The Three Main Rules of Discipline and the Eight Points for Attention were a set of rules and guidance first set out by Mao for the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army during the Civil War (1927-1947). They were intended to provide an ideological framework for the Red Army in their relationship with the people and to assist in both building a people’s army and regulating conduct towards civilians and captives.
According to Party history, from the outset Red Army soldiers were directed to speak politely to the masses, pay a fair price for all purchases and never press people into forced labour or use physical or verbal violence in dealing with the people.
In 1928, after Mao had set up his first Soviet in the Jinggang Mountains in the Hunan/Jiangxi Border Area (now known as the birthplace of the Red Army and the ‘cradle of the Revolution’) the first formalised version of Three Rules of Discipline was set out for the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army (precursor to the PLA). They were stated as (1) Obey orders in all your actions; (2) Do not take anything from the workers and peasants; and (3) Turn in everything seized from local bullies. Shortly afterwards in1928 Mao added Six Points for Attention: (1) Put back the doors you have taken down to use as bed-boards; (2) Put back the straw you have used for bedding; (3) Speak politely; (4) Pay fairly for what you buy; (5) Return everything you borrow; and (6) Pay for anything you damage.
Adjustments to the rules followed. Rule 2 became "Do not take a single needle or piece of thread from the masses." Rule 3 was changed first to "Turn in all money raised" and then to "Turn in everything captured". Two more Points for Attention were added to the six: "Do not bathe within sight of women" and "Do not search the pockets of captives".
Unified & Reissued
In October 1947 the 3 Rules of Doscipline and 8 Points of Attention were unified and re-issued by the General Headquarters of the Chinese People's Liberation Armyto counter discrepancies that emerged across time, location and between units of the PLA. They appear in the Selected Works of Mao Zedong as follows:
'… It is expected that you will take this version as the standard one for thorough education and strict enforcement. As to other matters needing attention, the high command of the armed forces in different areas may lay down additional points in accordance with specific conditions and order their enforcement.'
'The Three Main Rules of Discipline are as follows:
(1) Obey orders in all your actions.
(2) Don't take a single needle or piece of thread from the masses.
(3) Turn in everything captured to the authorities.
3. The Eight Points for Attention are as follows:
(1) Speak politely.
(2) Pay fairly for what you buy.
(3) Return everything you borrow.
(4) Pay for anything you damage.
(5) Don't hit or swear at people.
(6) Don't damage crops.
(7) Don't take liberties with women.
(8) Don't ill-treat captives.'
3 Tasks, 10 Demands
A parallel set of requirements, known as ‘3 Tasks, 10 Demands’ for both the army and peasants also appear in propaganda, often individually but also as a set of rules. These were aimed at ensuring that ‘in times of peace and construction’ peasants and soldiers involve themselves with production and construction and are prepared for war.’ Mass mobilisation is a key feature of Mao’s economic, social and cultural policies and whilst the emphasis changed according to the time, from agricultural production, industrial production, to defence, corruption and revolution, reliance on the active support of the people was, as here, always present.
The 3 Tasks stipulated were 1. Actively take part in socialist construction, play a leading role in production 2. Peasants and soldiers must help the army consolidate the land and sea, guard frontiers, defend the skies and maintain social order 3. Be ready at all times for attack from aggressors and protect the Motherland.
In addition, ‘[i]n order to finish the glorious tasks the Party and the country gave the peasants and soldiers, every peasant and soldier must be obedient to the Party and Chairman Mao with 10 practical demands.’ These demands were a generalised call for support for the government melded with a need for the population to be healthy and harmonious. Specifically (i) obey the Party's leaders (ii) follow the government's laws (iii) be obedient to higher level commanders (iv) protect the peoples' interests (v) unmask bad people and bad actions (vi) courteously help people (vii) learn political and military affairs (viii) take part in sports (ix) protect and cherish your weapons (x) guard state secrets.