1936-48: The Yan’an Soviet

The CCP established the town of Yan'an as their headquarters in their Shanxi province stronghold.  It served as their capital from the period 1936 to 1948 in which the Chinese Communist Party established the Yan'an Soviet. 

During this period, the Communist Party continued to increase in support.

Under the direction of Mao Zedong, the propaganda of the Communists showed the Yan’an Soviet as an idyllic social and economic system that would support the Chinese people. A number of foreigners visited Yan’an from 1936 to 1940. In fact, a Canadian surgeon helped to improve healthcare by establishing mobile operating theatres. Meanwhile, US President Roosevelt sent some diplomatic and military observers to Yan’an with the aim of evaluating the successes of the CCP. Often, foreign visitors would return to their home countries with positive reports, however, this is largely due to the fact that they had only been allowed to see what the Communists wanted them to see. As a result, foreigners failed to see schools being used as a place for communist propaganda and the masses of anti-Kuomintang propaganda was unseen.

Mao spent a large amount of time writing and developing his political ideas in Yan’an. He was able to outline plans for a ‘democratic dictatorship’. He believed that the communists should form a single-party government, with full control and diplomacy, although Mao believed they should listen to the needs and desires of the peasant population especially, as the made up the largest proportion of the Chinese population.

In 1941, Mao began a ‘Rectification Movement’ which encompassed study and discussion sessions for the new recruits who arrived in Yan’an to join the Communist Party. By 1942, all members were encouraged to read and criticise Mao’s political views and policies for the communists. However, Mao hired a chief of security, Kang Sheng, who developed the movement into a terror campaign. Those who criticised Mao were arrested, accused of ‘individualism’ and tortured. In 1944, Mao ended the Rectification Movement and claimed that the terror tactics had been a result of excessive actions of local officials, rather than his governing policy. However, by this time Mao had secured his position as leader of the Chinese Communist Party by removing potential opposition. In the end, Historians claim that up to 10,000 people were killed during the movement.