To understand the politics of China we must first understand the culture
Beginning from the ideology that it purported to be a scientific, culturally neutral process that would occur naturally in the course of historical development1, communism has made China what it is in the present day. Using combinations from other non-liberal-democratic forms of government, the People’s Republic of China seemed to have it all. In reality, this ever-growing Country, when governed by a non-liberal-democratic form of government both benefits and suffers. Through its culture, political thought and ideas, this form of government cannot survive very long in the world today.
The government broke the country down and created barriers at the same time. With ever growing populations and vast resources, the PRC has all it needs to be a successful Country. So what went wrong? Why did it fail? Revolutionaries such as Mao, and Dang attempted to create a country that technically has one of the oldest civilizations, but in reality has a lot of learning ahead of them. China, according to a writer (Teufel, 1993, 7), being one of the earliest places inhabited by groups of human beings according to a writer, has many beliefs and traditions. To understand the politics of China we must first understand the culture.
As Inheritors of the world’s oldest continuous civilization, the Chinese can be honourably proud of their achievements. Early creation of a written language, development of elaborate techniques of silk-weaving and wet rice cultivation, and invention of the compass and gunpowder are but a few of the more outstanding of these accomplishments2. Philosophy being an important element in Chinese tradition plays a large role in their culture. With numerous schools such as Confucianism, Mohism, Daoists, and Logicians, many beliefs and meanings bring up debate time and time again.
However, after long deliberation, Confucianism won over its rivals and became the states philosophy officially. This philosophy contained elements from numerous other philosophies like Buddhism and feng-shui and was influenced by other schools. Another aspect of Chinese culture is the government structure of traditional China. Beginning around the fourteenth century, the well-organized government was one of traditional China’s pride and joy. Reined by the emperor, this form of government structure included such positions as empresses of families, concubines, imperial sons and heirs.
According to a writer(Teufel, 1993, 47), included in the imperial bureaucracy there are Six Boards with specific tasks as follows: There is the Board of Personnel who are in charge of making civil service appointments; the Board of Punishment who supply the court system; the Board of Revenue who collect taxes; the Board of Rites who are in charge of examination systems and state festivals; the Board of War who were those who passes a special military exam, and the Board of Works who were in charge of building and irrigation.
In these traditional hierarchies, there was both freedom and rejection evident with the idea that those who passed civil service and special military examinations became part of an elaborate hierarchy3. This no longer was a problem when, in 1911, it was overthrown. This was later replaced by the Chinese National Party which soon after failed. The early years leading to communist power had its ups and downs. Beginning with the formation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1921 was a result of two ever changing events: The new found nationalism in China and the victory of the Bolsheviks in Russia4.
These events, though unimportant alone, affected China forever. The CCP, beginning small, ended up, according to an author (Waller, 1981, 43) with over 35 million members in 1978. Though small in number, compared to the total population of china, millions of members are significant amount themselves. The party conceives itself not as an administrative body, but as a leadership organ, deciding policies to be implemented by the state structure, and supervising the execution of these policies5. Strict membership was, in the beginning, upheld, and by invitation only.
Once in the party, members were expected to study Marxism, Leninism and Mao views and abide by all of them combined. The events beginning the CCP were followed by many attempts by many men in power and until the civil war victory in 1949 and the arrival of Mao Zedong. Arriving on October 1, 1949, Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The name of Mao Zedong is a name that is etched in every mind of the citizens of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and would soon be the answer to all problems, temporarily.
From 1949 to 1976, Mao did everything in his power to make China flourish in economic and cultural gain. The first step in beginning a new government is establishing rules and regulations. With this in mind, a meeting was held with more then eleven hundred people who are part of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Mao was a man who stressed voluntarism, that is, that man is not dominated by impersonal forces; human will and effort can affect the outcome of historical events6. Well aware of the downfalls of the USSR, Mao Zedong with other leaders, were cautious in every way possible.
Taking into consideration the population’s lack of incentive to work hard, Chinese communists decided to take a Great Leap Forward. With economic gain in mind, and success in their hearts, major accomplishments were in mind such as industrial, agricultural and technological development. This leap included, according to a writer (Teufel, 1993, 109) such actions as marriages being contracted for economic gain, gambling, a large disparity in income levels and officials using their position for financial gain. Unfortunately, the Great Leap is now remembered for its economic failure7.
Another big impact Mao had on the Chinese community was the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The main goal, like the Great Leap Forward, was to end hierarchical order and increase equality. Even though this idea ended early on in its existence, many of its strategies remain several years later. The death of Mao Zedong led to the succession of the power of Deng Xiaoping, a more radical thinker. He introduced the rule of law. While Mao was more of equality thinker, Deng was a man who had prosperity on his mind.
This idea of prosperity leads to the motive of profit. This resulted in people being able to sell in markets and factories and being allowed to keep earnings, something that is new and exciting for the People’s Republic of China. Economics were essentially the main focus of the People’s Republic of China throughout the years. In the beginning, industrialization was most important, but at the same time, the riskiest idea. This being because of the ever going problems associated with it in other countries.
The government of the PRC knew this and they knew to be extra careful with their ideas and thoughts with the subject. The Chinese Communist Party had two main goals in their economic efforts, according to a writer (Teufel, 1993, 172), which included equality and prosperity. In the beginning years, under the efforts of Mao, measures were taken to deal with the subject of inflation. These measures included revaluing the nation’s currency to a more realistic rate in order to reduce the lure of the black market currency transactions and those indulging in a currency speculation would be punished8.
