Comparing Chinese Communism to Soviet Communism in Terms of Ideology and Practice


Communism Symbol

Communism is a political and economic ideology that advocates for collective ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. Its main objectives include creating a classless society, eliminating all forms of exploitation and inequality, promoting universal education, and establishing a socialist state that strives toward achieving communism in the long run. Despite similar goals and principles, Chinese communism and Soviet communism of the 20th century differed in some significant ways that are relevant to education.

The comparison of these two forms of communism is crucial to understand the ideological, social, and educational transformations that took place in both countries. Both China and the Soviet Union underwent rapid industrialization and modernization through socialist policies, which had profound effects on education. China, for example, vastly improved its education system by reducing illiteracy and promoting modern curricula that served the needs of a rapidly changing society. Soviet Russia, on the other hand, emphasized the sciences and technology, which contributed to the strength of its military and the development of nuclear weapons.

Despite the resemblances between Chinese and Soviet communism, they also differed in crucial ways such as the principles of the Communist Party, the land reform movements, and the extent of ideological control maintained over the population. These differences also had ramifications for education, affecting how curricula were designed, what subjects were emphasized, how assessments were conducted, and what goals education was supposed to serve.

Therefore, the study of Chinese and Soviet communism not only highlights the political and economic systems of the two countries but also goes hand in hand with an exploration of how educational policies and practices reflected and contributed to the larger political and social orders of both societies. By comparing and contrasting these two systems, we can deepen our understanding of the complexities of socialism and how different cultural, economic, and political factors shape its practice.

History of Chinese and Soviet Communism

Communist China and Soviet Union

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was founded in 1921, following the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1912 and the subsequent instability leading up to World War II. Mao Zedong took control of the party in 1945 and led the Chinese Revolution, which ended in 1949 with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The Soviet Union, on the other hand, was established in 1922 as a result of the Russian Revolution of 1917. The Bolshevik Party, led by Vladimir Lenin, seized power and transformed the country into a socialist state.

Soviet flags and icons

While both China and the Soviet Union were communist states, there were significant differences in their approaches to restructuring society and the economy.

Communist Ideology

Communism in China

In terms of communist ideology, the Chinese and Soviet approaches differed in a few key ways. Mao Zedong was deeply influenced by Marxist-Leninist ideology, but he believed that the peasants, rather than the working class, were the key to revolution in China. He saw China as a semi-feudal society and believed that the only way to overcome this was by mobilizing the peasants to seize power from the feudal landlords and the foreign imperialists who supported them.

Soviet communism images

In contrast, the Soviet Union under Lenin believed that the working class was the revolutionary class and that industrialization was the key to a successful communist society. Lenin also placed emphasis on the need for the state to take control of the economy and effectively plan it through central planning.

Economic Policies

Communist China sterile fields

China and the Soviet Union also differed in their economic policies. In China, Mao believed in a policy called “Socialism in One Country,” which emphasized the need for China to develop its own version of socialism before attempting to spread it to other countries. Mao also believed in breaking down the traditional divisions of labor and creating a self-sufficient, agrarian society where everyone contributed to the common good.

Soviet economic reforms

In contrast, the Soviet Union under Lenin and later under Joseph Stalin implemented a policy called “collectivization,” in which individual farms would be combined into larger, state-run farms. The Soviet Union also embraced industrialization and planned economic development through central planning.


Communist hands

While both the Chinese and Soviet communist models implemented similar ideals of communism, their differing perspectives on the role of the peasantry, the working class, and the economy led to distinct differences in their approaches to socialism. While the Soviet Union would eventually collapse, China’s economic policies would later evolve towards a more market-driven approach. However, both countries continue to be shaped by their legacies of communism and the ongoing debate over the best ways to achieve a socialist society.

Marxism-Leninism vs. Maoism

Marxism-Leninism vs. Maoism

Communism as a political and economic ideology has existed for centuries. It evolved from the writings and ideas of many philosophers, including Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who wrote about the class struggle between the workers and the capitalists, and the need for a proletarian revolution to create a classless society. The ideas of Marx and Engels were further developed and adapted in different countries by various leaders and movements.

The Soviet Union, led by Vladimir Lenin, adopted Marxism-Leninism as its official ideology. This variant of communism emphasized the need for a vanguard party, a dictatorship of the proletariat, and a planned economy. The Chinese Communist Party, led by Mao Zedong, on the other hand, developed its own version of communism, which was influenced by China’s unique history and circumstances.

Philosophical Differences

Maoism Symbol

The philosophical differences between Marxism-Leninism and Maoism can be seen in the emphasis placed on the revolutionary subject. For Marxist-Leninists, the subject was the industrial working class. They believed that the industrial working class was the only class with the power and potential to overthrow the bourgeoisie. Mao, however, believed that the revolutionary subject was the peasantry. He argued that the Chinese peasantry had the potential to become a revolutionary class because of their close relationship with the land and the fact that they were the majority of the population.

