Civil war raged across China during the late 1940s as Mao Zedong (mow dzuh doong) and his Communist forces fought to overthrow Jiang Jieshi's Nationalists. In 1949, Mao's forces triumphed. The defeated Jiang and his supporters fled to the island of Taiwan. After decades of struggle, China was finally united, with the Chinese Communists in control. They renamed the country the People's Republic of China.
The support of Chinese peasants helped Mao Zedong (left) and the communists achieve victory in China's civil war.
Soon afterward, the Communists conquered Tibet, claiming it was part of China. In 1959, as the Chinese cracked down, Tibet's revered religious leader, the Dalai Lama, was forced to flee to India.
Mao's victory in China was due to several causes. Mao had won the support of China's huge peasant population. Peasants had long suffered from brutal landlords and crushing taxes. The Communists promised to redistribute land to peasants and end oppression by landlords. Many women backed the Communists, who rejected the old inequalities of Chinese society. Finally, Mao's army outfought Jiang's armies with guerrilla tactics they had perfected fighting the Japanese.
Jiang and the Nationalists who ruled China had failed to end widespread economic hardship. Many Chinese resented corruption in Jiang's government and his reliance on support from Western powers that had long dominated China. Many educated Chinese were drawn to the Communists' vision of a new China free from foreign domination.