Is China a Republic? – Part 3/4

January 24, 2012

Under Chinese Communist Party rule, village elections are the only example of a one-person, one-vote democracy in China. Launched in the mid-eighties, these elections were originally introduced to replace the village communes that were dissolved after the Cultural Revolution. At the time, few outside China paid much attention and many still do not know this is happening.

In addition, according to the US Army in 1928, a republic has a Constitution, and China has one, which provides for all four points that were made in the US Army definition of a republic. Another definition for a representative type of government is that the constitution is changeable from its original meaning by amendments and China’s 1954 Constitution was amended in 1982, 1988, 1993, 1999, and 2004.

Unlike the parliamentary democratic system where the prime minister may rule as long as his or her party holds the majority, China sets a limit of two five-year terms for its President, and he or she is elected by the National People’s Congress for the first of those two, five-year terms.


Emerging democracy in China

 The office of President was created by the 1982 Constitution. Formally, the President is elected by the National People’s Congress in accordance with Article 62 of the Constitution. In practice, this election falls into the category of ‘single-candidate’ elections. The candidate is recommended by the Presidium of the National People’s Congress [The 2009 NPC Presidium is made up of 171 members and headed by the Secretary General of the NPC legislative session].

The National People’s Congress is the highest state body and the only legislative house in the People’s Republic of China with 2,987 members.

The State Council is the chief authority of the People’s Republic of China. It is appointed by the National People’s Congress, is chaired by the Premier, and includes the heads of each governmental department and agency. There are about 50 members in the Council. In the politics of the People’s Republic of China, the Central People’s Government forms one of three interlocking branches of power, the others being the Communist Party of China and the People’s Liberation Army.

The Supreme People’s Court is the highest court in the judicial system of the People’s Republic of China.

Hong Kong and Macau, as special administrative regions, have their own separate judicial systems based on British common law traditions and Portuguese civil-law traditions respectively, and are out of the jurisdiction of the Supreme People’s Court. The National People’s Congress appoints the judges of the Supreme People’s Court, which is similar to the United States where both houses of congress approve the appointment of the justices of the Supreme Court.

The governors of China’s provinces and autonomous regions and mayors of its centrally controlled municipalities are appointed by the central government in Beijing after receiving the nominal consent of the National People’s Congress.

Continued on January 25, 2012 in Is China a Republic – Part 4 or return to Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Ah Bing and “Reflection of the Moon”

October 26, 2011

To understand another country’s history and culture, one should listen to the music, read that country’s novels and watch its films.

This summer, my wife and daughter returned from China with dozens of original Chinese films on DVD.

Then I saw Reflection of the Moon, (ISBN: 7-88054-168-3), which is about Ah Bing (1893 – 1950), a famous master of the Chinese Erhu, who overnight—in 1950 shortly before his death—became a national sensation as radios throughout China played his music.

Fortunate for me, Ah Bing’s story had English subtitles, which were not of the best quality and true to form for a Chinese movie filmed in 1979 (shortly after the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976), the plot was melodramatic with traces of propaganda that favored the Chinese Communists.

However, to be fair, in 1950, the Civil War was over and the Communists, with support from several hundred million peasants, had won.

Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution would not begin for years and for those that survived the purges in 1949 and 1950 (mostly abusive land owners and drug dealers accused of crimes by the people they may have abused and victimized), Mao fulfilled his promises of land reforms.

To understand the era of Ah Bing’s life, much of China (including Tibet) was still feudal in nature, and the upper classes often took advantage of the peasants and workers as if they were beasts of burden treated as slaves.


This is one of Ah Bing’s masterpieces for the Erhu—Moon Reflected in the Second Spring (二泉映月)

Ah Bing’s real name was Hua Yanjun. His knowledge of traditional Chinese music and his talent as a musician went mostly unnoticed until the last year of his life in 1950, shortly after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

In 1950, two musicologists were sent to his hometown of Wuxi to record and preserve his music. At the time, he was ill and hadn’t performed for about two years. Six of his compositions were recorded that are considered masterpieces. It is said that he knew more than 700 pieces—and most were his compositions.

As “Reflection of the Moon” shows, the lyrics of some of his music criticized the KMT (Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government), and he was often punished for speaking out through his music. If you have read of The Long March, you know that the peasants did not trust the KMT, but they did trust the Communists and that trust was earned between 1926 and 1949—a period covering twenty-three years, and most rural Chinese of that era still think of Mao as China’s George Washington.

Before the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, China’s Communist Party treated the peasants and workers with respect while the KMT did not earn that trust.

In fact, Ah Bing’s story and music is still so popular that the Performing Arts Company of China’s Air Force performed Er Quan Yin, an original Western-style Chinese opera, in 2010. Source: China Daily

To discover more of the time-period that Ah Bing lived, see The Roots of Madness.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.


