The Peoples Republic of China celebrated its 70th anniversary on October 1, 2019. When the Communist Party of China (CPC) usurped state power in 1949, the country was in shambles. The CPC had to deal, not only with the after effects of WWII, which actually started when the Japanese first invaded Manchuria in 1931, but also the remnants of the powerful Chinese nationalists. The Kuomintang (the Chinese Nationalist Party) was a force to reckon with. Despite their differences with the CPU, the contribution of the nationalists in the liberation and consolidation of the modern Chinese state should not be undermined!
After the final defeat of the Kuomintang (by the communists), the nationalists evacuated the mainland and moved to the islands, mostly to Taiwan. After Kuomintang’s departure, the CPC established itself as the sole hegemon of the Chinese State. Once the CPC assumed the uncontested leadership position, it began to craft long-term transformative strategies along the socialist path. Initially, the strategy was to pursue Marxism-Leninism along the line of the USSR. In the late 1950s and 60s, the two communist parties started to diverge in their ambitions. For example, Maoism envisioned a revolution that is comprehensive and always on the go. Consequently, the CPU embarked on new initiatives, like the ‘cultural revolution’. Such things were not on the agenda of the Communist Party of the USSR. On its part, the USSR concentrated on the consolidation of Eastern Europe and the forging of allies in the far-flung places. The project of ‘catching up’, i.e., catching up with the west, remained the primary obsession of the USSR communist party. The increase of industrial production as well as advancing military weaponry became its preoccupation!
Up until the death of Mao Zedong, questioning any aspect of Maoism would have landed one in some obscure corner of the country, if one were lucky. Deng Xiaoping, the ‘architect of modern China’ was one such victim. He was actually exiled twice. He was removed from such top posts as head of the red army and was made a mere cook in a remote high school somewhere in the outback of the People’s Republic. Another time he was sent to work in a tractor factory. However, as one of the most dynamic leaders of Communist China, Deng was always highly regarded by his comrades, even his adversaries. Despite temporal whims of the times that saw his frequent bouts with Mao, Deng nonetheless remained within the top echelons of the Communist party. His comebacks testify to the level of trust he commanded within the party and the country. As a military man, Deng did not have much of a qualm in crashing the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989. After the demise of the ‘gang of four’, Deng managed to push his plan for China’s modernization. These were centered on the economy, agriculture, science and defense. His pragmatic approach to all and sundry was immortalized in his famous aphorism. ‘I don’t care about the color of the cat so long as it catches the mice’!
In 1979, under the influence of Deng, the CPC adopted ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristic’ or ‘Socialist ideology with free enterprise’. The rest, as they say, is history! The first reform targeted the agricultu sector. Ten years later reform was introduced in the urban/industrial sector. Thereafter, the reform dynamics took root and propelled science and technology with spill over effect on the defense industries. It didn’t take long for the whole of the Chinese society to be galvanized into joining the world of market competition. Obviously the change was not as smooth as many think. The population policy introduced in the early years of reform, though it initially gave a major boost to income, had lingering effects. Second phase problems associated with the population policy resulted in the shortage of eligible women, as Chinese society put emphasis on raising boys. The massive displacement of the rural population also caused some associated problems. The eastern seaboard (China’s industrial heartland), which absorbed the surplus labor from the land, mostly as a result of market oriented agriculture policy in the hinterland, is another issue on its own. The overall pollution of the industrial regions is also frightening, to say the least. Be that as it may, there is a lot to learn from the experience of China. No country in human history has raised standard of living for so many in such a short time!
Characteristically, the Chinese leadership maintains that China is still a developing country, not a ‘developed’ one. There is a grain of truth in it. However, according to World Bank’s PPP (purchasing power parity), Chinese GDP is $27. 331 trillion, while that of the USA is $20. 494 trillion. For comparison, European Union’s GDP is $22.000 trillion. In actual fact, based on real prices of goods and services and not on nominal pricing in dollars, the Chinese economy is a lot bigger than the US. It is bigger than the US economy by as much as the GDP of Germany and the UK combined! Here is our favorite Chinese saying, which might turn off our African elites only used to vacuous buffooneries. “Hide brilliance cherish obscurity”. Good Day!