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Mao and the Communist party

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When Mao and the Communist party came into power, there were many problems to solve. The country was poverty stricken because landowners made the peasants pay high rents on property and land. Both people and the cities were unclean and unhealthy, because of “bad habits” and the lack of education. China was stuck in a rut and needed modernising. China needed to industrialise, so they would catch up with the Western world.

Also, if they were to build heavy industry, it would solve the problem of unemployment and homelessness. The people of China were unequal both in class and gender. Over half of China’s population were peasants, and all earned poor wages compared to landowners and businessmen. Usually, only men would be educated and also if a girl was born into a family, they would kill it and try to have a boy as they knew a male would be able to support them better than a female. When China was run by capitalists, they were very much influenced by foreign countries. Mao wanted to change this because he felt that China should be independent.

Mao wanted to introduce China to the principles of communism. The political principles of the Communist Party were:

* There should be equality between people

* There should be no privileged class of people

* There should be no private ownership

* There should be no private profit or inherited wealth

* Everyone should work for the common good of the people and the state

* The state should control all economic, cultural and political life until a perfect state of communism should develop

The Communists had different policies in the town and country. A policy of land reform was put into place in the countryside. This is when the landowners were removed from the land and the land was redistributed among the peasants. Mao soon realised that the small plots of land given to the peasants would not be able to feed the entire population. He encouraged the small farms to join together in what would be called a co-operative or collective farm. In 1957/8, co-operatives were reorganised into large communes. The communes looked after every aspect of life i.e. industry, agriculture, education, welfare, defence etc. Mao believed that life in the communes would lead to an ideal communist society, by people learning to work for the common good of the community.

In the urban areas (towns), industry was being built up. Heavy industry schemes were set up under 5 year plans to increase the production of coal, steel, electricity and petrol. Factories were handed over to the workers, so that they could run them. The bosses of the factories had to work in them or they would be punished.

Mao launched many campaigns, some of which succeeded and others didn’t. Firstly, Mao believed that women should be treated equally and be given the same opportunities of education, careers etc. as men. There was a programme to teach people how to read and write which was extremely successful. Before 1949, most peasants were illiterate, but by 1949 only 20% of people under 45 could not read or write. The next big campaign was the mass clean ups. All the cities were cleaned up and house inspections were held. If you hadn’t cleaned your home properly, you were made to believe that you didn’t love your country. Mao and the Communists wanted to rid China of all oppositions. They sent out ‘cadres’ (communist workers) to the countryside to indoctrinate people about the correctness of communism. The Great Leap Forward is when all co-operatives were made into communes that were believed to increase chances of having a perfect communist society. Finally, there was the 100 Flowers Campaign, which encouraged people to share their opinions and ideas of how China should be run.

When Mao died, Deng Xiaoping came into power. Deng Xiaoping was a strong believer of Mao, and continued following the policies, but changing some to sort out many of the problems Mao had left behind.

In the countryside, many peasants were barely surviving as most of the harvest was going to the government. In 1978, there was a drought in China. Some peasants divided up the land into individual plots and kept the surplus that they produced and promised to look after poor families. They passed on the idea to Deng in Beijing, who agreed that it could work. This began the ‘household responsibility system’ and began to break down the communes. This idea is different to Mao’s as Deng was prepared to let the peasants divide the land into private plots again.

“Mao gave us liberty and Deng has given us food”

(Born Under the Red Flag-Video Notes)

In the towns, the peasants were better off. In the 1980s, markets reappeared and people were once again allowed to start up private businesses. Even Communist Party officials started up businesses. Peasants could earn extra money by working in local factories or selling surplus harvest. Mao would have disagreed with this as it was promoting capitalism and people were no longer equal.

A plan for 4 economic zones were initiated along the south coast, near Taiwan and Hong Kong, They became developed business areas, with high wages, more goods to buy and more private enterprises allowed. People swarmed into these areas and Hong Kong invested in it. Mao would not have allowed this because the high wages and private businesses. He would have said it was against all policies of equality, state ownership and foreign influences.

