People's Republic of China

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Mao Zedong proclaims the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949.

People's Republic of China has been the long-form name of the Chinese government since 1949. As an era of Chinese history, the People's Republic follows the Republic of China and continues to the present. The previous regime led by the Nationalist Party fled to Taiwan in 1949. The Nationalists continued to represent China in the United Nations until 1971, when China's seat was transferred to the PRC. The PRC invaded Korea in 1950 and fought the United States in the Korean War (1950-1953). The Great Leap Forward (1958-1961) was a time of famine. The PRC has been a one-party communist state throughout its history. Until his death in 1976, Mao Zedong was its dominant leader. Since Mao's death, the PRC has moved away from communist economics and embraced the market system. As a result, its economy has experienced rapid growth. It now has the second largest economy in the world.

Contents

History

In the face of economic collapse the Communists won the civil war in 1949 under Mao Zedong (1893-1976). Mao established a dictatorship, driving the KMT to Taiwan. Taiwan is recognized as an integral part of China in theory, but in practice has been independent since 1949. Mao liquidated millions of opponents, fought the United States in the bloody Korean War (1950-53), and broke with the Soviet Union over the issue of who best represented the Marxist orthodoxy.

Great Leap Forward

History of China
Ancient
Xia (legendary) 2070–c. 1600 BC
Shang c. 1600 – c. 1046 BC
Zhou c. 1045–256 BC
Imperial
Qin 221–206 BC
Han 206 BC – 220 AD
Three Kingdoms 220–280
Jin 265–420
  16 Kingdoms
304–439
 
Northern and Southern
Dynasties
420–589
Sui 581–618
Tang 618–907
Five Dynasties and
Ten Kingdoms

907–960
Liao
907–1125
Song
960–1279
Jin
Yuan 1271–1368
Ming 1368–1644
Qing 1644–1911
Modern
Republic 1912–1949
People's Republic 1949–present

The Great Leap Forward (1958-60) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) were the two worst periods of leftist domination in the history of China.

Mao's grand strategy for Cold War competition inflicted a catastrophic agricultural failure in China and victimized tens of millions of Chinese peasants. After Nikita Khrushchev boasted in 1957 that the Soviet Union would soon surpassing the United States in key economic outputs, Mao decided to launch an even faster industrialization program that would push China past Britain in some production categories within 15 years. Beginning in 1958, Mao imposed unrealistic targets on Chinese grain production to extract funds from agriculture for rapid industrial growth. Maoists placed relentless pressure on Communist cadres for ruthless implementation of the Great Leap Forward. Contrary to Maoist plans, China's grain output in 1959-60 declined sharply from 1957 levels and rural per capita grain retention decreased dramatically. Throughout China, party cadres' mismanagement of agricultural production was responsible for the decline in grain output, and the Communist state's excessive requisition of grain caused food shortages for the peasants. But the key factor determining the famine's uneven impact on the peasantry in the provinces was the degree to which provincial leaders genuinely and energetically embraced Maoist programs.[1]

Although the Great Leap Forward was much more disastrous in both human and economic terms, the Cultural Revolution receives the more negative assessment in China. This harsher review of the Cultural Revolution stems from the facts that it occurred more recently, was much longer in duration, and that many of its victims were cadres and intellectuals.[2]

Cultural Revolution, 1966-75

Mao's regime imposed strict controls over everyday life and cost the lives of tens of millions of people. The Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 was inspired by Mao and devastated the intellectual class. Tens of thousands of intellectuals and teachers were educators were insulted, tortured, driven to suicide or executed by their students. Mobilized as members of the Red Guards, a new youth organization, the students attacked the educators as "capitalist intellectuals." From 1967 to 1978, the state "send-down" (rustication) policy 17 million urban youth to live and work in rural areas, with a permanent negative impact on their intellectual development and careers. [3] The upheaval was not limited to the cities. Maoist political ideology and teachings provided the catalyst for village conflicts that brought out traditional grievances and further escalated the conflicts. Some of the catalysts were student activists carrying out Mao's teachings, factional disputes, and the Four Clean-up campaigns that purged village officials and corruption. These conflicts spread to traditional grievances like lineage and hamlet hostilities and disputes over leadership and rights. Often, the conflicts caused by Party politics intersected traditional conflicts to the extent that the root causes of the conflicts were lost. This resulted in further escalation of the conflicts, which became more complex and widespread. In rural China an estimated 750,000 to 1.5 million people were killed, and about as many permanently injured; 36 million who suffered some form of political persecution. The vast majority of these casualties occurred from 1968 to 1971, after the end of the period of popular rebellion and factional conflict and the establishment of provisional organs of local state power.[4] Mao's policies were illustrated in posters that used art for political purposes. The posters glorified Mao, criticized his opponents, urged cooperation among all revolutionary groups, and condemned capitalism and foreign imperialists.[5] Major leadership changes and purges occurred at the top, involving Lin Biao, the Gang of Four, and Deng Xiaoping. In 1976, after the death of Zhou Enlai in January, the replacement of Deng in April, and Mao's death in September, a short, dramatic struggle ended with the arrest of the Gang of Four, the end of the Cultural revolution, and the transition to the post-Mao era.

