The Communists take power 1949



In 1945 the Americans reinstated Chiang Kai-shek as ruler of China, and tried to organise a truce between Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong, but after the surrender of Japan a civil war broke out, which the Communists won after a vicious struggle.

In 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China in Beijing, saying: ‘China has stood up’, and the Communists too steps to establish a Communist regime.


The following websites will help you complete the task:


The Civil War, 1945-49:



American documentary

Frank Smitha

HA podcast on why Mao achieved a communist revolution in 1949


Proclamation, 1949:, including a fascinating history, right at the end, of Dong Xiwen's painting

Film footage of the proclamation.


The Civil War: causes

a.  Extermination Campaigns

The CCP and GMD had been at war, on and off, since the Shanghai massacre of 1927; they were just waiting for peace to begin their war again

b.  Ideologies

The CCP was communist, the GMD was capitalist

c.  GMD corruption

In 1945 the Americans reinstated Chiang Kai-shek as ruler of China, but corrupt GMD officials made themselves wealthy by robbing the peasants, and the Secret police hunted down opponents of the government

d.  Failure of Chongqing Conference, 1945

The Americans organised a meeting of Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek at Chongqing, but – although a truce was signed – neither side was prepared to keep it

e.  Unofficial war, 1945-46

After the surrender of Japan in 1945, and the withdrawal of the Japanese Army, both the CCP and the GMD raced to occupy as much of China as possible


The Civil War: key events

a.  Manchuria, 1945-46

The Soviet Army had occupied Manchuria in 1945; as they pulled out, they cooperated with the CCP to help them move in

b.  Liaoshen Campaign, Sept-Nov 1948

The CCP captured Manchuria

c.  Huaihai Campaign, Dec 1948

The CCP surrounded and starved to death the Nationalist army in Hsuchow (160,000 Nationalists died)

d.  Pingjin Campaign, Jan 1949

The CCP captured Beijing

e.  Formosa, Dec 1949

Chiang Kai-shek took the government gold reserves and what was left of his army and government and retreated to Formosa (Taiwan)


Why did the GMD lose the Civil War?

a.  Communist strengths

i.e. why the Communists won the Civil War

b.  ‘Rot from within’

Chiang Kai-shek believed that the GMD lost because it had become corrupt and inefficient

c.  Loss of American support

The Americans gave the GMD $4bn, 1946-48, but withdrew support during the Berlin Blockade

d.  Nationalist Army

The morale of the Nationalist Army was very poor

e.  Defections

Many GMD soldiers defected, taking their equipment with them


Why did the Communists win the Civil War?

a.  GMD weaknesses

i.e. why the GMD lost the Civil War

b.  ‘Passive defence’ tactics

The People's Liberation Army did not attack GMD strongholds, but wore then down with guerrilla raids

c.  Peasant support

The Communists mobilised huge numbers of peasants – e.g. 5million during the Huaihai campaign

d.  Support from the USSR

The Soviet government gave supplies, advice and help (especially in Manchuria, where they allowed the CCP to move in as they left)

e.  People’s Liberation Army

The PLA was disciplined, battle-hardened and ideologically-motivated


The establishment of the People’s Republic, 1949

a.  Gate of Heavenly Peace, Oct 1949

Mao Zedong proclaimed the PRC to a crowd of 300,000 people in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, saying: ‘China has stood up’

b.  GMD officials

At first, as most Communists were peasants, the CCP allowed GMD officials to remain in place

c.  Organic Law

The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was called in 1949 to organise a constitution for the new government of China

d.  Common Program, Sep 1949

The CPPCC formed the Common Program, a plan for the gradual change to a communist state, whilst defending China against ‘imperialism, feudalism and capitalism’

e.  Tibet and Xinjiang, 1950

In 1950, the PLA moved into re-establish Chinese power in Tibet and Xinjiang, which had become independent during the Sino-Japanese War



Study this painting of the proclamation of the People's Republic of China 1949 (it will help you answer question 1 if you do a google image search to find photographs from the event for comparison), and write answers to the questions which follow:

Dong Xiwen, The Founding Ceremony of the Nation, 1964

A propaganda painting of Mao proclaiming the PRC.

How useful is this source to an historian who wants to learn about the proclamation of the PRC in 1949.

Why was this painting produced in 1964?

Explain why the Communists won the Chinese civil war, 1945-49.