Education About Asia: Online Archives

China’s Law and Government in the Mao Years (1949-1976)

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On June 30, 1949, with victory over the Nationalist government assured, Chairman Mao Zedong observed that the Chinese Communist Party now faced a new challenge: ruling all of China. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) would learn from the Soviet Union, which had already “built a great and splendid socialist state.”1 China, too, would establish a government and legal system designed to serve the Communist Party’s political purposes. By the late 1950s, Mao had rejected the Soviet model. In the late 1960s, he encouraged young Red Guards to attack bureaucracy, judges, the police, and even Party leaders. Despite those upheavals, the Soviet-style law and government established in the early years of the PRC persisted (though not without change) and is a significant part of the heritage of post-Mao China.

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