LAW Yuk-fun

The Five-Anti Campaign ????, launched in 1952, was a nation-wide movement aimed at eliminating bribery, theft of state property and economic information, tax evasion, and cheating on government contracts by private enterprise and capitalists. The campaign succeeded in consolidating the government’s control over the economy, which facilitated the country’s transition to socialism.

On 26 January 1952 the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) launched the nationwide Five-Anti Campaign to eliminate the corrupt practices of privately owned enterprises and capitalists. These corrupt practices were identified as the “Five Evils”: bribery, theft of state property, tax evasion, cheating on government contracts, and stealing of state economic information. These evils were considered detrimental to the national policy of rapid economic recovery and reconstruction. However, the Five-Anti Campaign was not a mere rectification movement in the economic sphere but rather carried deep ideological, political, and social implications.

After its founding in 1949 the PRC government had been confronted with the task of rehabilitating the national economy, which was severely damaged by the War of Resistance against Japan and the Chinese Civil War. Realizing that the majority of national assets and resources were in the hands of private capitalists, the government did not eliminate them for the Communist cause. Rather, the government permitted their existence and recognized their importance in engineering the rapid recovery of China. This policy, however, did not mean that the government would leave the private sector intact, as it had before 1949. According to the Chinese Communist ideology of “New Democracy,” the continued existence of private capitalism was a preliminary step in preparing the country for the ultimate transition to socialism. In the meantime the state would restructure the national economy by gradually placing all economic activities under state control. The Five-Anti Campaign was the first step toward accomplishing this goal.

Mass mobilization was the main tactic employed to eliminate the “Five Evils.” Party cadres, government officials, mass media, and ordinary citizens, especially the workers, were encouraged to criticize and expose the malpractices of privately owned enterprises and business leaders. Accused persons were tried in public and made repeated confessions, unleashing a brief reign of terror. By awakening the class consciousness of the workers, elevating their position vis-à-vis the capitalists, and demolishing the private capitalists, the government intended to consolidate the ideal of the people’s democratic dictatorship, from which the Chinese Communists had consistently drawn legitimacy for their leadership role before and after winning power.

Moreover, the Five-Anti Campaign was an intellectual and educational reform. Besides corrupt capitalists, the campaign targeted such traditional evil habits as drug use, gambling, and prostitution. With this campaign the government intended to reeducate and rectify the entire population so as to cultivate a utopian society.

The Five-Anti Campaign came with a price. Workers’ confrontations with their employers invited such retaliations as firings, withholding of wages and jobs, and wage reductions. Four months after the campaign began, unemployment and underemployment rose to 1.5 million, which was 1.5 times the pre-campaign figure.

Despite the economic and psychological setbacks, the Five-Anti Campaign, formally ended on 26 October 1952, was considered important. First, it eliminated the “Five Evils” and brought the privately owned enterprises under state guidance. This success encouraged the government to move beyond New Democracy and to embark on the transition to socialism, beginning with the Five-Year Plan in 1953. Second, the campaign reinforced the top leaders’ belief that mass mobilization and rectification were effective means to serve their interests. After 1952 a number of mass campaigns followed, among which the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) was the most significant and disastrous.

Further Reading

He Yonghong. (2006). Wufan Yungdong Yanjiu [A Study on the Five-Anti Campaign]. Beijing: Zhonggong Dangshi Chubanshe.

Li Hua-yu. (2006). Mao and the economic Stalinization of China, 19481953. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Meisner, M. J. (1999). Mao’s China and after: A history of the People’s Republic (3rd ed.). New York: Free Press.

Source: Law, Yuk-fun. (2009). Five-Anti Campaign. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 837–838. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

Five-Anti Campaign (W?-f?n Yùndòng ????)|W?-f?n Yùndòng ???? (Five-Anti Campaign)

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