Lesson #22 - China under Communism and Mao Zedong

Here's a Unit #8 Review Guide in digital form if you prefer that...

Today's main focus will be on the rise to power of the Communist Party in China under Mao Zedong's leadership. I've got some images from a book, The Chinese Century, that may also help you make sense of some of this.

Cnn: Cold War Assignment: Yesterday, you received "your" episode from this series. The "first half" of you should have the episode watched before class time tomorrow, and you should be ready to post your blog entry on the relevant page by the end of Friday.

As with any project of this magnitude, there will be critics of particular conclusions, interpretations, etc. The recent nature of many of these events, as well as the continuing process of declassifying government documents about them, makes the Cold War more controversial than most historical events. If you want to check out a (long) essay by someone who wasn't too impressed with this series, check out Gabriel Schoenfeld's "Twenty-Four Lies About the Cold War."

Back to the Chinese Civil War:
Remember this one? When we last left our Nationalist and Communists, they were suspending their own conflict to resist Japan's invasion in World War II. Let's make sure you all have a good understanding of the answers to these questions:

  • What advantages did the Communists have at the end of World War II?
  • What issues and weaknesses led to the defeat of Jiang Jeishi's Nationalist forces?
  • How did the outcome of the Chinese Civil War shape world events in the years to follow?

China Under Mao's Leadership: Let's be sure you understand these events and questions...

  • How did Mao consolidate power in China?
  • What was the "Hundred Flowers" campaign? Can you think of parallels in other countries?
  • What was the Great Leap Forward? How did it affect China?
Take a look at Mao Zedong's "Ten Principles of War." How relevant are these for guerrilla campaigns in the more modern world?

The Cultural Revolution: Morning Sun is a website that accompanies a film made about the Cultural Revolution. After some brief introductory comments, we'll have you take a look at a number of interesting links here.

  • Why did Mao call for a "Cultural Revolution?"
  • What were the goals and tactics of the Cultural Revolution?
  • What was the legacy of the Cultural Revolution for China?
Check out these links at the "Morning Sun" website: (There's a lot more there, but I think you'll find these interesting.)

China's Communist Revolution - A Glossary: This is from a BBC site marking the 50th anniversary of the Communist takeover of China. You can scroll down the links on the left for good definitions of some key people and concepts. (Note the "old" spelling on Jiang Jeishi / Chiang Kai-Shek.)

China's Economy - Looking Back at 50: Take a look at the three graphs below. Match changes with your understanding of China's history under Communist Party rule. (We'll return to China one more time to finish off the story.)

Pair up with a partner and examine the graphs. Be sure you understand what they are showing.




Stefan Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages: This site has recently been reorganized, but I think you will enjoy browsing the collection.

HOMEWORK for tomorrow - Thursday, February 23rd

Please continue reading in Chapter 33 with Section 3, "Wars in Korea and Vietnam" (pp. 976-981). The quiz will be matching.

Your VIP "Correspondence" or "Poster" option is due on Lesson #26. (That's Monday.)

"Your" episode of the Cnn: Cold War series should ideally be watched before tomorrow's class. You should also have your blog summary posted by the end of Friday.


I watched the Cold war documentary about Sputnik (1949-1961). America was mainly concerned about Russia creating bombs that would possibly threaten the United States and its allies. America felt that if they didn’t create an H-bomb then Russia would, so President Truman gave the go ahead to make the bomb. A nuclear arms race began between Russia and the United States. Soviets used an ICBM to push Sputnik, the first unmanned satellite, above the earth’s atmosphere. Americans felt as if they were lacking in the science and technology field, so the government poured money into those areas. In 1958, the United States launched its own satellite into space.

Eisenhower proposed an “open skies” plan that would allow the U.S. and Russia to fly over each other’s territory, observe, and photograph programs, also gaining each other’s blueprints for future military plans. The Soviet Union refused America’s proposal, so the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency started secret high-altitude spy flights over Soviet territory in planes called U-2s. Soviets shot down an American U-2 plane, and its pilot in May 1960.

People should take away from this episode that America and Russia were constantly competing to see who could be the better country in science and technology. The constant competition between America and Russia pushed the U.S. to advance their science and technology fields. America was able to accomplish some very important things before other countries because of the contest against Russia.

I thought it was risky for the United States to compete against Russia. I think that because of the rivalry, America became more advanced overall and it helped the country prosper as a whole. It was risky for the United States to put millions of dollars into science and technology because that money could have gone elsewhere. It was a coin toss that America was risking to take. I enjoyed the episode overall and would recommend it to whoever wants to learn about the first H-bombs.

