The People's Republic of China was founded on a land ravaged by a century of foreign invasion and civil wars. A new political and economic order modeled on the Soviet was quickly installed, and China experienced relative stability unseen since the Opium War. In the early 1950s, the PRC undertook a massive economic and social reconstruction which was generally welcomed by a population desperately longing for stability. The new leaders gained popular support by curbing inflation, restoring the economy, and rebuilding many war-damaged industrial installations. To lead the social revolution, the Communist Party of China, which had legitimized itself into the guiding force of socialist China, had extended its rank-and-file to all Chinese regions and set up various institutions to lead changes in rural areas, the military, and the bureaucracy. Landmark changes in the early 1950s included the legal protection of women's rights and the abolition of polygamy, and the adoption of a horizontal leftâ€“right method of writing.
Chinese delegation marching at the 2nd World Festival of Youth and Students in Budapest, weeks before the proclamation of PRC
Land reform was the major focus of policy as a result of China's vast rural population, around 90% of the population were farmers. Lands of former landlords were confiscated by the government and subsequently redistributed to the lower-class peasants. Peasants were classified (see Zhen Fan) into different categories, from landlord to "poor peasants". As a period of social revolution, Mao wiped out the old landlord class, and gradually equalized the wealth gap in the remaining classes. In rural China, political movements against landlords caused the humiliation and death of many former land owners. Immediately following the land reform period came the Three-anti and Five-anti Movements (ä¸‰äº”å), as well as the beginning of the Anti-Rightist Movement, when property owners and businesspeople were labeled as "rightists" and purged. Some scholars put the figure of those killed during this period at at least one million. Rural China, however, achieved a quasi-classless system that ultimately disbanded imperial feudalism that was the norm of dynastic rule. Major public health institutions sprung up in both urban and rural communities as both agriculture and industry experienced significant growth between 1949 to 1958. The party's novel revolutionary zeal in the early 1950s were generally welcomed by the public.
Economically, the country followed up on the Soviet model in its first Five-Year Plan from 1953 to 1957, The country went through a transformation whereby means of production were transferred from private to public entities, and through nationalization of industry in 1955, the state basically controlled the economy in a similar fashion to the economy of the Soviet Union. Economists argue, however, that Mao's emphasis on heavy industry lacked the foundation coming from light industry and created an unbalanced economic model.