People’s Republic of China Part II

By | October 27, 2021

In the following terrorist and purge campaign, carried out by Red Guards and spreading across the country, the party and state apparatus was largely smashed, but not the internal party anti-Maoist opposition in the provinces. When the resistance against the terror of the runaway Red Guards threatened to spark a civil war, the army intervened on Mao’s orderson January 27, 1967; it took over either directly (with the help of “military control committees”) or indirectly (through “revolutionary committees”) power in the party and state organs that had been destroyed by the Red Guards, and contained terror there. These measures were accompanied by a Mao personality cult that broke all previous dimensions, the manifestations of which (among other things in the form of the “Little Red Book” of the “Thoughts of the Chairman”) were primarily responsible for Defense Minister Lin Biao. This was not unselfish, since Lin Biao and his officers were able to occupy so many positions in the Central Committee and in the Politburo of the CCP at the 9th Congress (1969) that a takeover of power by the military seemed imminent. The (from Mao mitinszenierte) Elimination Lins in September 1971 resulted in a return of the pragmatic direction in the party. Lin Biao, who had risen to become Mao’s deputy and (designated) successor, who is said to have attempted a coup in 1971 under the impression of his dwindling influence, was killed. In the subsequent phase of domestic political consolidation, numerous functionaries who had been expelled from office during the Cultural Revolution were rehabilitated; Mao’s designated successor was now Zhou Enlai.

The pragmatic line also prevailed in foreign policy. While the USSR was declared the main enemy of China, a country located in Asia according to, after the military incident on the Ussuri (1969), first contacts at the sporting level (“ping-pong diplomacy”) led to meetings at the government level with the USA, first to a secret visit by H. Kissinger, US President R. Nixon’s Security Advisor(1971), then (1972) on the visit of the President himself. Diplomatic relations were only established in 1979 because of the Taiwan question and the Vietnam War, but with a number of other countries earlier (e.g. with the Federal Republic of Germany in 1972). In 1971, the PRC was given a seat and vote in the UN General Assembly instead of Taiwan and became a permanent member of the Security Council.

The left-wing radicals (later Gang of Four), who had been favored by the Cultural Revolution since 1966, did not want to give up and, under the leadership of Mao’s wife Jiang Qing, attacked the pragmatists around Zhou Enlai who had now come to dominate. They tried to discredit their course as reactionary (anti-Confucius campaign) and as “deviating from the law”. The death of Zhou (1976) helped them to achieve a temporary success with the renewed elimination of Deng Xiaoping, who was rehabilitated in 1973, but this success was due to the death of Mao 1976 was again wiped out. The »Gang of Four« was arrested a short time later and tried by a special court around the turn of 1980/81 as the driving force behind the Cultural Revolution and the Lin Biao Putsch.

Socialist market economy and opening up to foreign policy (from 1977)

The victory of the “pragmatists” over the “ideologues” marked the second rehabilitation of Deng Xiaoping in 1977, who subsequently ousted party chairman Hua Guofeng (Hua Kuo-feng) as the leading figure of the party. In 1980, Hua lost the post of prime minister to Zhao Ziyang (Chao Tzu-yang), and in 1981 the party chairmanship to Hu Yaobang (Hu Yao-pang), both of Deng’s longtime followers. The party chairmanship was abolished in 1982 and replaced by a general secretariat. After a period of vacancy, the office of president was filled with Li Xiannian (Li Hsien-nien, * 1909, † 1992) in 1983.

The ones already propagated by Zhou Enlai and under Hua Guofeng The reforms that have been started to modernize the country have now been accelerated. The main features of this reform course were: the depoliticization and de-ideologization of everyday life, accompanied by a rather cautious de-Maoization; reinstitutionalization in party and state (abolition of the revolutionary committees); the gradual establishment of a legal system based on the Western model; the liberalization of religious policy; maintaining one’s own cultural traditions; the rehabilitation of intellectuals and the related emphasis on the primacy of specialist training over political indoctrination. The planned and collective economy was restricted in favor of initiative and free play of the market, the  people’s communes were dissolved.

The party and state leadership responded to resistance in the party to the reform course between 1983 and 1985 with an “orientation campaign” in the course of which thousands of “careerists from 1966 ff.” Lost their positions and attempts at “democratization”: strengthening the popular assemblies Direct election, stricter separation of party and administrative organs, decentralization of decisions, reform of cadre law, replacement of personal rule by rule of law and (since 1987) increased “consultations” between leadership and population.

People's Republic of China 2