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MICHAEL M. SHENG 56 MAO ZEDONG AND THE THREE-ANTI CAMPAIGN (NOVEMBER 1951 TO APRIL 1952): A REVISIONIST INTERPRETATION MICHAEL M. SHENG, MISSOURI STATE UNIVERSITY In late 1951 and early 1952, while the Korean War was still raging, the Suppressing Counterrevolutionaries Campaign (镇压反革命运动 zhenya fangeming yundong) was just drawing to a close and the bloody land reform movement in the countryside was in full swing in some areas, Mao Zedong (毛泽东 1893-1976) initiated yet another “Three-Anti” Campaign (三反 sanfan yundong): “anti-corruption, antiwaste , and anti-bureaucratism.” The existing scholarly understanding of this campaign is largely based on information available in contemporary Chinese publications such as Renmin ribao (人民日报 People’s daily).1 Scholarly consensus appears to exist regarding the campaign: it was an integral part of the overall consolidation strategy, with its primary targets new cadres of intellectual origins and retained personnel from the old regime. Scholars agree that the results were positive: with party control strengthened and the availability of state investment funds thus increased , the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders at all levels became more reliable administrators.2 The dominant interpretation also holds that the campaign reflected “party norms” in CCP elite politics before 1958. Mao had certainly become an unchallenged emperor, but “he sought to enhance elite solidarity by generally adhering to official party norms of collective leadership and democratic discussion . . . his general practice in the early and mid-1950s was to arrive at policies through wide-ranging discussions where the opinions of all relevant officials were valued for the contributions they could make to informed decisions.” Mao even “chose to observe the 1 The earliest studies include Sherwin Montell, “The San-fan Wu-fan Movement in Communist China,” in Papers on China, (Cambridge, MA: East Asian Research Center, Harvard University) 8 (February 1954): 136-196; Theodore Chen and Wen-hui Chen, “The ‘Three-Anti’ and ‘Five-Anti’ Movement in Communist China,” Pacific Affairs, 26 (March 1953): 3-23. These two studies have been frequently referred to by subsequent studies. 2 See Frederick Teiwes, Elite Discipline in China: Coercive and Persuasive approaches to Rectification, 1950-1953 (Canberra: Australian National University, 1978), 1-10, 115-148; also Teiwes, Politics and Purges in China, Rectification and the Decline of Party Norms, 1950-1965, 2nd ed. (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1993), 105-129; Teiwes, “Establishment and Consolidation of the New Regime,” in Cambridge History of China, Vol. 14, The People’s Republic Part I: The Emergence of Revolutionary China 1949-1965, ed. Dennis Twitchett and John K. Fairbank, 51-143 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 88-92. Two local studies by Kenneth Lieberthal and Ezra Vogel examine the campaign in the business community in the given cities. Their findings are convincing but not representative of the whole picture of this nationwide event; and they are not concerned with elite politics. Kenneth Lieberthal, Revolution and Tradition in Tientsin, 1949-1952 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1980), chapters 7 and 8; Ezra Vogel, Canton Under Communism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), 80-81. Doak Barnett wrote one chapter on the Five-Anti Campaign, in which the Three-Anti is mentioned in passing. However, Barnett’s basic assessment of the campaign is also positive. Doak Barnett, Communist China: The Early Years: 1949-55 (New York: Praeger, 1964), 138-139. Volume 32, No. 1 TWENTIETH-CENTURY CHINA 57 principle of minority rights, whereby dissenters within the leadership could retain their views and even reiterate them at a future date without fear of punishment.”3 Newly available documents, particularly those in Jianguo yilai Mao Zedong wengao (建国以来毛泽东文稿 Mao Zedong’s writings since the founding of the PRC) challenge these existing assumptions. In this collection alone, 187 documents directly refer to the Three-Anti Campaign and numerous notes refer to various reports sent to Mao by many different leaders. These documents reveal the ways in which the campaign was carried out at various levels, providing an excellent opportunity to examine Mao’s policy behavior and the elite politics of the early 1950s.4 Two additional sources shed new light on the subject: the memoirs of campaign mainstay Bo Yibo (薄一波 1908- ) and the recently published Mao Zedong zhuan (毛泽东传 Mao Zedong biography), both of which were published by the...


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