Different Path to Socialism

Cultural Revolution China

Another key difference between Marxism-Leninism and Maoism is the path to socialism. Marxist-Leninists believed in building a socialist society through the establishment of a dictatorial proletarian state that would control the means of production. Mao, on the other hand, believed in a more gradual and decentralized approach. He argued that socialism could be achieved through a process of “new democracy”, in which the peasants and workers would establish a revolutionary coalition and participate in the leadership of the country. Mao also believed that social transformation could be achieved in part through mass mobilization and continuous revolution. This led to the Cultural Revolution, a period of social and political upheaval in China in which Mao called on the people to overthrow traditional authority and implement his vision of socialism.

The Role of Culture and Ideology

New Culture Movement China

Mao also emphasized the importance of culture and ideology in the transformation of society. He believed that the power to change society lay not only in the hands of the proletarian class, but also in the hands of intellectuals and artists. He advocated for a “new culture” movement that would reject traditional Chinese culture and embrace Western modernity. This approach is reflected in the socialist realism of Chinese literature and art during Mao’s reign. Marxist-Leninist ideology, on the other hand, tended to emphasize class struggle and the importance of proletarian culture.


China Communist Revolution

While both Soviet communism and Chinese communism had their roots in Marxist thought, they developed into distinct and divergent ideologies. Soviet communism emphasized the need for a centralized government and a planned economy, while Chinese communism developed into a more decentralized and populist ideology that emphasized mass mobilization and cultural revolution. These differences had significant implications for the development of communism around the world, and continue to shape political and ideological debates today.

Educational Policies in Soviet and Chinese Communism

education in communism

Education played a crucial role in both Soviet and Chinese communism. However, the approaches taken by these two regimes were different. While there were similarities in terms of the emphasis placed on creating an educated population, the ways in which they achieved this differed.

Literacy Campaigns

mao zedong on education

One area where Soviet and Chinese communist policies diverged was in their approach to literacy and education campaigns. While both regimes saw the need for a literate workforce, the ways in which they approached literacy campaigns differed. In Soviet Russia, the emphasis was on eradicating illiteracy through mass education programs that were designed to be universal. By contrast, the Chinese communist approach under Mao Zedong focused more on the use of propaganda posters and slogans to promote reading and writing, with less emphasis on mass education programs.

Curriculum Content

chinese propaganda poster on education

Another area where Soviet and Chinese communist policies differed was curriculum content. In Soviet Russia, the emphasis was on producing a workforce with highly specialized skills in areas such as engineering, science, and technology. The curriculum was heavily structured and dictated by the state. By contrast, in China, the Chinese Communist Party sought to emphasize political education and create a population that was highly loyal to the state. To achieve this, the curriculum was highly politicized, with an emphasis on revolutionary history, Marxism, and Maoism.

Teacher Training

soviet propaganda poster on education

The approach to teacher training was also different in Soviet and Chinese communism. In Soviet Russia, teachers were required to have specialized training in their areas of expertise and were expected to be highly qualified in their field. This was necessary to produce a workforce that was well-educated and skilled. In China, however, the emphasis was more on political loyalty than on educational qualifications. Teachers were often called upon to carry out political tasks and to instill revolutionary values in their students.


Overall, while the Soviet and Chinese communist regimes shared a commitment to developing an educated workforce, their approaches to education and literacy campaigns, curriculum content, and teacher training varied significantly. While Soviet Russia emphasized the need for specialized technical skills, China focused more on creating a population that was highly ideologically committed to the Communist Party. Both regimes, however, recognized the importance of education in achieving their goals and used it as a tool to achieve their political aims.

Cultural Revolution and its Impact on Education

Cultural Revolution in China

The Cultural Revolution in China was a tumultuous period of upheaval and massive social change that occurred from 1966-1976. The revolution was led by Mao Zedong, the founding father of communist China, who sought to create a mass movement to transform Chinese society and rid it of perceived enemies of the state, including intellectuals, artists, and anyone deemed to be part of the bourgeois elite.

The revolution had a profound impact on education in China, both at the primary and secondary levels, as well as in universities and institutions of higher learning. In order to achieve the Maoist goal of a purified society, the communist government launched a massive campaign to eradicate the traditional educational system and replace it with a new, revolutionary model that emphasized political indoctrination and group dynamics over academic rigor and intellectualism.

To achieve this goal, Mao created a group of militant young people known as the Red Guards. These youth were tasked with attacking and intimidating anyone who was seen as a threat to the communist values that Mao was seeking to instill in the Chinese people. These individuals were often teachers, professors, and intellectuals who were targeted for their perceived elitism and lack of revolutionary fervor.

The impact of the Red Guards on the Chinese educational system was profound. Teachers and professors were publicly humiliated, beaten, and even killed for their supposed crimes against the revolution. Schools and universities were shut down, and students were sent to the countryside to learn from the peasants. The content of textbooks and curriculum was revised to reflect the values of the revolution and the virtues of Maoist thought.

One of the lasting impacts of the Cultural Revolution on Chinese education was a decline in academic freedom and intellectualism. Teachers and professors were discouraged from pursuing academic research and scholarship that did not conform to the values of the revolution. Science and technology education suffered particularly hard, as there was little room for individual initiative and creativity in the new educational model.

