Why didn't Mao Deng kill Xiaoping?

China under Mao: 1949-1966

The great land reform

When Mao proclaimed the People's Republic of China on Tiananmen Square in Beijing on October 1, 1949, the Middle Kingdom was in ruins. With a per capita income of US $ 54, it is one of the poorest countries in the world. 70 percent of the population are landless farmers, day laborers and migrant workers.

First of all, the beginning communist dictatorship had slight successes. The economy is back to pre-war levels and dramatic inflation is curbed. A major "land reform" was carried out between 1949 and 1952. Small and large landowners are systematically expropriated and the land distributed to poor farmers.

The few large industrial companies in the country, mostly owned by foreign investors, are nationalized. The small farmers are incited by the communist party and asked to forcibly seize land and take revenge and retribution on their former oppressors.

Directed popular anger

The land question is existential for many Chinese, and land reform is long overdue. Almost half of the land is being redistributed, and the communists are giving impoverished smallholders access to the land. They allow and encourage the violent appropriation of the land by the dispossessed - and that opens the door to arbitrariness.

Injustice, hatred and despair that have been pent up for centuries are now looking for an outlet in the "Ge Ming" - in overthrow, the reversal of circumstances. A wave of violence is pouring over China. Show trials and smear campaigns and attacks are taking place all over the country. Thousands of people are shown up in public, humiliated, tortured and killed.

"Ge Ming" - the violent overthrow of bad rulers and corrupt rulers - was already well known in the imperial era and is deeply rooted in China's history. Mao is aware of this, and with the brutal implementation of the land reform he knows how to use the channeled popular anger in a targeted manner and to use it for himself.

Mao's 100 flowers

"Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools compete with each other" - this is the name of the campaign that Mao launched in 1956. Seven years after taking power, the communists invite people to constructively criticize the system, the party and the political leadership. The idea behind it is that China needs its intelligent elites, its experts, to advance the development of the country.

But ideologically the intellectuals and specialists are subordinate to the peasants and ordinary workers and are clearly disadvantaged by the communist government. Mao wants to lure China's intelligentsia from its reserve with the prospect of more freedom in order to better integrate them into the communist apparatus and win them over to the construction of the country. But the shot backfires.

Criticism is initially expressed very cautiously, but gradually a movement begins to roll that is dangerous for the communists. China is fed up with the sometimes enormous reprisals from the one-party dictatorship. People stand up, demand the elimination of the communist dictatorship and take to the streets for democratic reforms, freedom of the press, speech and political freedom.

In 1957 the party took the emergency brake and the Hundred Flowers Campaign became a merciless anti-rightist campaign. The critics who have come out with their criticism of the system are now rigorously persecuted, silenced, kidnapped, imprisoned and executed. Hundreds of thousands perish or are interned in labor camps.

In the end, was the Hundred Flower Campaign a clever move by Mao to lure and expose his potential critics in order to purposefully liquidate them? This thesis is still discussed among historians to this day.

It is more likely that Mao fell from the clouds with boundless, arrogant naivete when people stood up in protest against him and his policies. Mao had probably not even expected serious criticism, he was far too convinced of himself and the correctness of his policy.

The "Chinese Way"

Between 1953 and 1957, the Chinese leadership established the first five-year plan. Following the Soviet model, heavy industry is to be developed and promoted at the expense of agriculture by unleashing the workforce across the country. This contrasts with the rapidly growing Chinese population, which makes an increase in agricultural products urgently necessary.

The communist party leadership is beginning to split into two camps: the pragmatists are following the economic and industrial development of China as a condition for future successful collectivization to establish socialist structures.

Opposed to this are the representatives of the idealistic camp, above all Mao Zedong. For Mao, political and economic arguments are of secondary importance. For him, the constant revolutionizing of consciousness, the education of the "new man" is in the foreground in order to achieve a rapid transition to socialism.

In contrast to the "Big Brother USSR", Mao Zedong formulates his own, the "Chinese way" of the revolution: It is not the proletariat but the peasants who make up the revolutionary masses. China's farmers should organize and mobilize themselves and form functioning, self-sufficient small communities.

Mao enforces the "Chinese way" with serious measures that cut deep into the lives of the Chinese people. Ownership and social structures of the traditionally family-oriented rural population, which have grown over centuries, are ruthlessly smashed, the farmers forcibly collectivized and combined in large cooperative associations.

People lose all right to self-determination. The ownership structure dissolved, the workload and working hours organized in a strictly hierarchical manner, Mao degrades the peasants to unlawful recipients of orders. You have to follow the sometimes chaotic, corrupt or simply absurd work instructions.

The "big leap" into disaster

The officially proclaimed "Great Leap Forward" is intended to tear China out of its rural backwardness and establish it as a major economic power. To overcome industrial difficulties, Mao calls on the country to build blast furnaces and produce steel on every farm and in every backyard using even the most primitive tools.

But instead of the ambitious goal of heavy industrial outgrowth of Great Britain, Mao's large-scale social experiment leads to a catastrophe. Instead of cultivating their fields and bringing in the urgently needed harvests, the farmers produce only inferior, useless iron on self-made steel cookers according to Mao's relentless specifications. A large-scale experiment in which even indispensable agricultural tools are melted down across the country.

The consequences of neglected and destroyed agriculture are fallow fields. From 1960 to 1962, China slid into the greatest famine in human history: Millions of people lose their lives, they literally eat bark and leaves from trees.

As a result of the devastating consequences of the "Great Leap", Mao discredited himself as a political leader and for the time being maneuvered to the side. The pragmatists around Deng Xiaoping take the helm and lead China into calmer waters. Reluctantly moved into the second tier, Mao contemplates his chance to get back to the front row and eliminate his political rivals.

In 1966, Mao saw his chance come and proclaimed the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution". Civil war will rage in China over the next two years. Until Mao's death in 1976, China was in a leaden period of economic, political and cultural stagnation. Mao paralyzed China.

Author: Gregor Delvaux de Fenffe

Status: 07/29/2016, 09:00