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Mao Saved China
Deng Saved the Economy
Xi Saved the Party.
The Communist Party of China was formed in 1921 but it was not until January 1935 when the Party held a meeting of the enlarged Politburo at Zunyi in Guizhou Province that Mao emerged as the dominant leader of the Party. At that time the fortunes of the Party were at a low ebb. The Civil War against the Kuomintang was not going well and the Party leadership made a strategic withdrawal to avoid humiliation. Attendees included Mao, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De and Liu Shaochi and the Chief Editor of the Party newspaper, Deng Xiaoping. The main topic at the Meeting was to examine the Party’s failure in the Jiangxi region when large losses had been sustained. The Zunyi Meeting resulted in the emergence of Mao as the effective leader of the Party and Chairman of its Military Commission. Communist forces re-grouped. They regained the military initiative, and ultimately defeated Zhang Kaishek’s Kuomintang in 1949.
The success of the Revolution is associated with Mao’s assumption of leadership and two consequential big victories – first, over the Japanese invader in World War II in 1945 and, second, over the Kuomintang whose remnant army fled to Taiwan in 1949 – the year that the People’s Republic of China was formed. The arrest of the Gang of Four triggered a review of Mao’s role in the Revolution. Up to 1949 he was the top leader. After 1949 his role is tainted – in part due the failings of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution and in due course a final decision remains to be made on the extent of Mao’s contribution – positive and negative. But he will always be regarded as the leader that brought about the creation of the Peoples’ Republic of China and it is for that reason that his portrait adorns the entrance to the Forbidden City in the centre of Beijing.
Deng was one of the leaders of the Revolution and after 1949 he became the Secretary-General of the Party. But he was the main target of the Gang of Four and fell from power at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution along with Liu Shaochi. After the death of Mao and the arrest of the Gang of Four in 1976, Deng returned to prominence and became the effective leader.
The Cultural Revolution brought chaos to China and very little economic growth. Disenchantment amongst the people grew in the cities and the countryside. Action was needed and Deng presided over a fundamental Reform of the Economy which changed so many of the norms which had stifled growth and denied prosperity to the people.
Deng was bold and broke with party orthodoxy with the phrase – “I don’t mind if it is a black cat or a white cat so long as it catches the mouse”. The meaning? “I don’t mind if it is capitalism or socialism so long as it delivers prosperity”. Things changed. The economy was decentralised and initiative was handed to capitalists to use their enterprise and business imagination to compete with the State. And it worked. The economy grew rapidly and the people prospered. There was a downside which I refer to in the next Post but, for the short term, Deng read the people’s priorities correctly. Now they travelled inside and outside China; they had an array of clothes and restaurants to choose from; they had money in their pockets. Their standard of living was much improved and 1bn people were lifted out of poverty. Deng’s Reforms worked. They saved the Economy but at a cost – corruption returned.
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