Soviets in China

Soviets in China


organs of revolutionary-democratic power, led by the Communist Party of China (CPC), in several rural regions in China in the period 1927–37. Soviets sprang up in China after the suppression of the Revolution of 1925–27, as the national crisis took on wider dimensions, the agrarian revolution in the countryside gained momentum, and the country fell prey to political fragmentation and a series of militaristic wars.

In November 1927, in the districts of Hai-feng and Lu-feng in Kwangtung Province, the Chinese Communists, led by P’eng Pai, created the first soviets in China. Attempts to establish soviets in large cities—for example, in Canton in December 1927—were not successful. The soviets and their supporting armed force—units of the Chinese Red Army (CRA)—emerged in certain rural regions in South China, Central China, and Northwest China. They consisted primarily of representatives of farm laborers and poor and middle peasants, and they brought together under their leadership the broad toiling masses of the regions they held. Large landowners, rich peasants, former officials, clergymen, and counterrevolutionary elements could neither vote for, nor take part in, the soviets.

In 1928 the Sixth Congress of the CPC, pursuant to the decisions of the Communist International, drew up a program for the soviet movement in China, a program aimed at the creation of revolutionary bases and CRA units in rural localities. In soviet regions, the agrarian program stipulated, the land held by large landowners and rich peasants was confiscated and distributed in equal measure to soldiers of the Red Army, landless peasants, and land-poor peasants; rich peasants were allotted poorer land in proportion to labor performed. A system of elected soviets, as organs of revolutionary-democratic power, came into existence, a network of schools and a system of political enlightenment were established for the populace at large, newspapers and journals were published for the toiling masses, and a network of cultural and educational institutions came into being. With the help of the Communist International and the CPSU, the CPC overcame various deviations, the most dangerous of which was the adventurist platform of Li Li-san, which was actively supported by Mao Tse-tung.

The soviet regions fought an unceasing armed struggle against the Kuomintang reactionaries. By 1931 the soviets held approximately ten regions in China, with several million people; the CRA grew in size to 100,000. The largest soviet regions were the Central Region, in southeastern Kiangsi and western Fukien provinces, the region at the juncture of Honan, Hupeh, and An-hwei provinces, and the provinces of Hunan and Hupeh west of Wuhan.

In November 1931, the First All-China Congress of Soviets met in Juichin, in Kiangsi Province, and adopted drafts of many important documents: a constitution for the Chinese Soviet Republic, a land law, a labor law, a law on economic policy, a law on building the CRA, and a law on soviet construction. It elected the Central Executive Committee of the Chinese Soviet Republic, a body that in turn created the Provisional Central Soviet Government.

By the fall of 1933, the CRA had successfully repulsed four large punitive campaigns undertaken by the Kuomintang army against the soviet regions. Although between 1931 and early 1934 the number of soviet regions decreased, several regions grew in size, and the numerical strength of the CRA increased to 300,000.

In January 1934 the Second All-China Congress of Soviets met in the Central Soviet Region. It adopted a series of resolutions aimed at a stronger CRA and better work on the part of the soviets. By this time, however, as the Kuomintang launched its fifth punitive campaign in the fall of 1933, the situation in the soviet regions had begun to deteriorate. In October 1934 the CRA group defending the Central Soviet Region was forced to retreat and undertake the Long March. In January 1935, during the Long March, at the insistence of Mao and his followers, an expanded meeting of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPC was held in Tsuni in Kweichow Province—an important step in Mao’s road to power in the party and army. Between the fall of 1935 and the fall of 1936, the remaining CRA detachments concentrated in the area at the juncture of Shensi and Kansu provinces, the only soviet region left after the Long March came to an end.

As political circumstances changed, owing to the growing aggression of the Japanese imperialists against China and the necessity of creating a united national anti-Japanese front, the CPC initiated a review of its policy on the question of the soviets, doing so with an eye toward the resolutions passed at the Seventh Congress of the Communist International. In 1936, on the recommendations of the Communist International, the CPC abandoned the slogan that called for a soviet republic and replaced it with a slogan that called for a unified Chinese democratic republic. In the spring of 1937, on the eve of the Chinese people’s war of national liberation against imperialist Japan, a war that broke out in July 1937, the CPC also abandoned its slogan on the soviets and confiscation of large landholdings. Once the war was under way, the soviet region of Shensi, Kansu, and Ningsia provinces was designated a special region, and CRA units in the region were renamed the Eighth Army. The soviets were reorganized into democratic popular consultative assemblies, with participation by patriotic bourgeois and landowning elements; the CPC retained its leadership in the assemblies.


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