The People’s Republic at 70

Chairman Mao Zedong declared China to be a Communist People’s Republic on October 1st, 1949, 70 years ago. The small triumphal parade then will be dwarfed by the modern one. Tanks, planes, missiles, and thousands of marching feet will parade through Tiananmen Square, watched over by the current Communist Party leader, President Xi Jinping. They will celebrate 70 years of Communist Party rule, demonstrating China’s power, wealth and status.

Mao Zedong will be honoured for his founding role. What will not be mentioned is that he was a disaster for China, holding back the talent and enterprise of her peoples, and it was only after Mao died and was replaced that China began the achievements that are being celebrated. It was only when the party abandoned collectivism, central planning of all economic activity and the prohibition of private ownership, that China’s forward surge began. It was not achieved under the total control of the party; it happened only when the party loosened its grip on the economy.

Mao’s first disaster was the Great Leap Forward from 1958 - 1962. It was designed to lift China rom being an agrarian society into a modern industrialized socialist state. Collectivization and industrialization were the key elements, with backyard furnaces turning valuable metal tools into worthless pig iron, and collective farms falsifying their miserable output figures. Tens of millions died from starvation; Chinese historian Yu Xiguang suggests the death toll might have been 56 million.

Stalin was right about one thing: “a single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” Yet each one of those tens of millions was a son, daughter, brother, sister, parent, husband, wife, lover. Each death blighted the life of loved ones. The grief that Mao unleashed is on an unprecedented and incomprehensible scale.

Far from learning from his mistakes, 5 years later Mao unleashed the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution to purge China of the remnants of traditionalist and bourgeois capitalism by insisting on purity of thought, Mao Zedong’s thought. From 1966 - 1976 it set loose a reign of terror and murder. So-called ‘renegades’ were beaten to death, their bodies dumped in ditches. The death toll again ran into millions, each one a life, each one a person.

 Fortunately for China, Mao died in 1976, and Deng Xiaoping outmanoeuvred the ‘Gang of Four’ who wanted to continue Mao’s madness, and he became China’s Paramount Leader. It is from then that China’s progress dates. The abandonment of collective farms vastly increased food production, making China self-sufficient. The establishment of special economic zones brought in investment and growth. Allowing private businesses to set up and prosper brought an economic boom that still continues. China under Mao killed tens of millions, post Mao it has lifted more than a billion out of subsistence and starvation.

Yes, let us celebrate China’s achievements, but let no-one suppose they are down to the Communist Party. They were accomplished once it allowed independent activity not directly under its control. And while they parade on their 70th anniversary, let us recall the Soviet Union’s 1987 October Revolution parade in Red Square, celebrating the 70th anniversary of their 1917 Revolution. Communist Party General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev, and other members of the Politburo, were on the grandstand of Lenin's Mausoleum in Red Square. They celebrated then, as the Chinese do now, 70 years of Communist rule that had seen millions killed. Two years later, the Soviet empire was crumbling into dust, blown away on the winds of the world…