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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 2. March 27, 1958

How Red is China?

page 6

How Red is China?

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.

Mao's New Line

Things look better for the future. In February, 1957, Mao shook the Communist world with his speech before the Supreme State Conference of the Chinese People's Republic. He became the first Communist leader to face reality and admit that contradictions can, and do, arise between the masses and their leaders in a proletarian society. Since then the Chinese Central government has announced that strikes and demonstrations are completely legal, and that nobody taking part in them will be prosecuted. Even more important was Mao's now famous statement of letting flowers blossom together and schools of thought contend. There was, however, another phrase in this gardening analogy that has had much less attention, viz., "poisonous weeds must be exterminated." It seems that Mao's new line permits a considerable measure of ideological disagreement, but will not permit an attack on Marxism as such. For this reason several leading members of the government have had to confess to the Party that they were "Rightists". However, the very fact that they have been given an opportunity of repentance and rectification is a sign that the situation in China is easing and that there is a real increase in freedom and toleration.

Let us hope that this favourable trend continues.

Sporadic Outbursts

Since the Hungarian Revolution there have been sporadic outbursts of revolt throughout China, but nothing much has come of them. Most of them seem to have been localised riots that have been swiftly quelled. On July 26th the Press reported that the Chinese had had to suppress a revolt against the regime in the remote province of Tsinghai, adjoining Tibet. The report indicated that the uprising was led by intellectuals. In August the Press informed us of numerous revolts and planned uprisings in Hupeh, Hunan, Kwantung, Kwangsi, Shantung, Szechwan, Shanghai and Chinghai. In Hangyang in Central China 1000 students rioted and demonstrated against the Government. As a result several persons were executed, including the Vice-Principal, and several others were imprisoned.

Capitalists Still

In July the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr. Albert Monk, back from leading a Union delegation to China, reported that capitalists and other non-Communists still had substantial power in Red China. Only 54 per cent. of the members of the Congress are Communists, he stated, and private capitalists are at present operating in China with a guaranteed return of 5 per cent. over a seven-year period. However, the claim that only a little over one-half of the members of the nation's leading governing body are Communists must be taken with a pinch of salt. We can be pretty sure that the remainder are mostly fellow-travellers completely subservient to the regime.


Mao has himself admitted that a "dangerous tendency" towards bureaucratic irresponsibility had shown itself among many Communist Party members. This was a concern for personal gain and an unwillingness to share the joys and hardships of the masses. In an attempt to rectify this more than a quarter of a million Chinese white-collar workers have been sent to work in factories, mines and collective farms. More than ten thousand Communist Party organisers have also been moved from area and district organisations to act as village officials.

Increasing Production

The first five-year plan that ended in 1956 brought a 60 per cent. increase in industrial and agricultural production. The next five-year plan calls for a 75 per cent. rise on the production levels of 1957. All of this is being achieved by sheer hard work. Work that is normally done in the West by machines or animals is done in China by the sweat of the human brow. There is no forty-hour week; many workers and peasants work week in and week out. More than 400,000,000 have been herded into collectives and co-operatives in an effort to make cultivation easier and more productive. Collectivisation has in some cases been rewarding, but in many cases it has met with severe setbacks. Mao himself has reported that 70 per cent. of the Chinese co-operatives are facing bankruptcy. In the cities the picture must be somewhat different as the Chinese have now got to the stage where they can produce their own motor-cars. The first of these be built in the next five-year plan in Changchun. In some parts of China there is a starvation problem, as for example in Tientsin in northern China. Flooding has not made things any easier. The Formosan Government's Consul-General in New Zealand has pointed out that more than 7,000,000 acres had been inundated last year when the Yellow River burst its banks. Takon on the whole China is prospering; production is soaring, even "baby production". We cannot forget that today one baby in three is a Chinaman and that China's population is rising by twelve million a year.