Despite the many negatives associated with the Cultural Revolution, there were some positive aspects to the educational reforms that emerged from this era. The focus on group dynamics and collective learning helped to foster a sense of communalism and social engagement among students. The emphasis on political indoctrination and revolutionary values helped to create a sense of national pride and solidarity among the Chinese people.

Overall, the Cultural Revolution had a profound impact on education in China that is still felt today. It remains a controversial period in Chinese history, and one that continues to be studied and debated by scholars and educators around the world.

Legacy of Chinese and Soviet Communism on Education

Chinese and Soviet Communism on Education

Communism had a significant impact on the education systems of both China and the Soviet Union. Under both regimes, education was viewed as a powerful tool for shaping the minds of the young and advancing the goals of the state.

In the Soviet Union, education was seen as a means of creating a new type of citizen – one who was not bound by traditional values or beliefs, but instead was loyal to the Communist Party and dedicated to building a socialist society. Schools were designed to promote collective learning and the inculcation of Marxist ideology.

In China, under Mao Zedong’s leadership, education was viewed as a means of serving the needs of the revolution. The focus was on mobilizing the masses, spreading socialist propaganda, and producing cadres who were loyal to the Communist Party. In order to achieve these goals, many universities were closed, and millions of students were sent to the countryside to participate in agricultural production and engage in political study.

Since the fall of communism, both China and Russia have undergone significant reforms in their education systems. In China, the focus has been on increasing access to education, improving the quality of teaching, and expanding vocational training. The government has invested heavily in education and has introduced a series of reforms aimed at modernizing the system and preparing students for the challenges of the 21st century.

In Russia, the situation has been more complex. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a period of great instability and economic turmoil, which had a significant impact on the education system. Many schools and universities were forced to close, and those that remained open struggled to provide quality education in a fast-changing society.

Since then, the Russian government has made efforts to reform the education system, with a focus on modernizing the curriculum, improving teacher training, and increasing access to education. However, progress has been slow, and many experts believe that Russia’s education system still lags behind those of other developed countries.

Overall, the legacy of Chinese and Soviet communism on education has been significant. While both systems were designed to promote socialist ideals and create a new type of citizen, the methods and outcomes were often very different. Since the fall of communism, both countries have undergone significant changes in their education systems, with a focus on modernization and reform.

Differences Between Chinese and Soviet Communism in Education

Education in Communist China and Soviet Union

Education plays a vital role in shaping the future generation of any country. The Chinese and Soviet Union’s communist forms of government had different approaches to education. Communist China saw education as a vehicle for national unity and focused on developing the country’s human resources. On the other hand, Soviet communism saw education as a tool for transforming society in line with communist ideology.

In China, the government made education a priority, and every child was entitled to free primary education. The country’s constitution guarantees nine years of compulsory education, which consists of six years of primary and three years of junior middle school education. The education system is also divided into vocational, technical, and academic education; thus, students can choose an education path that suits their interests and abilities.

Moreover, the Chinese education system is highly centralized, with the government dictating policies, curricula, and textbooks. In contrast, the Soviet education system was decentralized, and individual republics were allowed to create their education systems. However, this approach led to disparities in education quality and access.

The Soviet Union placed much emphasis on science and technology education, which were essential for the country’s industrialization and modernization. The country also aimed to provide free education for all and strived to eliminate illiteracy. The Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Moscow State University were among the most prestigious institutions in the country.

Legacy of Chinese and Soviet Communism on Education

Legacy of Education under Soviet Union and China

The legacies of Chinese and Soviet communism in education are profoundly different. In China, the government’s focus on education has led to significant progress in literacy rates and the country’s economic development. The country has a highly skilled workforce equipped with practical skills that promote industrialization and modernization. The government’s emphasis on vocational education has helped the country address its shortage of skilled labor.

China’s centralization of education policies has enabled the government to ensure that the education system aligns with the country’s goals and objectives. For instance, the Chinese government has implemented policies that promote science and technology education to bolster the country’s economic development. Moreover, the country’s education system has produced many innovative and entrepreneurial graduates who have played a significant role in the country’s economic growth.

On the other hand, the Soviet Union’s failure to address the quality and accessibility of education led to disparities in educational outcomes. The government’s emphasis on promoting communist ideology in education led to a lack of critical thinking and flexibility among graduates. Additionally, the Soviet Union’s education system failed to equip graduates with practical skills needed to promote the country’s economic growth.

Communist China’s education system has continuously evolved with changing times, and the government has strived to improve the quality of education. Currently, the country is investing heavily in research and development and promoting internationalization of education. The country’s education system is becoming more competitive, and its universities are emerging among the best in the world.

In conclusion, the educational legacies of Chinese and Soviet communism are profoundly different. While China’s focus on practical skills has led to significant progress in economic development, the Soviet Union’s emphasis on ideology failed to produce graduates with the skills needed for economic growth. Communist China’s education system will likely continue to play a significant role in the country’s economic development and rise on the global stage.

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