When Mao was in power, religion was banned as he wanted many people to believe that he was more powerful than the gods. When Deng came into power, Buddha and all local gods were worshipped once again.

Deng launched a policy of Four Modernisations. This aimed to update China’s industry, agriculture, defence and science and technology so China would be economically advanced by the year 2000. This led to new links with foreign countries and cultural influences. Deng wanted to open up relations with the West, particularly with the USA. Deng visited America in 1979 and was impressed by Western technology. He wanted to become as prosperous as they were.

When Mao died, he still left many problems behind him. China was still unindustrialised, poor and peasants were starving and pay was still low. China had very ambitious aims that would not always work. The USSR withdrew technical help and financial aid. The concentration of steel production led to a neglect of faming and there were terrible famines. Taking the privileged class out of the system was a bad idea as they needed the wealth to finance projects, campaigns etc. Working for the common good of the state failed as all the peasant’s hard labour was going to the government in form of food. The Cultural Revolution destroyed China’s history and tradition, so that when the young grew up, all they would know about was Mao. Western influences were not allowed, which prevented China from becoming more modern. After Mao had died, China had still not yet become a modern industrialised country as Mao had hoped it to be.

Deng said that his policies were still based on the communist policies but that this new ‘open door’ idea would allow China to become a modern industrialised country.

“Our open door policy is harmless as we can deal with any bad capitalist influences”

(Speech by Deng Xiaoping October 1984)

He said that his policies were needed because if the policies didn’t change they wouldn’t be able to catch up with developed countries in the next 50 years. He wanted to update industry, agriculture, technology, defence etc. so China would become economically advanced in the near future. This led to new-found friendships with foreign countries and cultures.

“Without modern science and technology it is impossible to build modern agriculture, modern industry or modern national defence…but independence does not mean shutting the door to the world, nor does self-reliance mean blind opposition to everything foreign”

Mao’s foreign policy was based on how China saw herself before the 19th Century. Until the 19th Century, China saw herself as a superpower and had always dominated her neighbours. In the 1900s, China was fully controlled by foreign powers. The people of China hated it being ruled by foreign powers. Mao brought it a policy that China should be independent. They should reject domination by the West, refuse all contact with the west and eliminate western influences.

“After 1949 Chinese foreign policy had two main purposes: the desire not to be dominated or humiliated by any other foreign power, and an obsessive concern for the security of Chinese borders.”

In the 1950s, China was involved in the Cold War, against US and USSR. The United States was an ally of the GMD (Guomindang), a nationalist party, in Taiwan. The US disallowed China to enter into the United Nations and would no longer trade with them. They were worried about the ‘domino effect’, otherwise known as the spread of communism. (Refer to figure 1 – pg…)

When Deng Xiaoping took over, President Nixon of the USA started talking to the Chinese again. Deng visited the USA and President Nixon visited China. This was the start of foreign relations. Deng wanted to open up a relationship with the west. Deng was a strong communist but believed China would not be able to modernise if the did not open up to foreign countries. In 1977, China took over Hong Kong from Britain and opened up more links with capitalism.

“…China was becoming less isolated and more willing to talk to other countries. We started to deal with countries and the basis of their actions, not their ideas. The interests of the US and China don’t seem to collide anymore.”

(Adapted from President Nixon’s Foreign Policy report to Congress, 1973)

China normalised her relationship with the USA in 2000/1 and joined the WTO (World Trade Organisation) this year (2002). China still ignores all foreign condemnation of their human rights record and still doesn’t make alliances with other powers. They still want to integrate Taiwan into China.

Most recently, involving the attack against Iraq for September 11th, China has stayed neutral in the matter and has not decided whether they are for or against attacking Iraq. The USA and the UK are for the attack, and Russia and France are against the attack.

Mao’s political policy was that China should be a One Party State. Criticism of this party would be forbidden, except when the government allowed it e.g. The Cultural Revolution, 100 Flowers Campaign etc. There would be censorship of all things western, especially books and art, as these might influence people about capitalism.

