How did mao change the face of Essay
How far did Mao Ze Dong change the face of China?
As China emerged from a half century of revolution as the world’s most populous nation and launched itself on a path of economic development and social
change, Mao Zedong, its principal revolutionary thinker and for many years its unchallenged leader, occupied a critical place in the story of the country’s resurgence. To be sure, he did not play a dominant role throughout the whole struggle. In the early years of the Chinese Socialist Party, he was a secondary figure, though by no means a negligible one, and even after the 1940s (except perhaps during the Cultural Revolution) the crucial decisions were not his alone. Nevertheless, looking at the whole period from the foundation of the Chinese Socialist Party in 1921 to Mao’s death in 1976, one can fairly regard Mao Zedong as the principal architect of the new China.
Recovery from War 1949-52
In 1949 China’s economy was suffering from the debilitating effects of decades of warfare. Many mines and factories had been damaged or destroyed. At the end of the war with Japan in 1945, Soviet troops had dismantled about half the machinery in the major industrial areas of the northeast and shipped it to the Soviet Union. Transportation, communication, and power systems had been destroyed or had deteriorated because of lack of maintenance. Agriculture was disrupted, and food production was some 30 percent below its highest pre-war level. Further, economic deficites were compounded by one of the most virulent inflations in world history.
The main aim the government under the leadership of Mao was to restore the economy to normal working order. The administration moved quickly to repair
transportation and communication links and revive the flow of economic activity. The banking system was nationalized and centralized under the People’s Bank of
China. To bring inflation under control by 1951, the government unified the monetary system, tightened credit, restricted government budgets at all levels and put them under central control, and guaranteed the value of the currency. Commerce was stimulated and partially regulated by the establishment of state trading companies (commercial departments), which competed with private traders in purchasing goods from producers and selling them to consumers or enterprises. Transformation of ownership in industry proceeded slowly. About a third of the country’s enterprises had been under state control while the Guomindang government was in power (1927-49), as was much of the modernized transportation sector. The Chinese Communist Party immediately made these units state-owned enterprises upon taking power in 1949.
In agriculture a major change in landownership was carried out. Under a nationwide land reform program, titles to about 45 percent of the arable land were
redistributed from landlords and more prosperous farmers to the 60 to 70 percent of farm families that previously owned little or no land. Most of the big land plot possessing farmers, the warlords, who formerly had been extremely strong were sentenced to a cruel death. Once land reform was completed in an area, farmers were encouraged to cooperate in some phases of production through the formation of small “mutual aid teams” of six or seven
households each. Thirty-nine percent of all farm households belonged to mutual aid teams in 1952. By 1952 price stability had been established, commerce had
been restored, and industry and agriculture had regained their previous peak levels of production. Mao with the period of recovery had achieved his goals.
Initiatives improving Chinese Society, launched in 1949
The majority of China’s population was poor and illiterate and had very little access to basic needs, education or medical care. Regarding medical education.
Mao took up three educational tasks of major importance: (1) teaching many illiterate people to read and write, (2) training the personnel needed to carry on the work of political organization, agricultural and industrial production, and economic reform, and (3) remolding the behaviour, emotions, attitudes, and outlook of the people. Millions of cadres were given intensive training to carry out specific programs; there were cadres for the enforcement of the agrarian law, the marriage law, the electoral law; some were trained for industry or agriculture, others for the schools, and so on. This method of short-term training is characteristic of communist education in general.
Because the new Communist leaders had no experience in government administration, they turned to their ideological ally, the Soviet Union, for aid and
guidance. Soviet advisers responded quickly, and Chinese education and culture, which had been Westernized under the Nationalists, became Sovietized. An
extensive propaganda campaign flooded the country with hyperbolic eulogies of Soviet achievements in culture and education. The emphasis on Soviet cultural
supremacy was accompanied by the repudiation of all Western influence.
Vast improvements were made in the educational system in China. Old capitalist-based textbooks were put aside and new textbooks were used to teach the history and politics from the perspective of the majority of the people. For example, Fundamentals of Political
Economy: a Popular Introductory Marxist Economics Text, was published in 1974 (Shanghai
People’s Press) and studied by schoolchildren. Also, the literacy rate in China increased dramatically.
Position of woman
Traditional Chinese society was male-centered. Sons were preferred to daughters, and women were expected to be subordinate to fathers, husbands, and sons. A young woman had little voice in the decision on her marriage partner (neither did a young man). When married, it was she who left her natal family and community and went to live in a family and community of strangers where she was subordinate to her mother-in-law. Far fewer women were educated than men, and sketchy but consistent demographic evidence would seem to show that female infants and children had higher death rates and less chance of surviving to adulthood than males. In extreme cases, female infants were the victims of infanticide, and daughters were sold, as chattels, to brothels or to wealthy families. Bound feet, which were customary even for peasant women, symbolized the painful constraints of the female role.
