Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 2. March 27, 1958
China is probably the world's greatest enigma. Is Mao's Government really red or is it just pink? Is China really a Communist nation or is it merely the product of a resurrection of patriotism and nationalism? Is there religious freedom in China? Are there any Capitalists left? Are the people happy? These are just a few of the hundred and one questions that spring to our minds when we think of the new China. In the light of these queries let us examine what information (or propaganda, perhaps) which correspondents, tourists, delegations and the like have brought back to us from the land of Mao. Then we can endeavour to weigh the pros and cons.
A "Look" writer and photographer last year became the first U.S. news team to visit China since the Chinese Revolution. They reached seven conclusions, the first being that the regime is firmly in the siddle and could be overthrown by nothing short of a major war of conquest. Secondly, they concluded that China is not a Soviet satellite, and has a far broader base of popular support than any other Communist government including that of the Soviet Union. Thirdly, they fould that all opposition had either been liquidated or won over to the regime. Fourthly, they discovered that living standards, though still low, are rising steadily. Fifthly, they found little genuine anti-Western feeling despite anti-Western propaganda, and, sixthly, they concluded that China's biggest problem is its birthrate.
The seventh finding is of particular importance. They discovered many detestable features of the regime which point to rigid police control. There was evidence of brutality and arbitrariness, regimentation, brainwashing, monotony, oppressive puritanical morality and lying propaganda about the outside world. This finding is in keeping with other reports from China. For example, the Peking "People's Daily" revealed in July that more than 81,000 so-called counter-revolutionaries had been "dealt with" by law in a campaign launched in 1955. The most prominent of these was the writer Hu Feng who, so far as is known, has never had a trial and is still in prison. But this is only a drop in the ocean. A special United Nations sub-committee has estimated that fifteen million people have been executed by the regime since it came to power and that between twenty-five and thirty million have been sent to slave labour camps.