The Swift Communist Conquest of China, How Did It Happen?

Communists in China had a clear platform, strong convictions, ruthless determination, tried devotion - and unity.  Their leader was an independent thinker who had yet held unswerving Marxist beliefs, a scholar who was equally a man of action.  Through long years of minority opposition they had acquired invaluable experience, and their program was adapted to the realities of the Chinese situation; they possessed courage to hazard all, and to tackle tasks of unknown complexity and magnitude.  Through poverty, obloquy and danger they had learned to live selflessly for a cause; what was yet more important, they had found the way to inspire others to a similar dedication.  Their genius lay in two directions; internal discipline, and effectively-organised propaganda.  They discovered how to "put across" their basic revolutionary ideas to illiterate and simple-minded peasants.  From the peasants they enlisted the "People's Liberation Army," which proved itself an extraordinarily effective ambassador of the new régime.  Its soldiers pitted their own convictions and hopes against the better-equipped and more advantageously-positioned Nationalist forces, which had, however, neither popular support nor any belief themselves in the Government they were called upon to defend.  The Nationalists were therefore routed.  This New Model Army, whose soldiers said everywhere, "You have nothing to fear from us: we are of the people, like yourselves, and come to liberate the people", convinced the populace by actual demonstration that a new day for China had already dawned.  Moral support was won, belief in the new Government was born.  And on the basis of this new national psychology the Communists were able to achieve their initial miracles of stopping inflation and corruption.  Organisation, indoctrination, regimentation then followed, and China became a totalitarian State, progressively ruled through suspicion, force and fear.

Due note should be taken of the swiftness with which the revolution was carried through.  Before it happened, such a rapid turn-over was, for most people, inconceivable.  It probably took the Communists themselves by surprise.  A year before the event, quite shrewd observers thought that many were taking the Communists too seriously, while those who did recognise them as indeed a force to be reckoned with, imagined that it would take several years for them to acquire but partial power over so vast a country.  Here is one of the lessons to be learned by those who too easily think, "It can't happen here".  Only those who now understand why, in the event, so sudden and so thorough a revolution proved possible, are in a position to venture prognostications as to not so dissimilar situations elsewhere...

It is quite a mistake to imagine that China turned Communist, and so set up a Communist Government.  China wanted revolution, the Communists alone could lead it; it was only after the Communists had already come to power that they indoctrinated the whole country with their tenets." - Victor E. W. Hayward, "Ears to Hear", Lessons from the China Mission (1955), pp. 10-13