13     The Early Years of the People's Republic of China (1949-1966)


Primary Resources


Document 13.1


Excerpts from The Common Program of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, September 1949


Document 13.2


Excerpt from Lu Dingyi’s speech “Let Flowers of Many Kinds Blossom, Diverse Schools of Thought Contend!” May 26, 1956 

Document 13.3

Excerpt from “The Masses Can Do Anything,” speech by Mao Zedong, September 29, 1958


Document 13.4


Excerpts describing urban living arrangements, from Growing Up in the People’s Republic: Conversations Between Two Daughters of China’s Revolution by Ye Weili and Ma Xiaodong, 2005

Document 13.5

Excerpt from Mao Zedong’s speech “On the Policies of Our Work in Tibet,” April 6, 1952

Document 13.6

Propaganda posters, 1957–1959



Supplementary Resources 


Item 13.A

A Brief History of Tibet 

Item 13.B

A Brief History of Xinjiang



Activity Websites


Activity 6 Creative Extension

Chinese Posters



Suggested Resources




Becker, Jasper. Hungry Ghosts: Mao’s Secret Famine. New York: The Free Press, 1996.


Cheek, Timothy. Mao Zedong and China’s Revolutions: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2002.


Chen Jian. Mao’s China and the Cold War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

Chen examines China’s relationship with the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s, the Taiwan Strait crisis, and involvement in Korea and Vietnam.


Dikötter, Frank. Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958–1962. New York: Walker & Co., 2010.

Based on documents in Chinese archives that have not previously been available to historians and scholars, Dikötter’s work chronicles the policies of the Great Leap Forward and its effect on Chinese society.


Hershatter, Gail. The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.

Through interviews with 72 men and women in rural Shaanxi province, Hershatter’s work provides insights into the impact of the 1950 Marriage Law, land reform, and collectivization.


Hessler, Peter. Country Driving: A Journey through China from Farm to Factory. New York: Harper, 2010.

A narrative account of how the development and diffusion of cars and roads have changed China. On pages 185–189, Hessler describes changes in land practice from 1949 to the present.


Landsberger, Stefan. Chinese Propaganda Posters. Koln: Taschen, 2011.


Schoppa, R. Keith. Twentieth Century China: A History in Documents. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Includes an abbreviated version of the 1950 New Marriage Law.


Shakya, Tsering. The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.


Spence, Jonathan D. Mao Zedong. New York: Viking, 1999.


Wemheuer, Felix and Kimberley Ens Manning, eds. Eating Bitterness: New Perspectives on China’s Great Leap Forward and Famine. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011.

Eleven papers by historians and political scientists examining the events of the early years of the People’s Republic of China, including discrepancies in death rates attributed to the famine and the role of women during this time period. 




Chinese Posters: Propaganda, Politics, History, Art

Gallery of posters from 1925-2006 including the Mao era, with translations of slogans and social and political context about collections of posters. From the collections of the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, and Stefan R. Landsberger.


Commonly Read Speeches and Writings of Mao Zedong (1927–1945), Asia for Educators

Speeches highlighting Mao’s ideology.


Mao Zedong, 1893–1976, BBC Historic Figures

A short biography of Mao Zedong.


Mao Zedong Library

Translations of Selected Works of Mao Zedong volumes 1–5.


New Marriage Law, 1950

An overview of the 1950 Marriage Law and propaganda posters from the collections of the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, and Stefan R. Landsberger.


The Question of Tibet, Council on Foreign Relations

An article by Jayshree Bajoria examining the issue of Tibet’s political status and conflict with China.


Second Marriage Law of the People’s Republic of China

The law adopted at the Third Session of the Fifth National People’s Congress on September 10, 1980. Amended April 28, 2001.


The Tibet Issue, BBC News

Perspectives on Tibet from Tibetan and Chinese viewpoints.






All Under Heaven (58 mins; 1986)

Part of the One Village in China series, this documentary, directed and produced by Carma Hinton and Richard Gordon, captures the various ways in which the Communist Party of China has tackled the challenge of land reform and gives insight into rural traditions.


The Blue Kite (138 mins; 1993)

The film captures how the turbulent political times affected the lives of citizens. In Mandarin with subtitles.


Mao Tse-Tung: China’s Peasant Emperor (50 mins; 2005)

A documentary of Mao’s life based on archival film footage and interviews with acquaintances and scholars.


To Live (133 mins; 1994)

This film spans four decades of the twentieth century in China. It tells the story of a couple and their two children as they struggle to survive the constantly changing political climate. In Mandarin with subtitles.



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