Nixon

In 1972 the world was stunned when American President Richard Nixon visited Beijing, ending the cold war between the two countries and opening an era of détente and friendship that continues into the 21st century.[6]

After 1978, Mao's successor Deng Xiaoping focused on market-oriented economic development, and by 2000 output had quadrupled, population growth ended (by imposing a one-child policy), and good relations were secured with the West. For much of the population, living standards have improved dramatically and the room for personal choice has expanded, yet political controls and Internet censorship remain tight.

The "Great Leap Forward" and the Sino-Soviet Split

In 1958, Mao broke with the Soviet model and announced a new economic program, the "Great Leap Forward," aimed at rapidly raising industrial and agricultural production. Giant cooperatives (communes) were formed, and "backyard factories" dotted the Chinese landscape. The results were disastrous. Normal market mechanisms were disrupted, agricultural production fell behind, and China's people exhausted themselves producing what turned out to be shoddy, un-salable goods. Within a year, starvation appeared even in fertile agricultural areas. From 1960 to 1961, the combination of poor planning during the Great Leap Forward and bad weather resulted in one of the deadliest famines in human history.

The already strained Sino-Soviet relationship deteriorated sharply in 1959, when the Soviets started to restrict the flow of scientific and technological information to China. The dispute escalated, and the Soviets withdrew all of their personnel from China in August 1960. In 1960, the Soviets and the Chinese began to have disputes openly in international forums.

The Cultural Revolution

Painting by Yun Xin, born in 1944

In the early 1960s, State President Liu Shaoqi and his protégé, Party General Secretary Deng Xiaoping, took over direction of the party and adopted pragmatic economic policies at odds with Mao's revolutionary vision. Dissatisfied with China's new direction and his own reduced authority, Party Chairman Mao launched a massive political attack on Liu, Deng, and other pragmatists in the spring of 1966. The new movement, the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution," was unprecedented in communist history. For the first time, a section of the Chinese communist leadership sought to rally popular opposition against another leadership group. China was set on a course of political and social anarchy that lasted the better part of a decade.

In the early stages of the Cultural Revolution, Mao and his "closest comrade in arms," National Defense Minister Lin Biao, charged Liu, Deng, and other top party leaders with dragging China back toward capitalism. Radical youth organizations, called Red Guards, attacked party and state organizations at all levels, seeking out leaders who would not bend to the radical wind.

Gradually, Red Guard and other radical activity subsided, and the Chinese political situation stabilized along complex factional lines. The leadership conflict came to a head in September 1971, when Party Vice Chairman and Defense Minister Lin Biao reportedly tried to stage a coup against Mao; Lin Biao later died in a plane crash in Mongolia.

In the aftermath of the Lin Biao fiasco, many officials criticized and dismissed during 1966-69 were reinstated. Chief among these was Deng Xiaoping, who reemerged in 1973 and was confirmed in 1975 in the concurrent posts of Politburo Standing Committee member, PLA Chief of Staff, and Vice Premier.

The ideological struggle between more pragmatic, veteran party officials and the radicals re-emerged with a vengeance in late 1975. Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, and three close Cultural Revolution associates (later dubbed the "Gang of Four") launched a media campaign against Deng. In January 1976, Premier Zhou Enlai, the #2 leader, died of cancer. On April 5, Beijing citizens staged a spontaneous demonstration in Tiananmen Square in Zhou's memory, with strong political overtones of support for Deng. The authorities forcibly suppressed the demonstration. Deng was blamed for the disorder and stripped of all official positions, although he retained his party membership.

The Post-Mao Era

Mao's death in September 1976 removed a towering figure from Chinese politics and set off a scramble for succession. Former Minister of Public Security Hua Guofeng was quickly confirmed as Party Chairman and Premier. A month after Mao's death, Hua, backed by the PLA, arrested Jiang Qing and other members of the "Gang of Four." After extensive deliberations, the Chinese Communist Party leadership reinstated Deng Xiaoping to all of his previous posts at the 11th Party Congress in August 1977. Deng then led the effort to place government control in the hands of veteran party officials opposed to the radical excesses of the previous two decades.

The new, pragmatic leadership emphasized economic development and renounced mass political movements. At the pivotal December 1978 Third Plenum (of the 11th Party Congress Central Committee), the leadership adopted economic reform policies aimed at expanding rural income and incentives, encouraging experiments in enterprise autonomy, reducing central planning, and attracting foreign direct investment into China. The plenum also decided to accelerate the pace of legal reform, culminating in the passage of several new legal codes by the National People's Congress in June 1979.