The party saw the liberation of women asdepending, in a standard Marxist way, on their participation in the labor force outside the household. The position of women in the society with Mao coming to power changed from the past, and public verbal assent to propositions about the equality of the sexes and of sons and daughters seemed universal. Women attended schools and universities, served in the People’s Liberation Army, and joined the party. Almost all urban women and the majority of rural women worked outside the home. But women remained disadvantaged in many ways, economic and social.
The Five Year Plan, The Great Leap Forward, The Cultural Revolution
The First Five-Year Plan, 1953 – 1957
Having restored a viable economic base, the leadership under Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and other revolutionary veterans was prepared to embark on an intensive
program of industrial growth and socialization. For this purpose the administration adopted the Soviet economic model, based on state ownership in the modern sector, large collective units in agriculture, and centralized economic planning. The Soviet approach to economic development was manifested in the First Five-Year Plan. As in the Soviet economy, the main objective was a high rate of economic growth, with primary emphasis on industrial development at the expense of agriculture and particular concentration on heavy industry and capital-intensive technology. Soviet planners the Chinese to formulate the plan. Large numbers of Soviet engineers, technicians, and scientists assisted in developing and installing new heavy industrial facilities, including many entire plants and pieces of equipment purchased from the Soviet Union. Government control over industry was increased during this period by applying financial pressures and inducements to convince owners of private, modern firms to sell them to the state or convert them into joint public-private enterprises under state control. By 1956 approximately 67.5 percent of all modern industrial enterprises were state owned, and 32.5 percent were under joint public-private ownership. No privately owned firms remained. During the same period, the handicraft industries were organized into cooperatives, which accounted for 91.7 percent of all handicraft workers by 1956.
Agriculture also underwent extensive organizational changes. To facilitate the mobilization of agricultural resources, improve the efficiency of farming, and increase government access to agricultural products, the authorities encouraged farmers to organize increasingly large and socialized collective units. From the loosely structured, tiny mutual aid teams, villages were to advance first to lower-stage, agricultural producers’ cooperatives, in which families still received some income on the basis of the amount of land they contributed, and eventually to advanced cooperatives, or collectives. In the advanced producers’ cooperatives, income shares were based only on the amount of labor contributed. In addition, each family was allowed to retain a small private plot on which to grow vegetables, fruit, and livestock for its own use. The collectivization process began slowly but accelerated in 1955 and 1956. In 1957 about 93.5 percent of all farm households had joined advanced producers’ cooperatives.
In terms of economic growth the First Five-Year Plan was quite successful, especially in those areas emphasized by the Soviet-style development strategy. A solid foundation was created in heavy industry. Key industries, including iron and steel manufacturing, coal mining, cement production, electricity generation, and machine building were greatly expanded and were put on a firm, modern technological footing. Thousands of industrial and mining enterprises were constructed, including 156 major facilities. Industrial production increased at an average annual rate of 19 percent between 1952 and 1957, and national income grew at a rate of 9 percent a year.
Despite the lack of state investment in agriculture, agricultural output increased substantially, averaging increases of about 4 percent a year. This growth resulted primarily from gains in efficiency brought about by the reorganization and cooperation achieved through collectivization. As the First Five-Year Plan wore on, however, Mao became increasingly concerned over the relatively sluggish performance of agriculture and the inability of state trading companies to increase significantly the amount of grain procured from rural units for urban consumption. Therefore in 1958 the Great Leap forward was introduced.
The Great Leap Forward 1958 – 1960
The Great Leap Forward was aimed at accomplishing the economic and technical development of the country at a vastly faster pace and with greater results. The campaign undertaken by the Chinese Communists between 1958 and early 1960 to organize its vast population, especially in large-scale rural communes, to meet China’s industrial and agricultural problems. The Chinese hoped to develop labour-intensive methods of industrialization, which would emphasize manpower rather than machines. Thereby, it was hoped, the country could bypass the slow, more typical process of industrialization through the gradual purchase of heavy machinery. The Great Leap Forward approach was epitomized by the development of small backyard steel furnaces in every village, which were to eliminate the necessity of building large new factories.