Some Religious Freedom

In China today there is no freedom of religion in the sense in which we understand it. Many churches are permitted to function freely as centres of prayer, provided that they are subservient to the State and accept the supervision of a State-appointed Bureau of Religious Affairs. The churches, however, are not at liberty to set up schools, hospitals, orphanages and the like, nor are they permitted to have their own free Press. The Catholic Church has been singled out for particularly violent persecution because of its foreign contacts and opposition to the regime. It was recently pointed out by Father Aidan McGrath, who spent twenty-four years in China and thirty-two months of them in solitary confinement, that the cost to the Catholic Church has been the expulsion of six thousand missionaries, of whom over fifty European priests died in prison or from ill-treatment; the deaths of five hundred Chinese priests and the imprisonment of one thousand more; and the confiscation of three thousand primary and two thousand secondary schools, two hundred hospitals and three universities. Attempts are also being made to form a "Patriotic Church" headed by a twice-excommunicated ex-Vicar-General of Peking. One can only conclude that the churches are given a limited right to exist but are prevented from proselytizing and from running any educational and charitable institutions.

Plans for Expansion

Already the Chinese have drawn Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Sin-kiang, Tibet, Vietnam and North Korea into their orbit, but their plans indicate that this is only a beginning. Recently some consternation has been caused in neighbouring territories by the distribution of Chinese maps setting out the territories of the People's Republic of China. The new maps show parts of Burma, parts of Kashmir, parts of Afghanistan and Assam and the whole of Tibet within the borders of China. Reports indicate that Tibetan resistance to Chinese domination and communisation of the country is increasing rather than diminishing. The Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr. Chou En-Lai, was last year presented with demands of independence by three Tibetan Cabinet Ministers. One of these died suddenly on his return trip to Lhasa and the other two were banished as soon as they reached home. In parts of Tibet Chinese garrisons are isolated and have to depend upon air drops for their supplies. So strong is the Tibetan resistance that Mao has decided that attempts to introduce "Socialism" in Tibet must be postponed, probably for at least five years. Relations with nearby Burma are also not too good. The Chinese some time ago invaded Wa State, and have agreed to evacuate it only upon the condition that the one hundred square miles of the Namwan Tract and the Kachin villages of Hpimay, Kangfang, and Gwalum, at present administered by Burma, shall be recognised as Chinese territory. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before New Zealand and Australia begin to appear on maps of China.

Honesty and Cleanliness

Several sources indicate that the Chinese have been whipped up to hygiene campaigns and that graft and theft are being rigorously stamped out. Flies have been virtually eliminated in some areas; the workers carry fly swotters about with them and ruthlessly exterminate any flies that they happen to see. Litter, too, is rarely found in the streets. Guests in China have no fears as to their luggage; in the hotels they do not even need to lock their doors.

World's Largest Army

Communist China is emerging with the largest standing military force in the world. The army numbers between 3,000,000 and 3,500,000 soldiers and these are supported by an air force equipped with four thousand bombers and fighters. Already the Chinese are manufacturing their own military aircraft, and last year they allocated the collosal sum of 2.3 billion dollars—almost 20 per cent. of their total budget—for defence.

Dare we Ignore Them?

With the Chinese growing more powerful and populous every day we can no longer afford to ignore them. Reality demands that we recognise China and give her her rightful place in United Nations and in Disarmament Conferences. How can we expect to reach an effective agreement on disarmament when the nation with the world's largest army is excluded from disarmament conferences? Much though we may dislike Chinese methods, we cannot escape the fact that in about two decades' time China will be the world's leading power. If we are to avert a tragedy we must act now before it is too late. This calls for a complete volte-face in our relations with China. We must recognise her, trade with her, offer her economic aid and in general try to woo her over to our way of life. We must point out to Mao's people that the natural field for Chinese expansion is not South across the Pacific, which is well protected by the American fleet, but rather that it is North into the vast sparsely-populated areas of the Soviet Union, where the huge Chinese army could be made use of. Once again I wish to point out that China's borders contain one child in every three. With this in mind dare we ignore them?

Terry Kelliher.