enemies or be oppressed and slaughtered by them, either one or the other, there is no other choice. In a little more than three years the Chinese people, led by the Chinese Communist Party, have quickly awakened and organized themselves into a nation-wide united front against imperialism, feudalism, bureaucrat-capitalism and their general representative, the reactionary Kuomintang government, supported the People’s War of Liberation, basically defeated the reactionary Kuomintang government, overthrown the rule of imperialism in China and restored the Political Consultative Conference.

The present Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference is convened on an entirely new foundation; it is representative of the people of the whole country and enjoys their trust and support. Therefore, the conference proclaims that it will exercise the functions and powers of a National People’s Congress.[13] In accordance with its agenda, the conference will enact the Organic Law of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the Organic Law of the Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Common Programme of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference; it will elect the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the Central People’s Government Council of the People’s Republic of China; it will adopt the national flag and national emblem of the People’s Republic of China; and it will decide on the seat of the capital of the People’s Republic of China and adopt the chronological system in use in most countries of the world.

Fellow Delegates, we are all convinced that our work will go down in the history of mankind, demonstrating that the Chinese people, comprising one quarter of humanity, have now stood up. The Chinese have always been a great, courageous and industrious nation; it is only in modern times that they have fallen behind. And that was due entirely to oppression and exploitation by foreign imperialism and domestic reactionary governments.[14] For over a century our forefathers never stopped waging unyielding struggles against domestic and foreign oppressors, including the Revolution of 1911[15] led by Mr. Sun Yat-sen,[16] our great forerunner in the Chinese revolution. Our forefathers enjoined us to carry out their unfulfilled will. And we have acted accordingly. We have closed our ranks and defeated both domestic and foreign oppressors through the People’s War of Liberation[17] and the great people’s revolution, and now we are proclaiming the founding of the People’s Republic of China. From now on our nation will belong to the community of the peace-loving and freedom-loving nations of the world and work courageously and industriously to foster its own civilization and well-being and at the same time to promote world peace and freedom. Ours will no longer be a nation subject to insult and humiliation. We have stood up. Our revolution has won the sympathy and acclaim of the people of all countries. We have friends all over the world.

Our revolutionary work is not completed, the People’s War of Liberation and the people’s revolutionary movement are still forging ahead and we must keep up our efforts. The imperialists and the domestic reactionaries will certainly not take their defeat lying down; they will fight to the last ditch. After there is peace and order throughout the country, they are sure to engage in sabotage and create disturbances by one means or another and every day and every minute they will try to stage a come-back. This is inevitable and beyond all doubt, and under no circumstances must we relax our vigilance.

Our state system, the people’s democratic dictatorship,[18] is a powerful weapon for safeguarding the fruits of victory of the people’s revolution and for thwarting the plots of domestic and foreign enemies for restoration, and this weapon we must firmly grasp. Internationally, we must unite with all peace-loving and freedom-loving countries and peoples, and first of all with the Soviet Union and the New Democracies,[19] so that we shall not stand alone in our struggle to safeguard these fruits of victory and to thwart the plots of domestic and foreign enemies for restoration. As long as we persist in the people’s democratic dictatorship and unite with our foreign friends, we shall always be victorious.

The people’s democratic dictatorship and solidarity with our foreign friends will enable us to accomplish our work of construction rapidly. We are already confronted with the task of nation-wide economic construction. We have very favourable conditions: a population of 475 million[20] people and a territory of 9,600,000 square kilometres. There are indeed difficulties ahead, and a great many too. But we firmly believe that by heroic struggle the people of the country will surmount them all. The Chinese people have rich experience in overcoming difficulties. If our forefathers, and we also, could weather long years of extreme difficulty and defeat powerful domestic and foreign reactionaries, why can’t we now, after victory, build a prosperous and flourishing country? As long as we keep to our style of plain living and hard struggle, as long as we stand united and as long as we persist in the people’s democratic dictatorship and unite with our foreign friends, we shall be able to win speedy victory on the economic front.

An upsurge in economic construction is bound to be followed by an upsurge of construction in the cultural sphere. The era in which the Chinese people were regarded as uncivilized is now ended. We shall emerge in the world as a nation with an advanced culture.

Our national defence will be consolidated and no imperialists will ever again be allowed to invade our land. Our people’s armed forces must be maintained and developed with the heroic and steeled People’s Liberation Army as the foundation. We will have not only a powerful army but also a powerful air force and a powerful navy.

Let the domestic and foreign reactionaries tremble before us! Let them say we are no good at this and no good at that. By our own indomitable efforts we the Chinese people will unswervingly reach our goal.

The heroes of the people who laid down their lives in the People’s War of Liberation and the people’s revolution shall live for ever in our memory!

Hail the victory of the People’s War of Liberation and the people’s revolution!

Hail the founding of the People’s Republic of China!

Hail the triumph of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference!