After 1979, the Chinese leadership moved toward more pragmatic positions in almost all fields. The party encouraged artists, writers, and journalists to adopt more critical approaches, although open attacks on party authority were not permitted. In late 1980, Mao's Cultural Revolution was officially proclaimed a catastrophe. Hua Guofeng, a protégé of Mao, was replaced as premier in 1980 by reformist Sichuan party chief Zhao Ziyang and as party General Secretary in 1981 by the even more reformist Communist Youth League chairman Hu Yaobang.

Reform policies brought great improvements in the standard of living, especially for urban workers and for farmers who took advantage of opportunities to diversify crops and establish village industries. Literature and the arts blossomed, and Chinese intellectuals established extensive links with scholars in other countries.

At the same time, however, political dissent as well as social problems such as inflation, urban migration, and prostitution emerged. Although students and intellectuals urged greater reforms, some party elders increasingly questioned the pace and the ultimate goals of the reform program. In December 1986, student demonstrators, taking advantage of the loosening political atmosphere, staged protests against the slow pace of reform, confirming party elders' fear that the current reform program was leading to social instability. Hu Yaobang, a protégé of Deng and a leading advocate of reform, was blamed for the protests and forced to resign as CCP General Secretary in January 1987. Premier Zhao Ziyang was made General Secretary and Li Peng, former Vice Premier and Minister of Electric Power and Water Conservancy, was made Premier.

1989 Student Movement and Tiananmen Square

After Zhao became the party General Secretary, the economic and political reforms he had championed came under increasing attack. His proposal in May 1988 to accelerate price reform led to widespread popular complaints about rampant inflation and gave opponents of rapid reform the opening to call for greater centralization of economic controls and stricter prohibitions against Western influence. This precipitated a political debate, which grew more heated through the winter of 1988-89.

The death of Hu Yaobang on April 15, 1989, coupled with growing economic hardship caused by high inflation, provided the backdrop for a large-scale protest movement by students, intellectuals, and other parts of a disaffected urban population. University students and other citizens camped out in Beijing's Tiananmen Square to mourn Hu's death and to protest against those who would slow reform. Their protests, which grew despite government efforts to contain them, called for an end to official corruption and for defense of freedoms guaranteed by the Chinese constitution. Protests also spread to many other cities, including Shanghai, Chengdu, and Guangzhou.

Martial law was declared on May 20, 1989. Late on June 3 and early on the morning of June 4, military units were brought into Beijing. They used armed force to clear demonstrators from the streets. There are no official estimates of deaths in Beijing, but most observers believe that casualties numbered in the hundreds.

After June 4, while foreign governments expressed horror at the brutal suppression of the demonstrators, the central government eliminated remaining sources of organized opposition, detained large numbers of protesters, and required political reeducation not only for students but also for large numbers of party cadre and government officials.

Following the resurgence of conservatives in the aftermath of June 4, economic reform slowed until given new impetus by Deng Xiaoping's dramatic visit to southern China in early 1992. Deng's renewed push for a market-oriented economy received official sanction at the 14th Party Congress later in the year as a number of younger, reform-minded leaders began their rise to top positions. Deng and his supporters argued that managing the economy in a way that increased living standards should be China's primary policy objective, even if "capitalist" measures were adopted. Subsequent to the visit, the Communist Party Politburo publicly issued an endorsement of Deng's policies of economic openness. Though not completely eschewing political reform, China has consistently placed overwhelming priority on the opening of its economy.

Third Generation of Leaders

Deng's health deteriorated in the years prior to his death in 1997. During that time, President Jiang Zemin and other members of his generation gradually assumed control of the day-to-day functions of government. This "third generation" leadership governed collectively with President Jiang at the center.

In March 1998, Jiang was re-elected President during the 9th National People's Congress. Premier Li Peng was constitutionally required to step down from that post. He was elected to the chairmanship of the National People's Congress. Zhu Rongji was selected to replace Li as Premier.

Fourth Generation of Leaders

Tiananmen gate of the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City used to be the palace of the emperor of China, it is now a tourist attraction.

In November 2002, the 16th Communist Party Congress elected Hu Jintao, who in 1992 was designated by Deng Xiaoping as the "core" of the fourth generation leaders, the new General Secretary. A new Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee was also elected in November.

In March 2003, General Secretary Hu Jintao was elected President at the 10th National People's Congress. Jiang Zemin retained the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission. At the Fourth Party Plenum in September 2004, Jiang Zemin retired from the Central Military Commission, passing the Chairmanship and control of the People's Liberation Army to President Hu Jintao.