The promulgation of the Great Leap Forward was the result of the failure of the Soviet model of industrialization in China. The Soviet model, which emphasized the conversion of capital gained from the sale of agricultural products into heavy machinery, was inapplicable in China because, unlike the Soviet Union, it had a very dense population and no large agricultural surplus with which to accumulate capital. After intense debate, it was decided that agriculture and industry could be developed at the same time by changing people’s working habits and relying on labour rather than machine-centred industrial processes.
Under the commune system, agricultural and political decisions were decentralized, and ideological purity rather than expertise was emphasized. The peasants were organized into brigade teams, and communal kitchens were established so that women could be freed for work. The program was implemented with such haste by overzealous cadres that implements were often melted to make steel in the backyard furnaces, and many farm animals were slaughtered by discontented peasants. These errors in implementation were made worse by a series of natural disasters and the withdrawal of Soviet technical personnel. The inefficiency of the communes and the large-scale diversion of farm labour into small-scale industry disrupted China’s agriculture so seriously that about 20 million people died of starvation between 1958 and 1962.
This breakdown of the Chinese economy caused the government to begin to repeal the Great Leap Forward program by early 1960. Private plots and agricultural implements were returned to the peasants, expertise began to be emphasized again, and the communal system was broken up. The failure of the Great Leap Forward produced a division among the party leaders. One group blamed the failure of the Great Leap Forward on bureaucratic elements who they felt had been overzealous in implementing its policies. Another faction in the party took the failure of the Great Leap Forward as proof that China must rely more on expertise and material incentives in developing the economy. It was against the latter faction that Mao Zedong launched his Cultural Revolution in early 1966.
The Cultural Revolution
This upheaval launched by Chinese Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong during his last decade in power (1966-76) to renew the spirit of the Chinese revolution. Fearing that China would develop along the lines of the Soviet model and concerned about his own place in history, Mao threw China’s cities into turmoil in a monumental effort to reverse the historic processes underway.
The movement that became known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution represented an attempt by Mao to go beyond the party rectification campaigns, of which there had been many since 1942, and to devise a new and more radical method for dealing with what he saw as the bureaucratic degeneration of the party. But it also represented, beyond any doubt or question, a deliberate effort to eliminate those in the leadership who, over the years, had dared to cross him. The victims, from throughout the party hierarchy, suffered more than mere political disgrace. All were publicly humiliated and detained for varying periods, sometimes under very harsh conditions; many were beaten and tortured, and not a few were killed or driven to suicide. Among the casualties was Liu, who died because he was denied proper medical attention.
The justification for these sacrifices was defined in a key slogan of the time: “Fight selfishness, criticize revisionism.” When the Red Guards, who constituted the first shock troops of Mao’s enterprise, burst upon the scene in the summer of 1966, with their battle cry, “To rebel is justified!” it seemed for a time that not only the power of the party cadres but also authority in all its forms was being questioned. It soon became evident that Mao, who in 1956 had justified decentralization as a means to building a “strong socialist state,” still believed in the need for state power. Mao asserted that the demand for the abolition of “heads” (leaders), which had been heard in their city, was “extreme anarchism” and “most reactionary”; in fact, he stated, there would “always be heads.” Communes, he added, were “too weak when it came to suppressing counterrevolution” and in any case required party leadership. He therefore ordered them to dissolve theirs and to replace it with a “revolutionary committee.”
Even before Zhou’s death in January 1976, however, this compromise had been overturned. All recognition by Mao of the importance of professional skills was “swallowed up in an orgy of political rhetoric”, and all things foreign were regarded as counterrevolutionary. Mao’s last decade, which had opened with manifestos in favour of the Paris Commune model of mass democracy, closed with paeans of praise to that most implacable of centralizing despots, Shih Huang-ti, the first Ch’in emperor. Mao Zedong died in Peking on Sept. 9, 1976
The consequences of The Cultural Revolution (Maos Failure and death)
Although the Cultural Revolution largely bypassed the vast majority of the people who lived in rural areas, it had serious consequences for China as a whole. In the short run, of course, the political instability and the constant shifts in economic policy produced slower economic growth and a decline in the capacity of the government to deliver goods and services. Officials at all levels of the political system learned that future shifts in policy would jeopardize those who had aggressively implemented previous policy. The result was bureaucratic timidity. In addition, with the death of Mao and the end of the Cultural Revolution (the Cultural Revolution was officially ended in 1977, but it in fact concluded with Mao’s death and the purge of the Gang of Four in the fall of 1976), nearly three million party members and countless wrongfully purged citizens awaited reinstatement. Bold measures were taken in the late 1970s to confront these immediate problems, but the Cultural Revolution left a legacy that continued to trouble China.