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“Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference: Process of Founding and Key Achievements in History.” National People’s Congress. http://www.china.org.cn/english/archiveen/27750.htm.

Jowett, A.J. “The Growth of China’s Population, 1949-1982 (With Special Reference to the Demographic Disaster of 1960-61).” The Geographical Journal 150, no. 2 (1984): 155-170. http://www.jstor.org/stable/634995.

Kennedy, Andrew Bingham. “Can the Weak Defeat the Strong? Mao’s Evolving Approach to Asymmetric Warfare in Yan’an.” The China Quarterly 196 (2008): 884-899. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20192272.

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Lum, Kalfred Dip. “Chinese Civil War and Foreign Relations.” News Bulletin (Institute of Pacific Relations) (1927): 19-22. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2485490.

Mao Zedong. “On New Democracy.” Last modified 2014. Marxists.org. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_26.htm.

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[1] Mao Zedong, “The Chinese People have Stood Up,” last modified 2004, Marxists.org, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-5/mswv5_01.htm.

[2] Mao, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-5/mswv5_01.htm.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Mao Zedong, “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship,” last modified 2004, Marxists.org, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-4/mswv4_65.htm.

[6] Mao, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-5/mswv5_01.htm.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Mao, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-4/mswv4_65.htm.

[9] CPPCC stands for the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, sometimes referred to as the Political Consultative Conference. The CPPCC functions as a political consulting assembly in China, in which members of different political parties come together to make recommendations and suggestions to the Communist Party of China. However, there was a precursor to the CPPCC that was started in 1946 by the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang because they wanted to cooperate and talk about possible reforms, but this did not work out. The People’s Consultative Conference (PCC) met from January 11 to 31, 1946 to come to an agreement about the fighting between the Communists and Nationalists, but this resulted in no resolution. The organization was reconstituted as the CPPCC in 1949.

[10] The People’s Liberation Army refers to the Chinese military force under the Chinese Communist Party. These armed forces were originally known as the Red Army. The name was changed to the People’s Liberation Army after the Second World War. The army expanded under Mao Zedong from 5,000 soldiers in 1929 to 200,000 in 1933. In June 1948, the People’s Liberation Army was made up of 1,560,000 soldiers.

[11] The Kuomintang or Guomindang is a political party in China and is also known as the Nationalist Party. This political party governed over Mainland China in the years from 1928 to 1949 and Taiwan under Chiang Kai-shek. The Kuomintang was initially a revolutionary league that wanted to overthrow the Chinese monarchy, but became a political party during the creation of the Chinese republic in 1912. In 1925, Chiang Kai-shek became the leader of this party and most of China came under his control.

[12] Chiang Kai-shek was born October 8, 1887 and died April 5, 1975. He was the leader of the Nationalist government in China from 1928 to 1949. In 1949, he and his army retreated to Taiwan where he served as the leader of the Republic of China in exile.

[13] The National People’s Congress would become the legislature of the People’s Republic of China. Under Mao it met in 1954, 1959, 1964 and 1975.

[14] When Mao mentions “domestic reactionary governments,” he is referring to the Nationalist Party of China, also known as the Kuomintang.

[15] The Revolution of 1911 refers to an uprising that resulted in the overthrowing of the Qing Dynasty and a republic was created. During this time the Qing dynasty was in decline, as it struggled to modernize China. Moreover, there were also economic problems as the revolution truly began after the Beijing government nationalized the railroads in a Sichuan (Chinese Province). This was a problem because the Sichuan assembly rejected this idea and wanted full compensation, as this was the policy in other provinces. This action taken by the government left the merchants disgruntled and eventually led to riots. On October 10, 1911 violence broke out between some soldiers in Wuchang and this is considered the starting point of the Chinese Revolution.

[16] Sun Yat-sen was born November 12, 1866 and died March 12, 1925. He was the leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party (the Kuomintang) and was a key revolutionary who helped overthrow the Qing dynasty.

[17] The People’s War of Liberation is the Communist Party’s label for the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949).

[18] The “people’s democratic dictatorship” that Mao references is a concept from another speech he wrote. In this speech, he explains who he considers people. “People” in Mao’s eyes were those who were the working class, the peasantry, and the bourgeoisie. He sees the “reactionaries” as non-people. Mao promises to assist the working class and peasantry, but he also says that the exploiters will be punished.

[19] When Mao says the “various New Democracies” in this speech, he was referring to the other newly formed communist countries at the time. Moreover, “New Democracy” is also a concept created by Mao, in which he explains the transitioning phase from a bourgeoisie/capitalist state to a socialist or communist state in his speech, bearing the same name. For example, Mao said that some private companies and capitalists were allowed to exist in China, if they helped the state.

[20] When Mao says that the population of China in 1949 was “475 million,” it was an estimate. A recent study estimates the number of people living in China at the time as 541.7 million.

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