New Internationalist

China

Issue 119

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COUNTRY PROFILE
China
Map of China. Click to enlarge.

Leader: Premier, Zhao Ziyang, Secretary General of Chinese Communist Party Hu Yaobang.

Economy: GNP is $290 per person per year.

Monetary unit: Renminbi (RMB) US $1.95

Main exports: coal, grain, oil, steel.

Inflation: unofficially 5 per cent per year.

People: 1.08 billion(1982 census). 65% under 30 years. Peasants: 850 million.

Health: Child mortality (1-4 years); 0.5% (Sweden 0.1%).
Daily calorie availability: 103% (1977).

Culture: Communist Party: 39 million members. Religion now tolerated; I million Christians claimed

Ethnic groups: Non-Chinese, 6% occupying 45% of land area, include Uighurs, Kazakhs, Mongols, Zhuang, Tibetans.

Language: Chinese(Modem Standard formerly Mandarin, spoken by 70%: Cantonese and other dialects).

Foreign policy: 1842 First ‘unequal treaty’ imposed after Opium War. Westem powers gain ‘semi-colonial’ privileges. 1937—Japan invades, defeated(1945) with US help. 1950—Sino--Soviet alliance; US embargo. 1960—Sino--Soviet split; 1972—Nixon visits Bejing.

Sources: China Trade & Economic Newsletter; Far Eastern Economic Renew Yearbook; Beijing Renieit; Beijing; China Quarterly School of Oriental & African Studies. London; World Development Report 1982.

CHINA saw Mao Zedong’ s future and it did not work and is now trying another road to socialism, via sustained and peasant prosperity. Rural households now ‘take responsibility’ for land still theoretically owned by the collective: the successful sell surpluses on the free market, buy sewing-machines and TV sets, build new houses. Mao’s People’s Communes set up in 1958 are being stripped of administrative power; the cadres (officials) are now blamed for damping rural initiative.

Chinese self-reliance, which impressed many foreigners ten years ago, was the product of two special circumstances:

Mao’s commitment to it and China’s enforced isolation. By 1972, with the US-China thaw, Western doors were already opening; after Mao’s death in 1976, his successors cast doctrine aside, seeking foreign loans and expertise. They are tempted by a new economic equation: China’s fuel reserves will pay for imported technology, especially from Japan.

New political doors also opened after Mao’s death when Party Vice-Chairman Deng Xiaoping. the real strong man in the Party hierarchy, encouraged the unofficial ‘democracy movement’ to criticise the Maoist bureaucrats holding up reform. But the movement was squashed after it had served his purpose; its young leaders sent to jail for ‘counter-revolution’ (and some adopted by Amnesty International). At its Twelfth Congress in September 1982, the Party insisted that it could cleanse itself and regain public support, though ordinary Chinese are mostly cynical about the ‘big potatoes’ at the top.

The policies of the Cultural Revolution (1966—76) have been roundly reversed— it’s now called ’ten years of disaster’. Students no longer go to the countryside : workers no longer take part in management. The bubble has burst: students now want to go abroad, do research; workers want to earn large bonuses and save for new furniture and their marriage feast.

China was bound to change. Some 70 per cent of the population was born since 1949; standards of living and education have risen and these create higher demands which challenge the collective ethos of a low-wage economy. As more money and goods circulate, China now faces inflation and unemployed school- leavers. Small private businesses food stall-holders, cobblers —are encouraged to soak up the jobless.

The verdict on the failure of Mao’s experiment? He went further than any communist leader in grasping that a national Five Year Plan plus electricity for the countryside does not guarantee socialism, and in challenging government bureaucrats. But he was quirky, imperious and deceived by opportunists like Defence Minister Lin Biao and the Gang of Four.

His successors believe that socialism has its own economic laws to which human relations take second place. Most people prefer their goal of ‘order and stability’ to Cultural Revolutionary chaos. But a flame has been extinguished and the problem remains of how to democratise one-Party rule. At the Twelfth Congress the 70-year-olds promised to step down, and then stayed

John Gittings


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Fairly even housing, but hidden perks for bureaucracy. 3m unemployed 26m jobs created 1979 – 81.
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Trade in balance; foreign credits used cautiously, but next few years critical.
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Great victory over feudal oppression, still very few at the top.
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[image, unknown] Communist Party rules; liberal economic views, bureaucratic orthodox.
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Adult literacy 66%. Great gains since 1949; still 120 million illiterate peasants.
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In spite of new criminal code, dissidents put away without trial.

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‘64 years. Good basic medicine prolongs life, increases population.

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