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The preparatory committee of the consultative conference

After the takeover of Beijing in January 1949, the United Front Work Department could finally relocate to the new capital. They selected the Beijing Hotel (Beijing fandian JtJjïûfxMî) and the Liuguo Hotel (Liuguo fandian À'IWîfiÆ), two of the most luxurious hotels in the city, for a liaison office. The office’s task was to make life as pleasant as possible for those political figures who had participated in the initial consultations in Lijiazhuang, Harbin, and other parts of the country and who now gathered in Beijing. The head of the United Front Work Department, Li Weihan (1896-1984), regularly invited the DPG representatives to so-called tea meetings (chahui to the Liuguo Hotel. Additionally, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai personally met with the DPG leaders to discuss national and international questions.74 As we do not have detailed accounts of these meetings, it is unclear whether the participants were encouraged to express their opinions on the convening of the CPPCC or the reorganization of China’s cultural, social, and political institutions or if these meetings were merely study sessions intended to teach them Mao’s doctrine of a “People’s Democratic Dictatorship.” Furthermore, from April to June, a group of nearly 60 prominent figures from the DPGs, overseas Chinese, cultural, and literary circles, as well as from different classes and minorities of Chinese society, went on a study tour to the Northeastern cities. Li Weihan and his colleagues ensured that the DPG leaders led a comfortable life in Beijing and that their children had access to a good education. They should feel that the CCP still valued their cooperation and be kept busy until the Preparatory Committee for the CPPCC first convened on June 11, 1949, at the residence of Mao Zedong in Xiangshan (Beijing).75

By July 1949, Mao Zedong proudly reported to Moscow that the convening of a preparatory committee had already been a success. It appeased the democratic forces while ensuring CCP control over all proceedings:

The democratic and unaffiliated public figures are quite satisfied with such a method of convening the PCC [Political Consultative Conference], ... It [the preparatory committee] has 134 members, of which 43 are Communists, 48 are progressive figures who will unquestionably support us, 43 centrists, but 12 of which are centrists with a rightist inclination. There are 15 among the progressive figures who are clandestine Communists. Leadership in the Preparatory Committee is furnished by the Communist Party. A permanent presidium of 21 people has been created in the Preparatory Committee. Leadership in this presidium has also been furnished by the Communist Party.76

Among those who Mao considered “clandestine Communists” might have been, for example, Zhang Bojun and Tan Pingshan. Zhang and Tan had joined the CCP in the early 1920s but left the party after the Nanchang Uprising in 1927.77 They were officially known as leaders of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants’ Democratic Party, but rumors of Zhang’s concealed CCP membership or at least close cooperation with CCP cadres were rampant in 1947.78 By the late 1940s, the fact that the CCP was covertly recruiting leaders of the DPGs or even installing CCP members in strategic positions was an open secret.79

Despite the CCP's growing control over the DPG structures and even though they had only invited handpicked individuals to enter the preparatory committee, Mao nonetheless feared that the GMD might infiltrate the DPGs or even convene a rivaling consultative conference under GMD auspices.80 On the surface, however, an atmosphere of confidence and friendship was to be maintained. In the opening speech of the first meeting of the preparatory committee, Mao Zedong reiterated that, apart from the “enemies of the people” (imperialists, feudalists, bureaucratic capitalists, and reactionary GMD), “we are all friends, we are all one large and strong revolutionary united front.”81 In his speech, Mao even refrained from using the rhetoric of CCP leadership over all other parties and groups.

The preparatory committee proceeded to form six workgroups, each being in charge of a specific task: group 1 determined the list of associations and groups to participate in the CPPCC and their delegates (headed by Li Weihan), group 2 drafted the statutes for the CPPCC (head: Tan Pingshan), group 3 outlined

People’s Political Consultative Conference 297 the “Common Program” as a provisional government program of the PRC (head: Zhou Enlai), group 4 prepared the organic law of the Central People’s Government (head: Dong Biwu), group 5 wrote the official declaration of the first CPPCC (head: Guo Moruo 1892-1978), and group 6 was to reach a decision concerning the national flag, the national emblem, and the national anthem (head: Ma Xulun fijiJiiiiir, 1885-1970). Thus, official (not clandestine) CCP party members headed the workgroups and relegated DPG leaders like Huang Yanpei A® (1878-1965) or Xu Deheng (1890-1990) to vicehead positions?2 The staged organizing of six groups and public haggling over the composition of the CPPCC were part of the CPP’s attempt to at least formally meet the criteria observers expected of "democratic” assemblies (as outlined above): a large number of delegates, some form of elective procedures with delegates dispatched by the parties, a real decision-making power, and a diversity of representatives that would reflect China’s social, regional, and ethnic diversity.

The discussion over the name of the new state exemplifies that even though the CCP allowed an exchange of views, no final decision could be reached against the CCP’s will. While the members of the Preparatory Committee Huang Yanpei and Zhang Zhirang 'A Ari® (1893-1978) advocated for the name “People’s Democracy of China” (Zhonghua reninin niiiizhuguo ‘I'SAKKil^), Zhang Xiruo (3MMiA 1889-1973) favored "People’s Republic of China” (Zhonghua renmin gongheguo AKftinS). The term "people’s republic” would already invoke the notion of democratic rule.83 The CCP’s resistance against the inclusion of the word minzhu Ki in the state name was symptomatic of how they understood “New Democracy” to refer to a transitory period, rather than a long-term commitment. Gradually the term “democratic” also vanished, for example, from the name of the All-China Women’s Federation, which used the name All-China Democratic Women’s Federation (Zhonghua quanguo minzhu funii lianhehui h'#’) until 1957.84

In sum, from the perspective of the DPGs, the preparatory committee already cemented the pattern of participation without independent decision-making power that later characterized their work in the CPPCC. The committee and its workgroups concluded their work on September 20, one day before the People’s Liberation Army fired a salute outside the Huairen Hall in Beijing and thereby ceremoniously heralded the successful convening of the CPPCC. The People’s Daily, as the mouthpiece of the new government, reported extensively on the proceedings, interviewed the delegates and recorded their speeches, and featured pictures showing the members on stage behind microphones or as an attentive audience. Other photographs showed Beijing citizens parading the streets with banners welcoming the CPPCC.85 The Xinhua broadcasting sendee of Beijing additionally recorded and broadcasted the speeches for a larger audience.86

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