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2 – Socialism’s Take on China

In Module 2, Socialism’s Take on China, you will receive an overview of China’s experimentation with absolute socialism, identifying its 3 main stages of development. You will develop an understanding of the step-by-step process by which the Chinese Communist Party fundamentally transformed of China: taking over complete control of China’s economy and lives of the Chinese people. 

The period of Absolute Socialism in China can be handily divided into 3 phases that breaks out more or less by decade. The 1950s, where the Chinese Communist Party took total control of the country, picked its winners and losers, and began bizarre and destructive social and economic experimentation. The 1960s, where the massive failures and unmitigated disasters of the 1950s forced a violent and vicious power struggle that convulsed the country from top to bottom, shredding the very fabric of Chinese society. And the 1970s, for the most part a wasted decade were palace intrigues simmered down, but ended with a change of power that led to China’s first steps toward economic recovery and advancement to is place as the world’s 2nd largest economy today.

We begin Module 2 at the dawn of the 1950s where the victorious Chinese Communists Party offered the war weary Chinese people a new era of hope and change. In Module 1 we learned that many Chinese had only known war their entire lives and the promise of any change brought hope. And the kind of change that the Communists promised was no less than a fundamental transformation of China. And if that sounds familiar, here’s why:

What does ”Fundamental Transformation” looks like? Well, it begins with high falutin’ promises. In China’s case it was “The Party Will Provide!” and was the biggest promise of the early revolution. And yes, it was “time to Redistribute the wealth,” as socialists promise. Landlords were arrested and put down, their property seized, killed in some cases, and if not, forced to sweep streets and clean latrines in abject poverty until they died of privation or humiliation. Suicides were rampant. The death toll was likely in the millions, although accurate figures are hard to come by.  And for the god-like Communist Party, having takeith away, it was time to giveth. Private land, all land, became property of the state, and rights to it was divided up among the peasants — with few objections from the peasants, of course. The Communist party began to take control of all aspects of Chinese life. There were party representatives at all levels of civic life. Competing social organizations were brutally suppressed, including religion, or brought under the control of “The Party” to serve its purposes. Control of the media was key and Chinese propaganda campaigns were slick and all encompassing. They inspired people to the Communist party and its cause with glorified semi-fictionalized heroes. “Learn from Lei Feng’s good example.” Every school child wanted to be like him. Orphaned during the war, he was taken in by the People’s Liberation Army and raised up to be a model soldier and patriot. He was ultimately martyred in a banal work accident while serving the Army and Country he loved. He demonstrated the party to be compassionate and humane, unlike the evil capitalists of the past, who would surely have exploited him.

And it was through these processes that the Communist Party did indeed fundamentally transform China. Society was turned on its head: with the poor peasants ascended to positions of responsibility in the government, and the educated and experience terrified into subservience and compliance, or eliminated altogether. But for the Chinese people times were still better than the war years, and for the largest parts of the population life stabilized, if not improved. Unlike dynasties of old, where palace intrigues occurred among the very top echelons of society with the masses left pretty much alone, China’s Socialism was total and absolute. Yes, there were a handful of peasant revolutions during China’s 5,000 years of history, but you would be hard pressed to find any that so thoroughly affected the lives of every single person in China as socialism did. It told them where to live, what work to do, and what to think and NOT think…even what clothes to wear.

The Zhongshan suit, commonly called the Mao Suit, was originally introduced 40 years earlier by the father of modern China, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. After the communists took power it increasingly became standard wear in China and by the 1960s worn by everyone and became a symbol of unity and extreme conformity. The lack of gender distinction between male and female dress showed the Communist Party’s willingness to even tinker with gender identity. And you could expect the party to decide not only what you wore, but what you would plant in your fields. Cabbage, for example, would be ordered planted by the Communist Party by unskilled and inexperienced bureaucratic planners. Consequently, when harvest time came, entire cities would be inundated with cabbage stacked high on roof tops, door ways and courtyards. You didn’t have to ask what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner for months at a time. And, if you were lucky enough to be selected for higher education, you were told what to study: if the party deemed that more marine engineers were needed, you studied marine engineering…and liked it. And you even needed permission from the party to marry. One wonders how the Government could so thoroughly take control of the lives of half a billion people in 1950. Part of it was China’s social cohesiveness and penchant for obedience before authority. But there were other factors as well: Gun Control.

One of the most insidious violations of the Chinese people’s creator-given rights was the right to keep and bear arms. There is no question that the widespread violation of the civil and human rights of the Chinese people wouldn’t have been possible had the Chinese people possessed firearms. Party Leader Chairman Mao ZeDong knew this all too well, and never hid is intentions when it came to gun confiscation. One of his most famous quotes says it all: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.”  The Chinese Communist Party, again, positioned itself as compassionate, this time with gun confiscation, offering confession and rehabilitation when turning in your firearms as a way to get back into good graces of the Party. The only positive aspect of turning in your firearms was that, like a protectionist-racket Mafioso who offers you protection over a business or neighborhood, the severity of punishment in Communist China of the day meant that crime was so low as to be virtually non-existent. But as we will see in Module 3, like accepting protection from Mafioso, protection comes at a price.

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