Episode title: 'Reds'

Episode summary: This episode summarized how the governments of the United States and the Soviet Union projected their fears inwards towards their citizens. Government announcements and propaganda would renounce the ways of Communism or Capitalism, making the citizens of the US or USSR afraid of the others. The episode also went into how governments repressed "unpatriotic" thoughts. For example, the Americans would accuse citizens of being Communists, and the Soviets just sent the ones they suspected of being unpatriotic to labor camps.

Key terms:
House Committee on Un-American Activites: Investigated alleged Communists in the United States.
Hollywood: Many celebrities in Hollywood were accused of Communist sympathy.
Yugoslavia: Nation punished by the Soviet Union for straying from Soviet ideals.
Doctors' Plot: Significant anti-Semitic episode in Joseph Stalin's reign. A group of Moscow doctors, most of them Jewish, were shown to be conspiring to assassinate Soviet Leaders. They were tried and executed, and an overall rise in anti-Jewish feelings occurred in the USSR.

Three main points of the episode:
1. The governments of both the US and USSR relayed their fears to their citizens.
2. On both sides, the governments accused citizens of being unpatriotic or having sympathies for the enemy.
3. The Soviets were much harsher in enforcing and punishing their citizens for having American sympathies, utilizing executions, torture, and labor camps.

Reactions: I was primarily surprised at how harshly the USSR treated its citizens, especially when contrasted with the United States' methods. Also, I admired Yugoslavia for attempting to break away from the Soviet regime.

Recommendation: I wouldn't recommend this episode, unless you're a Cold War enthusiast. Although mildly interesting, the information it conveys doesn't need to be known in detail, as long as you understand the general concepts I laid out in the episode summary.

Cuba 1959-1962
Aniket Naravane

Key Terms:
-Cuban Revolution
-Fidel Castro
-Cuban and Soviet Union Alliance
-John F. Kennedy
-Nikita Khrushchev (Soviet Union)
-Bay of Pigs invasion
-Cuban Missile Crisis
-United States naval “blockade”
-Peace negotiations between America and Soviet Union

Three conclusions/points/ideas:
I would say the first main idea to focus on is the Cuban Missile Crisis. This played a big role during the Cold War. The idea of Russians having 42 missiles, pointed at the United States with such a close proximity was a terrifying idea for Americans’ and the U.S government. Additionally, it was a very high stress situation, tensions were high and nuclear missiles armed and ready.

The second major point would be the Bay of Pigs invasion. This invasion sort of kicked off the entire conflict in Cuba. It also increased the relations between Cuba and the Soviet Union.

Finally, the blockade ordered from the U.S and the peace negations were a major point of this time period during the Cold War. With tensions so high, any miscalculations could have change the face of the earth.

Reaction: I thought this was a particularly interesting episode. The United States, specifically JFK, was praiseworthy. JFK kept a calm head and didn’t instigate any unnecessary events that could have caused a major conflict. Additionally, while making peace negotiations, I thought he was particularly clever. For the most part, the U.S didn’t have to do agree to anything that they weren’t already planning on doing such as removing the missiles in Turkey.

Recommendation: I would actually recommend this episode to others. It was a bit of a slow beginning, but all the events were explained thoroughly and it definitely helped me better understand the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was also interesting to see how the United States, Cuba and the Soviet Union interacted during this period of high tensions.

Shailagh L.

The episode I watched was called M.A.D., which stands for "mutual assured destruction". It talked about nuclear strategies of both the U.S. and the Soviet during the Cold War. The strategy was that by targeting the each others' superpowers, it would discourage a nuclear war (M.A.D.). The episode discusses many of the events that occurred during this time (1960-1972). Three key terms include Antiballistic missiles, the Palomares incident, and the SALT Treaty. Antiballistic missiles were created by the Soviet as a way to defend themselves against missiles hypothetically launched by the U.S. The Palamores incident is when two planes collided mid-air, and 4 hydrogen bombs were dropped on South America. Luckily, none of them actually went off. Three were found on land, and the fourth was found in the ocean. The SALT Treaty, which stands for "Strategic Arms Limitation Talks" refers to meetings between the U.S. and the Soviet discussing arms control. Three ideas that I found important were that both sides were always anxious to see if someone was going to attack, that after a while, both sides knew that neither side would attack, and that despite all the powerful weapons, no one attacked because neither side wanted war. One thing that caught my attention was when the narrator talked about how there was a movie made about nuclear war during this time, and BBC banned in from television. I personally enjoyed this documentary, and I would recommend it to my classmates, especially the part about the Palomares incident.

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Vergin published on February 22, 2012 8:00 AM.

Lesson #21 - From World Wars to Cold War was the previous entry in this blog.

Lesson #23 - Fighting the Cold War is the next entry in this blog.

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