The Chinese Communist Party was formed in 1921, first existing as part of the Nationalist party before the Communists were purged from the party later in the decade, beginning a period of on-and-off conflict that would last for more than two decades. During World War II, popular support for the Communists grew and following the conclusion of that war, a civil war broke out between the Communists and the Nationalists, led by United States-backed Chiang Kai-shek. In 1949, the Nationalists retreated to the island province of Taiwan and the leader of the Communists proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China.

A Charismatic Leader

The leader of the Communist forces in 1949 was Mao Zedong, who had led the party since 1927. Following the establishment of the People's Republic of China, Mao continued to serve as the leader of the country until his death in 1976. The commander in chief of the Red Army, Zhu De, stood alongside Mao for decades, serving as deputy president of the republic after 1949.