Deng also believed in a One Party State. There was no censorship of western influences as Deng believed alliances with the west was the way forward. Even though more modern things were now allowed in China, there was repression. A good example of this is the labour camps that were set up for dissidents. Another example is the riots and Tiananmen Square. There were a lot of pro-democracy student demonstrations there, which were forcibly repressed by the government on June 3-4, 1989, with the loss of hundreds of lives.

Nowadays, China is still a One Party State. There is still censorship, but it is now less repressive. Also, there is now exile for all dissidents but labour camps for others. From this we can see that not a lot has changed from Mao’s era, and they are basically ‘back to square one.’

Mao’s economic policy was that everyone would have a “job for life.” This concept was known as the ‘iron rice bowl’. Attached to this, all welfare was promised. This meant that all people would have housing, healthcare etc. Mao disallowed foreign trade, as he wished to banish all things western. There was no stock market, in which you could buy shares, as there were no private companies. This is because private wealth was seen as capitalist. Also, having private companies would cause different extremes of wealth.

Deng created economic zones placed along the coast, near Taiwan and Hong Kong. They were developed into business areas with high wages. These economic zones allowed China to open up to the west. Associating with places like Hong Kong, would allow capitalism to sneak into China.

In recent times, China has joined the World Trade Organisation. It now has one or the largest stock markets and has become a trading nation.

In Mao’s era, many people were unemployed and lived in poverty. They were also starving. Mao brought in many new policies for equality which included everyone to where a ‘Mao boiler suit.’ This was to make sure there would be no gap in status or wealth. It was necessary for people to keep their houses clean or they were to be considered unpatriotic and unsupportive of Mao.

When Deng came into power, many things improved. More people became employed, as many private businesses were now allowed. More food was also now available, so only a small percentage of people were starving.

“Mao gave us liberty and Deng has given us food”

(Born Under the Red Flag-Video Notes)

Deng introduced China to more western influences. This meant that people were free to do more than they were in Mao’s era, although they were still dominated by the government.

Nowadays, there are still rich and poor and the gap is widening. The Chinese middle class wish to become more like the west and indulge in western cultures. There is more individualism, as clothing and leisure activities are becoming increasingly westernised.

“China’s emerging middle class hopes to see more stylish and desirable goods on the counters. They also want a greater choice of cars and electronic goods.”

(The Guardian, 26th May 2000, by John Gittings and Duncan Hewitt)

Mao changed the lives of many people during his reign of power. The older people of China considered Mao as their hero who changed their lives dramatically. They might regret the new values that China has, because they were brought up in a communist environment where all things western would be have been banned. Nowadays, China is overflowing with western culture and many people want more of it. The young people of China are considered to be the future, and they therefore think into the future. They are very impatient for change and want everything in China to become more westernised as they realise that is the only way for China to be prepared for the future and for their political party to survive.

“…Chinese leaders believe that the economic benefits of joining the world market will buy more time for the political system to survive.”

(The Guardian, 26th May 2000, by John Gittings and Duncan Hewitt)

The rich people of China tend to live near the coast and in the cities, as wealth is likely to generate from theses areas. Unemployment is less frequent in these areas. These areas are likely to contain more stock markets and more jobs than in the rural areas, thereby making the people that live there wealthier. In my opinion, the richer people’s views about westernisation are more likely to change and change faster at that. This is because they are more likely to be in close contact with western ideas and therefore will convert to capitalism faster.

The peasants live in rural areas, which are likely to be in the countryside, away from the cities. These people are likely to be living in poverty and are probably unemployed. The gap between rich and poor is widening and therefore these people will be living a life totally opposite to wealthy Chinese. These people are not going to be keen on this new capitalist way of life as they will feel that they have been left on the worse side. They will not be willing to convert to a western/capitalist way of life easily as they will disagree with it.

There is what we would call a geographical divide between rich and poor. The peasants live in the countryside which is in the interior of the country, and the rich live on the coast/cities which are at the exterior of the country. This divide may cause tension which could possibly lead to a civil war if the conditions of the peasants do not change within the next few years. The peasants have already protested and rioted about many things that are wrong with their state of living.

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