During the first Malayan Emergency (1948–1960), the MCP launched an unsuccessful insurrection against the Federation of Malaya. The independence of the Federation of Malaya on 31 August 1957 removed the major cause for the communists as the Federation had gained full autonomy from the United Kingdom. The first Malayan Emergency ended on 31 July 1960. Between 1960 and 1968, the MCP underwent a period of streamlining, retraining, and re-indoctrination of the communist ideology. The Malayan Races Liberation Army (MRLA) had established a series of bases along the Malaysian-Southern Thailand border. Despite being weakened by the Commonwealth forces during the first Emergency, the MCP boasted a nucleus of between 500 and 600 well-trained guerrillas and a reserve of about 1,000 men, available for full-time service if required. The MCP had also reorganised its units and reconstituted itself by training new guerrilla fighters. They also developed new techniques of guerrilla warfare after observing the Vietnam War.
The MCP also made efforts to recruit more Malays into their organisation. Despite a small number of Malay personnel, including Abdullah CD and Rashid Maidin, it remained dominated by the Chinese. A special Malay unit, known as the 10th Regiment was established under the leadership of a Central Committee member, Abdullah C.D. Abdullah also established several "Masses Revolutionary School" (Sekolah Revolusi Rakyat) to disseminate Maoist ideas among Thai Malays. Since the MCP was based in southern Thailand, most of its recruits were Thai Malays and people from Kelantan, a northeastern Malaysian state.
To enhance the appeal of the MCP among the Malays, the Islamic Brotherhood Party (Malay: Parti Persaudaraan Islam, PAPERI) was set up as the front organisation of the MCP. PAPERI was responsible for distributing leaflets claiming that there was no incompatibility between Islam and Communism. In July 1961, Chin Peng met Deng Xiaoping in China. Deng had proposed to the MCP that it conduct a second armed struggle. Deng insisted that Malaya was ripe for a revolution. The success of Vietnam War bolstered the MCP to launch another revolt in Malaya. Deng later promised Chin Peng that China would assist the MCP and contribute US$100,000 for the second insurgency in Malaya.