This is a series on the People’s Republic of China and looks at how China became the global power it is today, what this means to the world order and how the “One belt, One Road” megaproject is the ultimate expression of Chinese economic prowess.
Part III: China, The revolution from 1949 – 1976 and beyond:
Economic cooperatives we quickly set up across China under Mao’s guidance and together with the transfer of large portions of land to the peasants, their material conditions quickly improved. By the end of 1955, more than two-thirds of the peasants had joined this initiative. It is a common misconception that communism doesn’t allow some aspects of capitalism one can argue that a communist state will not be able to properly function if the people didn’t own the land (like in Soviet Russia) and they couldn’t sell their surplus produce, indeed, many even had “side hustles” for making extra money.
Post the success of the cooperatives, Mao, not a trained economist himself, now ruined the growing economy of China by forcing people to adopt a “collectivist” approach to the economy. Loosely translated, this is when each village pools their resources like land, assets, agricultural equipment, livestock and labour. The fundamental problem with this approach is the assumption that we all desire the same things equally, and will, therefore, put in the same efforts to achieve that. That Mao and his government managed to get 600 million people to work all at once tells only one-side of the story. The human costs of squabbling among whole families and villagers’ ending in the internecine war are the other side of the coin.
History and basic human psychology, however, has shown us that we are not all “equally yoked.” In other words, all people have different ambitions, goals and desires and the state regulates that at their own peril. The principle problem with Mao is his “one step forward, two steps back” approach, which left China in a state of economic and social flux, as yet unable to generate enough momentum to move forward and match even the Soviets, much less the West. The ideal state is one that “partners” with the markets in a manner that is equally beneficial to the people, with no bias in favour of either. In a sense, “the people shall govern.” Arguably, much like in the case of the Soviet Union, corruption soon becomes systemic and cultural when the people have to work for the state first and are only rewarded with minimal rations because human nature is intrinsically selfish. By this I mean that people first work for themselves, their families, then others, not the other way around. It is this more than anything else that has caused the collapse of the mighty Soviet Union and forced China to adopt a paradigm shift in thinking.
By 1974, the overall GDP of China was a mere 10% of the United States even though everyone was employed and their (China’s) workforce was more than 3-times that of America’s. Mao’s hope of financing his vision of an industrial China hasn’t left first base because he was inflexible. He had run out of ideas and purges, and China was now ready for a new, more progressive leader, but not before Mao, in a fit of absolute hubris and believing that he truly was the God, the party made him out to be called on all the citizens of the country to fight against his own “beloved” communist party and any party official. October the 1st 1966, Mao and the people held their biggest v in support of a revival of the party, through and by the people. This was indoctrination at its most sublime; it’s most exquisite and indicative of the awesome power of the “personality cult.”
In February 1972, after months of top-secret negotiations, President Richard Nixon and his wife touched down in Beijing in Air force 1 to begin a 7-day official visit to Mao and China, ending 25-years of no communication between the nations. The visit was a resounding political success for Mao as it was for Nixon. Mao Zedong, the man who created modern-day China died of ill health on the 9th September 1976, ushering a new, more progressive era for China and the long-suffering Chinese people.