There existed, for example, a severe generation gap; individuals who experienced the Cultural Revolution while in their teens and early twenties were denied an education and taught to redress grievances by taking to the streets. Post-Cultural Revolution policies–which stressed education and initiative over radical revolutionary fervour–left little room for these millions of people to have productive careers. Indeed, the fundamental damage to all aspects of the educational system itself took several decades to repair.
Another serious problem was the corruption within the party and government. Both the fears engendered by the Cultural Revolution and the scarcity of goods that accompanied it forced people to fall back on traditional personal relationships and on bribery and other forms of persuasion to accomplish their goals. Concommitantly, the Cultural Revolution brought about general disillusionment with the party leadership and the system itself as millions of urban Chinese witnessed the obvious power plays that took place under the name of political principle in the early and mid-1970s. The post-Mao repudiation of both the objectives and the consequences of the Cultural Revolution made many people turn away from politics altogether.
Among the people themselves, there remained bitter factionalism, as those who opposed each other during the Cultural Revolution often shared the same work unit and would do so for their entire careers.
Perhaps never before in human history has a political leader unleashed such massive forces against the system that he created. The resulting damage to that system was profound, and the goals that Mao sought to achieve ultimately remained elusive.
Maos last years
Even though Mao Zedong’s role in political life had been sporadic and shallow in his later years, it was crucial. Despite Mao’s alleged lack of mental acuity, his influence in the months before his death remained such that his orders to dismiss Deng and appoint Hua Guofeng were accepted immediately by the Political Bureau. The political system had polarized in the years before Mao’s death into increasingly bitter and irreconcilable factions. While Mao was alive – and playing these factions off against each other- the contending forces were held in check.. His death resolved only some of the problems of the succession struggle.
Mao Zedong died in Peking on Sept. 9, 1976
The Post Mao Period
Deng Xiaoping the who had formerly been party secreterary was the successor of Mao. “Left” mistakes committed before and during the Cultural Revolution were “corrected,” and the “two whatevers” policy: “support whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made and follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave” was repudiated. The classic party line calling for protracted class struggle was officially exchanged for one promoting the Four Modernizations. In the future, the attainment of economic goals would be the measure of the success or failure of policies and individual leadership; in other words, economics, not politics, was in command. To effect such a broad policy redirection, Deng placed key allies on the Political Bureau (including Chen Yun as an additional vice chairman and Hu Yaobang as a member) while positioning Hu Yaobang as secretary general of the CCP and head of the party’s Propaganda Department. Although assessments of the Cultural Revolution and Mao were deferred, a decision was announced on “historical questions left over from an earlier period.” The 1976 Tiananmen Square incident, the 1959 removal of Peng Dehuai (), and other now infamous
political machinations were reversed in favor of the new leadership. New agricultural policies intended to loosen political restrictions on peasants and allow them to
produce more on their own initiative were approved.
While the Cultural Revolution was an entirely logical climax of Mao’s last two decades, it was by no means the only possible outcome of his approach to revolution, nor need a judgment of his work as a whole be based primarily on this last phase.
Few would deny Mao Zedong the major share of credit for devising the pattern of struggle based on guerrilla warfare in the countryside that ultimately led to victory
in the civil war and thereby to the overthrow of the Kuomintang, the distribution of land to the peasants, and the restoration of China’s independence and sovereignty. These achievements must be given a weight commensurate with the degree of injustice prevailing in Chinese society before the revolution and with the humiliation felt by the Chinese people as a result of the dismemberment of their country by the foreign powers. “We have stood up,” Mao said in September 1949. These words will not be forgotten.
Mao’s record after 1949 is more ambiguous. The official Chinese view, defined in 1981, is that his leadership was basically correct until the summer of 1957,
but from then on it was mixed at best and frequently quite wrong. It cannot be disputed that Mao’s two major innovations of his later years, the Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution, were very negative and led to disastrous consequences. His goals of combating bureaucracy, encouraging popular participation, and stressing China’s self-reliance were generally praiseworthy, but the methods he used to pursue them, though bold and imaginative, were largely self-defeating.
Looking at Mao’s whole career, it is not easy to put a figure on the positive and negative aspects. How does one weigh the good fortune of peasants acquiring land against millions of executions and deaths from civil war? How does one balance the real economic achievements after 1949 against the starvation that came in the wake of the Great Leap Forward or the bloody shambles of the Cultural Revolution? It is, perhaps, possible to accept the official verdict that, despite the errors of his later years, Mao’s merits outweighed his faults, while underscoring the fact that the account is very finely balanced.