Describe China’s economy and society in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s Essay

Throughout the 1940’s China faced many economic and social problems. Chinese society had developed very little since the nineteenth and had been hit badly by the warfare of the twentieth century. Additionally, the ongoing war with Japan initiated by Japanese troops in Beijing as part of a carefully prepared plan wherein Japan would invade China in an attempt to fuel their hunger for land and steadily increase their own empire. Naturally, the Guomindang and the Communist parties remained in their own designated areas from where they had previously suppressed the Civil War between them.This caused much disunity among the people and quality of life in the countryside areas of China deteriorated rapidly.

During this time Chinese industry was very weak. There was very little in the way of large scale production facilities and all agricultural activities relied on manual labour and communes. As a result of this many food shortages arose. This mainly affected the poorer areas of China, inhabited mostly by peasants, later it did, however, become a major problem in the perhaps more privileged areas of China. In such areas, predominantly cities and towns, hungry crowds stormed shops, riots broke out, and public order collapsed.

However, this was not the full extent of China’s problems. There was not much in the way of new technology and farming was very inefficient. As expected, this increased the great food shortages now swiftly spreading over China, killing some three million peasants. Little was done by local governments to resolve these issues, this was largely due to them being used to bribery and corruption, thus making any decision making to be extremely slow.

Conjointly, Chinese society was exceedingly traditional. Arranged marriages and bigamy were commonplace. Basic welfare problems, medical care, poor housing and poverty all had a negative effect on peasants, numerous of them living in the so called ‘liberation areas’ under Communist control, and made life for them incredibly hard. Yet again the government, mainly the Communists, did very little to deal with these issues, they did, however, make a few perhaps insignificant, at the time, social reforms, in the laws of women. Consider that women had been oppressed virtually since the start of Chinese society: it was traditional to practice such things as foot-binding and child prostitution. Under the Communists, the 1951 Marriage Law abolished both of these barbarities, as well as arranged marriages, child marriages and bigamy.

On the other hand city life was moderately easier. These were the areas under Chiang Kaishek’s and the Guomindang control, a large number of these cities were in Chongqing, and mostly contained wealthy business men or landowners. Naturally these were the people most to benefit from a Nationalist regime.

Furthermore, amidst all these predicaments, Chiang Kaishek introduced the ‘New Life Movement’ and the ‘Rural Service’ it’s aim was to achieve a sense of national among the people. The New Life Movement put great stress on self-discipline and honesty and encouraged people to be clean and hygienic- for instance, to blow their noses into handkerchiefs instead of onto the street. However it did not try to deal with China’s primary problems, and so because of this it soon earned a reputation of being trivial. The Rural Service, like the New Life Movement, was criticised as being frivolous which did nothing to tackle China’s deep-rooted poverty.

In conclusion, it becomes clear that neither the Communists nor the KMD did little or nothing to improve life for the masses of Chinese people. Many people died of starvation due to the lack of organisation at harvest time and generally throughout the year. The Government had not done much to help peasants and in some cases their living conditions became worse. From here, it seems as though things could not get any worse, and as the winners of the Civil War, the Communists, led victorious. They now had to deal with these not quite glitches in the system, but major problems, for China to be united once again.