Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 16. 1972
China! Inside the Peoples Republic
China! Inside the Peoples Republic
In summer, 1971, the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars toured China. This broad antiwar group, founded in 1968 by students, historians, political scientists, and sociologists, is the first group of Asian specialists to visit mainland China in 22 years. Most members of the group speak fluent Chinese, each member representing the most current American knowledge on China. For one month, the CCAS group traveled throughout the republic. They visited cities, farms and factories. They talked with workers, students, farmers, children, government officials and soldiers.
If one is interested in finding out about China from people who have been there very recently and who have spent a number of years studying this part of the world where one quarter of the world's population live then one cannot go past "China !".
This book is probably one of many which will be produced in the near future on China now that relations between China and the U.S. have eased. This will mean that more people will be able to write on this topic in a more easily understandible way for readers who do not wish to read books which are produced by the Hong Kong "China-watchers" who base most of their work on hear-say or on dubious theories. It also means that there will be more people able to write on China in a more general context, as those who previously wrote books on China in the past usually were experts in their own fields - agriculture, theory, political friends health etc. - entering China only as experts not as every day travellers. Thus the result will be a number of books to the general public of easily readable and understandable material on a very important topic.
One may be able to find fault in this book because of the repetition of certain facts. This was due to the writers' attempts to see as much as possible in the four weeks they had in China. But it does not really detract as the observations are really given as illustrations of what they have read.
The greatest advantage of this material is that it is talking about the people, the actual peasants. It attempts to show these people in a way that is comparable with the American way of life, and as we know so much of that way of living not too distant from our own it is possible to obtain a view of life as seen from a peasant. This is most important as then one is helped in throwing off one's sociological and racial prejudice thus being able to look out of China in Their point of view not Into China from Our point of view which happens too often in books, magazines, and Press reports.
This is done by the writers relying on their reading of the most widely used books on China from people who have written on the country in the past from either a sympathetic point of view to the Republic or as reporters who went out in the field and not just to the "briefings" of the Kuornintang in the 1940's. This extensive use of Edgar Snow, Orville Schell, Franz Schurmann, C.P. F itzgerald, Jack Belden. Han Suyin and many others adds to what could have been only a travelogue enough to make it more authoritative. There has also been an attempt to use Mao's writings to add theory to the situation and to show why the people do read the little "red book" - as a guide for the less literate. This guide is used to show the people the correct way in approaching their work and leisure towards a goal of communism. It is hard for most New Zealanders to understand why people become so reverent towards Mao. But this book does go quite a long way in illustrating the conditions the Chinese peasants used to live under; the privileges that the ruling classes had and how these privileges were returning in the Lui Shao-chi line before the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution". Thus through the issuing of the "Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung" by Lin Piao to the People's Liberation Army and the spread of Socialist ideas becoming more general; the result being a guide for the people in nearly all their activities. Only by attempting to become one of what was observed with documentation to add to the observations. The Writers are certainly not afraid to show the weak points that they saw just as they do not over-dramatise the advances which were seen. It is probably as an objective an account as can be put forward by people who obviously have a deep love for the Chinese people and the struggle in which they are involved in.
"China!..." is divided up into various sections beginning with a historical introduction describing the conditions of the people and the rise of the Chinese Communist Party and the obstacles it had to overcome. After this exposition the writers discuss the present society as they saw it under the various headings including the main institutions in most societies making comparisons relatively easy.
There is an interview with Chou En-Lai about many issues though concentrating on the U.S.-Sino relations and the Chinese Foreign policies. Also included in these appendices are some discussions with the Indo-Chinese representatives of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam The North Koreans, Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. These interviews are related to the Chinese situation as China has gone through the same problems in attaining its economic and social indepen-dance from the colonialists. Thus China is one example worth looking at as far as these neighbouring people are concerned. These interviews also throw some light on our Foreign policies as far as SEATO and the other encircling organisations are concerned. Thus this book attempts, and does succeed, to show the situation in China and the desire of other Asians to develop along similar lines.
One of the most encouraging aspects of "China!... " is that it does not become too involved in the abstract problems of the internal situation or external relationships thus keeping it down to easily understood human problems.
This then is a book which any person with humanitarian values can appreciate whether or not he has! any particular field in which they are interested. There are ample references for those who wish to further their reading of this topic with a high recommendation to the references in the Bibliography.