On top of these, more stable measures were taken with equality in mind. Trading cooperatives arrived and put food in cities and prices became fixed at, what seemed to be, a fair rate. With these new measures in place, the PRC would, now, not have to worry about inflationary pressures and could focus on such things as rebuilding railroads and concentrating on agriculture. Mao Zedong, knowing that a large portion of the population was involved one way or another in agriculture, put most of his efforts in the rural areas.
After the civil war, a need for land distribution was essential and new distinctions of class were put in place. New classifications were made and all seemed to be in order. This new land reform, which seemed to be the solution, created new problems for the PRC. Problems such as the leadership’s decision to give equal shares of land out, not knowing that with fifty million new landowners reduced the size of the average farm and the ability of the peasant to accumulate capital9. Another problem arose with animals and where to allocate where they are to be bread.
The last and most important problem that came from these new classifications was food shortages throughout the country. This occurred because newly landed peasants decided to eat the grain themselves rather then shipping them to markets. To solve these, a new group was formed by the name of the mutual aid teams (MATs). Included in these teams were usually up to five households at first that were only temporary. Later, MAT’s were finalized and groups of five to ten households were formed permanently. Another solution brought to the attention of the country was communes.
Under this system, according to an author (Teufel, 1993, 177) private plots were eliminated and private property was nonexistent. These communes did such services as running factories, banks, and doing educational work. An example of this was that tools such as pots and pans were melted and taken away from peasants so they would be forced to eat in commune dining halls. The idea of communes and communism, then led to disaster. Crops died and animals were slaughtered and wasted by their owners. Over the next few years, the agriculture in the PRC would only worsen.
This temporarily changed later on in the years, when it was restored, but peasants still remained weary. Being weary was a trait the population of the PRC was often used to, aside from the case of education. Since 1949 there has been a steady quantitative improvement in education facilities10. According to a writer (Waller, 1981, 66), with around 80% of the total population being illiterate to having nine out of ten of the younger generation having at least basic literacy, a great improvement has definitely been made, but more improvement is still necessary.
The average education level remains at around4. 5 years and the educational system is still unevenly distributed, with higher levels of education in some areas then others. Measures the CCP have taken are to popularise and spread standard pronunciation and simplify the many of the more common characters11. The education system is divided into three major sections which are primary, secondary and higher or university level. Primary education, beginning at the age of seven, lasts for five years and is attended by virtually all children.
Secondary education, also lasting six years, consists of two stages of middle school, which are upper and lower and consist of three years each. This was later changed to one four year sector. In addition to these middle schools, there are schools for teacher and technical training as an option. Full-time as well as Part-time schools are available to all. University, if one decided to attend, would take only three years to finish. Differing from the educational system in North America, entrance examinations are not used, rather students were selected on the basis of recommendations.
This proved beneficial for the country because students would often do labour work for several years before entering university, which undoubtedly benefited the economic system. The population of the People’s Republic of China is diverse and unique. With peasants accounting most of its population, they play a large role in how china works. The peasant’s standard of living has increased since the beginning of communism economically, socially and educationally. The Public health system in the PRC has also been greatly enhanced. Disease, which before had been a serious threat to common peasants, has now declined drastically.
Improvements such as travelling paramedics and more hospitals have increased the life expectancy as well as increased the population. The younger population of China is significant as well. According to a writer (Teufel, 1993, 121), with over 60% of the population under twenty-five years of age, the younger generation cannot be missed. Problems for the younger generation are numerous. With difficulties in getting work after school, the young generation are often not motivated to continue in their efforts in education and often drop out at an early age.
Women in the PRC are regarded as inferior to men, but are not invisible by all means. Male children were often preferred and if a girl child was born, they were sometimes killed. Young girls were usually married at an early age and given no rights or freedoms. All of these occurrences were a normal thing until, in 1953; a law was passed giving women more rights and freedoms. Marriages were now contracted with both parties agreement, and polygamy and child marriages were virtually eliminated. Discrimination however, is still evident in other forms.
Although all of the Chinese population are paid the same amount of money for doing equal work, women get paid less because their work is not considered to be equal to men. An author (Teufel, 1993, 236) states that Mao Zedong’s states that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”. This is a perfect example of the value placed on the police and court systems of the People’s Republic of China. Courts and public safety were one of the Chinese Communist Party’s main focuses. According to one writer (Waller, 1981, 125), the public safety bureau, established in 1959, plays a large role in how the PRC is run.
The courts were, viewed by the Communist Party, as an instrument of state policy, for achieving the revolutionary goals of society and for suppressing those persons considered to be counter-revolutionaries, instead of an instrument used for protection of individual rights12. Police and public security services within the country had powers beyond simply law and order. On top of the original tasks a public safety officer also has tasks such as doing census registration, surveillance of overseas Chinese and politically suspect individuals, investigation of criminal cases and border patrol13 among others.
Throughout the PRC there are main security offices in urban areas as well as in rural areas. In conclusion, the People’s Republic of China benefited, but overall failed desolately. There beliefs, ideas and goals were forced it in a downward spiral. Reasons for this include the poor use of hierarchy, economics, education and security, to name a few. These systems, though put in place with good intentions, failed because of poor organization, formation and execution. People were neglected and institutions were overlooked.
Another problem with the system is all the government failures that occurred. Failures such as The Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution created disbelief and uncertainty among the PRC’s population. These uncertainties forced the people of the PRC to become ashamed to be a part of their country and eventually created chaos. If the People’s Republic of China was simply governed with a little more thought and consideration to its public, maybe it would have survived longer.