China is firmly committed to economic reform and opening to the outside world. The Chinese leadership has identified reform of state industries and the establishment of a social safety net as government priorities. Government strategies for achieving these goals include large-scale privatization of unprofitable state-owned enterprises and development of a pension system for workers. The leadership has also downsized the government bureaucracy.

On March 14, 2013 Xi Jinping was "elected" as new president.[7]

References

  1. Yixin Chen, "Cold War Competition and Food Production in China, 1957-1962," Agricultural History 2009 83(1): 51-78,
  2. William A. Joseph, "A Tragedy of Good Intentions: Post-mao Views of the Great Leap Forward." Modern China 1986 12(4): 419-457. Issn: 0097-7004 in Jstor
  3. Xueguang Zhou and Liren Hou, "Children of the Cultural Revolution: the State and the Life Course in the People's Republic of China." American Sociological Review 1999 64(1): 12-36. Issn: 0003-1224 in Jstor
  4. Jonathan Unger, "Cultural Revolution Conflict in the Villages.} China Quarterly 1998 (153): 82-106. Issn: 0305-7410 in Jstor ; Andrew G. Walder, and Yang Su, "The Cultural Revolution in the Countryside: Scope, Timing and Human Impact." China Quarterly 2003 (173): 74-99. Issn: 0305-7410
  5. Patricia Powell, and Joseph Wong, "Propaganda Posters from the Chinese Cultural Revolution." Historian 1997 59(4): 776-793. Issn: 0018-2370 in EBSCO
  6. For primary sources and details see "Record of Historic Richard Nixon-Zhou Enlai Talks in February 1972 Now Declassified"
  7. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/9929619/Xi-Jinping-elected-Chinas-president-Telegraph-dispatch.html

See also

External links

Further reading

  • Barnouin, Barbara, and Yu Changgen. Zhou Enlai: A Political Life (2005) excerpt and text search
  • Baum, Richard D. "'Red and Expert': The Politico-Ideological Foundations of China's Great Leap Forward," Asian Survey, Vol. 4, No. 9 (Sep., 1964), pp. 1048-1057 in JSTOR
  • Becker, Jasper. Hungry Ghosts: China's Secret Famine (1996), on the "Great Leap Forward" of 1950s
  • Chang, Jung and Jon Halliday. Mao: The Unknown Story, (2005), 814 pages, ISBN 0-679-42271-4
  • Dittmer, Lowell. China's Continuous Revolution: The Post-Liberation Epoch, 1949-1981 (1989) online free
  • Dietrich, Craig. People's China: A Brief History, 3d ed. (1997), 398pp excerpt and text search
  • Kirby, William C., ed. Realms of Freedom in Modern China. (2004). 416 pp.
  • Kirby, William C.; Ross, Robert S.; and Gong, Li, eds. Normalization of U.S.-China Relations: An International History. (2005). 376 pp.
  • Li, Xiaobing. A History of the Modern Chinese Army (2007) excerpt and text search
  • MacFarquhar, Roderick and Fairbank, John K., eds. The Cambridge History of China. Vol. 15: The People's Republic, Part 2: Revolutions within the Chinese Revolution, 1966-1982. Cambridge U. Press, 1992. 1108 pp.
  • Meisner, Maurice. Mao's China and After: A History of the People’s Republic, 3rd ed. (Free Press, 1999), dense book with theoretical and political science approach. excerpt and text search
  • Spence, Jonatham. Mao Zedong (1999) excerpt and text search
  • Shuyun, Sun. The Long March: The True History of Communist China's Founding Myth (2007)
  • Wang, Jing. High Culture Fever: Politics, Aesthetics, and Ideology in Deng's China (1996) complete text online free
  • Wenqian, Gao. Zhou Enlai: The Last Perfect Revolutionary (2007) excerpt and text search

Cultural Revolution, 1966-76

  • Clark, Paul. The Chinese Cultural Revolution: A History (2008), a favorable look at artistic production excerpt and text search
  • Esherick, Joseph W.; Pickowicz, Paul G.; and Walder, Andrew G., eds. The Chinese Cultural Revolution as History. (2006). 382 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Jian, Guo; Song, Yongyi; and Zhou, Yuan. Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. (2006). 433 pp.
  • MacFarquhar, Roderick and Fairbank, John K., eds. The Cambridge History of China. Vol. 15: The People's Republic, Part 2: Revolutions within the Chinese Revolution, 1966-1982. Cambridge U. Press, 1992. 1108 pp.
  • MacFarquhar, Roderick and Michael Schoenhals. Mao's Last Revolution. (2006).
  • MacFarquhar, Roderick. The Origins of the Cultural Revolution. Vol. 3: The Coming of the Cataclysm, 1961-1966. (1998). 733 pp.
  • Yan, Jiaqi and Gao, Gao. Turbulent Decade: A History of the Cultural Revolution. (1996). 736 pp.
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