China, People’s Republic Of
- Having come to power in the 1949 Chinese Revolution, Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) set about steering the world’s most densely populated country toward his and their own vision of Marxism. Eternally influenced by the tenets of Maoism and its practical application, or Maothought, the course of Chinese history was altered dramatically following the revolution. From 1949 until the late 1970s, the entire economy was under state direction and ownership, as a planning system similar to the one employed in the Soviet Union was implemented. Vast industrialization and the collectivization of rural land were accentuated, and the adoption of an autarkic approach to foreign policy led to the restriction of trade to Soviet Bloc countries only. It was self-interest too which led to the Sino–Russian split that occurred through the 1960s. The CCP government curtailed relations with Moscow due to territorial and ideological tensions that overspilled into violent border skirmishes in 1966 and 1969.The Mao era was characterized firstly by a number of Soviet-style five-year plans, and then a series of mobilization campaigns, such as the 1958 “Great Leap Forward.” This amounted to an attempt to rapidly increase production while eschewing the five-year plan paradigm, chiefly through placing a greater emphasis on localized economic authority, establishing rural “communes,” and encouraging light industry and agriculture. The results, however, were disastrous. The gross economic mismanagement of the “Great Leap” brought about little in terms of advancement in the pursuit of full industrialization, allowed state brutality and coercion costing countless lives, and gave birth to an endemic and enduring famine. Seemingly just as the Great Leap Forward period came to its sorry denouement, the CCP announced a new crusade in the form of the 1966 Cultural Revolution. The Cultural Revolution brought about further chaos and disaster, and left the reputation of Chairman Mao indelibly scarred. In 1976, with his grip on power tenuous and undermined by the Gang of Four plot to succeed him, the once venerable leader died. In the wake of Mao’s death, Deng Xiaoping eventually emerged as his outright successor. Deng had been purged from party life for his criticisms of the Cultural Revolution, and as the new chief he immediately displayed a propensity to negate aspects of orthodox Maoism in his actions. He helped drive out the hard-line Gang of Four who had been expected to take the reins from Mao, and set the country on the road to the “Four Modernizations,” namely of the state, the economy, armed forces and in scientific research. The Four Modernizations were underpinned by the pragmatic motivation of rapid industrialization and improved trade with the capitalist West. This allowed for concessions to capitalism that contradicted established Marxist and moreover Maoist principles, including the creation of a (planned) market economy, stock markets, and Special Economic Zones buttressed by a largely free trade ethos. Consequently, the 1980s were characterized by increased economic and social freedoms.However, the CCP maintained a strong and totalitarian system of governance, and this inherent contradiction with those freedoms led to an era of tension between government and public. This manifested itself in the pro-democracy protests of 1986, and more infamously 1989. On both occasions, the CCP regime used brutal violence instigated by Premier Zhao Ziyang to quash the dissent, most notably in the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 1989. In that same period, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the governments of the other Eastern Bloc countries spurred the CCP into further pragmatic and un-ideologically motivated actions, as it sought to extend economic entente with the United States and Japan. Until his death in 1997, Deng, along with Jiang Zemin, his ultimate successor as overall leader and CCP general secretary from 1989, turned China further toward capitalist economics, decommissioning state-owned enterprises in pursuit of a controlled market economy. Jiang has continued to pursue similar pragmatic fiscal policy, allowing the PRC to embrace a period of unbridled economic growth, though allegations of a patent disregard for human rights still plague the CCP regime. Chinese Marxism, or more accurately Maoism, borrowed from Karl Marx the theories of historical materialism, class struggle and dialectical materialism, and from Vladimir Ilich Lenin the concepts of imperialism and the vanguard party. However, Mao and the CCP supplemented these doctrines with a number of their own, some of which, primarily the notion of the “Mass Line” in its negation of Lenin’s distrust of the “spontaneity” of the proletariat, contradicted orthodox Marxist–Leninist thought.
Historical dictionary of Marxism. David Walker and Daniel Gray . 2014.
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