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A Chinese propaganda poster (circa 1950) depicting "American imperialists" attempting to invade North Korea, and the People's Volunteer Army of China driving them out with the help of the North Korean military. The text reads: "Long live the Korean People's Army, Chinese People's Volunteers!"

There were two major events involving China that impacted East Asia and other nations of the globe: The Korean War and Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution.

The Korean War[]

The Korean War (25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953) was a war during the Cold War era between the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea)1. In the war, South Korea was primarily supported by the United States, along with contributions from allied nations under the name of the United Nations. On the other hand, North Korea was mainly supported by the People's Republic of China (Communist China), along with military and material aids from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)2. The war ultimately resulted in the division of Korean Peninsula into North and along the 38th Parallel, which exists to the present day.


During the Second World War (1937-1945), the destiny of the Japanese empire had been decided by the Allied nations in numerous summit meetings3. Allied nations decided that Korea, a Japanese colony since 1910, would be occupied north of the 38th parallel by the Soviet Union and south of the 38th parallel by the United States military administration under the direction of U.S. General Douglas MacArthur prior to Korea’s independence4.

On June 25, 1950, North Korea suddenly invaded South Korea and acquired vast South Korea’s territory, which immediately resulted in heavy military intervention by the United States5.

Initially, United States and the other participated United Nations' states struggled to assemble the forces necessary to defeat North Korea's fast-moving army. On September 15, 1950, however, the surprise landing launched by General MacArthur in Inchon, South Korea, forced the North Koreans broke and fled back north. In this case, MacArthur ordered a hot pursuit to cross the 38th parallel and deep into North Korea.6

The Chinese Intervention[]

As the triumphant UN forces fought close to the Manchurian border, there were some warning signals from Peking that Communist China would intervene the war if United States crossed the Manchurian border.7

After consulting with Stalin and other Chinese military leaders, Mao Zedong, the leader of the Communist China, decided that they needed intervene the Korean War.8 In this situation, the People Volunteer Army, after secretly crossing the Yalu River on October 19, 1950, launched the First Phase Offensive on 25 October and attacked the advancing U.N. forces near the Manchurian border9. The U.N. forces retreated in disorder and, by the New Year, were defending Seoul, the capital of South Korea10. By mid-April, the allies were withdrawn to the south of the 38th parallel during the Chinese’s spring offensive. In the next two years, the line remained stable in the general area of the 38th parallel.11

Stalemate & Armistice[]

From the mid-1951, the front lines had been stabilized close to where the war begun twelve months ago. Series of negotiations have been arranged in the midst of hopes that an early ceasefire may be possible.12

Ultimately, on July 27 1953, the negotiations between the United Nations and North Korea and its ally China, concluded the fighting and signed the armistice agreement.13 However, the Cold War considerably warmed up by the Korean experience, would continue for about four more decades.


In general, the Korean War was an important turning point of the Cold War, since it signaled the idea that the two superpowers, United States and Soviet Union, may fight a "limited war" in a third country with their client countries.14 The "limited war" strategy then becomes a feature of conflicts such as the Vietnam War and the Soviet War in Afghanistan.15

The Korean War was the first war that U.N. participated, and the war scarred both North and South Korea. In addition, both sides suffered from massive damage to their economies and infrastructure due to heavy bombings and artillery strikes.16 After the war, South Korea was able to modernise and industrialise with the assistance from the United States. In contrast, after USSR’s collapse in 1991, North Korea's economy remained in a poor condition even in current days.

The Cultural Revolution in China[]

The Cultural Revolution lasted from 1966 through 1976, when Mao Zedong, chairman of the Communist Party of China, intended to enforce the socialism and eliminate the capitalist, traditional and cultural elements from Chinese society. The Chinese youth played a major force, called “Red Guard”, behind the movement while many military, urban workers, and some Communist Party leaders participated in it as well. It also brought down the two political figures as Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping in this movement.


Many socialists shared Lenin’s belief that Party leaders should direct political struggle and if necessary, manipulate audiences.18 The idea of Leninism develops Maoism, which has a far-reaching impact in modern China (mainland). One of such influences is reflected in the “Culture revolution”, which changed generations of lives and formed the base of the modern Chinese culture and communism.

Text: "Move successfully along the Mao’s culture revolutionary path" A Chinese propaganda poster (circa late 1960s) depicting the Chinese citizenry's passion for Mao Zedong's theories and willingness to adhere to his principles, symbolized here as three red brochures in the middle of the image. Mao's head in the center of the image, surrounded by light, portrays him as the "sun" of the People's Republic of China.

The Great Leap Forward[]

The Great Leap Forward played a critical role in the politics within the Chinese Communist Party. When Mao resigned due to his age and failure in the recent movements, he was succeeded by Liu Shaoqi. Marshal Peng Dehuai was brutally removed from his position after his “private letter to Mao”, filled with internal suggestion on power balances and laws of economics. Lin Biao, who led the faults of Great Leap Forward even further, replaced Liu Shaoqi afterwards. The reconstruction within the Party almost brought the Party to the breaking danger, however, it was ended with Deng Xiaoping’s regain of power in 1976.

“Lenin believed that bourgeoisie had monopolized publishing to solidify its dominance, and he thought revolutionaries should do the same.”19 Under Lenin’s influence, Mao launched the Great Leap Forward, with the hope of accelerating his Five Year Plan of 1959, aiming to turn China into a modern industrialized state. Mass production of steels was one major goal, “increase the steel production to twice 1957 levels”17. The result, however, was an inevitable economic failure. The lack of technology and the blind optimism for the production levels not only led to the tons of substandard steels but also the fake production numbers and distrust among villagers. The Great Chinese Famine caused the dramatic death rate during the period because of the shortage of the food after arrays of farmers forfeits their duties and switched to the steel production.


  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Korean War," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed April 22, 2012, .
  2. Ibid.
  3. Hickey, Michael. BBC, "BBC History - World Wars: The Korean War: An Overview." Last modified Mar 21 2011. Accessed April 20, 2012.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Wikipedia contributors
  9. Ibid.
  10. Hickey.
  11. Ibid
  12. Wikipedia contributors
  13. Ibid
  14. Ibid
  15. Ibid
  16. Ibid
  17. Wikipedia contributors, “Cultural Revolution,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed April 22, 2012.
  18. Brooks, Jeffery. Thank You, Comrade Stalin! Soviet Public Culture from Revolution to Cold War. Princeton University Press, 2001, c2000.
  19. Lenoe, Matthew. Closer to the masses: Stalinist Culture, Social Revolution, and Soviet Newspapers. Harvard University Press, 2004.