China’s Great Famine (1958 – 1961) Fact or Fiction – Part 4/4

September 3, 2011

The last damaging factors that may have led to millions of deaths due to famine and starvation was the statistical lies of rural farmers and local party bosses reporting crop yields in rural China and Mao’s impossible goals to create a miracle in five years.

Mao’s five-year plan for the Great Leap Forward set quotas (goals) to develop agriculture and industry so China would catch up to America and the other Western nations that had invaded China during the 19th century (England, France, Japan, Germany, Russia, America, etc.)

Mao believed that both agriculture and industry had to grow to allow the other to thrive.

Industry could only prosper if the workers were well fed, while the agricultural workers needed industry to produce the modern tools needed for modernization.

For this to happen, China was reformed into a series of giant communes.

However, the droughts, floods and other severe weather arrived soon after this five-year plan was implemented and set the stage for a tragedy caused by nature and supported by American “economic warfare” in the form of a “complete embargo” of China.

Due to quotas set by Mao’s agricultural policies, no one wanted to be seen as a failure and/or unpatriotic so this generated boastful claims about output that were followed by more boastful claims of incredible crop yields.

Nobody – least of all the central government in Beijing – knew the real output figures and nobody was trying to find out. Instead, there was a sense of general euphoria in Beijing that China was succeeding.

While rural farmers and party posses lied about crop yields, China started exporting rice and wheat to other countries as a source of revenue, since Beijing believed there was a bumper crop. The result was that only urban areas suffered with reduced rations but with still enough food to survive.

However, the situation was different in the areas that lied the most and resulted in mass starvations largely confined to rural China, where, because of drastically inflated production statistics, very little grain was left for the peasants to eat.

Food shortages were bad throughout the country. However, the provinces, which had adopted Mao’s reforms with the most energy, zeal and the highest boasts, such as Anhui, Gansu and Henan, tended to suffer disproportionately.

Sichuan, one of China’s most populous provinces, known in China as “Heaven’s Granary” because of its fertility, is thought to have suffered the greatest absolute numbers of deaths from starvation due to the vigor with which provincial leader Li Jinquan undertook Mao’s reforms.

Once the central government in Beijing discovered the truth, the Chinese Communist Party acted quickly to correct the errors in national agricultural decision-making, to conserve food, and to save as many lives as possible implementing drastic measures to feed those in need and to restore agricultural productivity.

Grain exports were stopped, and imports from Canada and Australia (in spite of America’s complete embargo) helped to reduce the impact of the food shortages. Source: Library Index.com

The final question is: Would Mao’s Great Leap Forward have been more successful if there had been no drought, no floods and no “complete (U.S.) embargo” and the people had not lied about crop yields?

It is no secret that millions of rural people starved to death in China during the famine of 1959 – 1960, but it was a “great” tragedy caused by a complex series of circumstances and was not murder.

In addition, the actual number of deaths was significantly lower than what has been claimed in the West.

The CCP’s lofty goal was to prove to the world that the Party ruled China successfully by boosting crop yields and industrial output.

Another reason the CCP set such unrealistic goals for the five-year plan that contributed to the tragedy that was Great Leap Forward was because of Taiwan, which was recognized by the world as the official government of China and still held its seat in the United Nations.

It wouldn’t be until 1971 that the U.N. recognized the People’s Republic of China instead, and the United States wouldn’t switch diplomatic relations with China from Taipei to Beijing until 1979, finally recognizing the Communist Party as the legitimate ruler of China.

Return to China’s Great Famine (1958 – 1961) Fact or Fiction – Part 3 or start with Part 1

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Recommended reading on this topic for those who seek the unblemished truth: From the Monthly Review, Did Mao Really Kill Millions in the Great Leap Forward? by Joseph Ball

From Griffith University, Australia, Poverty, by David C. Schak, Associate Professor

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


China’s Great Famine (1958 – 1961) Fact or Fiction – Part 3/4

September 2, 2011

The War in Korea (1950 – 1953), Vietnam (1955 – 1975), McCarthyism (1947 – 1957) and the Cold War with the USSR (1945 – 1991) set the stage for what may have contributed to mass deaths by starvation in China during the Great Leap Forward.

During the McCarthy era (1947 – 1957), thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies.

In 1950, since China fought alongside North Korea against allied UN forces under the leadership of the US, the United States implemented a “complete embargo” that forbade all financial transaction with Communist China.

The US also convinced many of its allies to join this “complete embargo” to cut China off from the world.

After the Korean war, the United States did not lift this embargo for the next twenty years (1949-1969), with a goal to disrupt, destabilize, and weaken China’s communist government by causing the people to suffer and this “complete embargo” was one of the tools to achieve this.


The US embargo on China was a “complete embargo”, whch certainly must have contributed to the death toll of the Great Famine, a factor never mentioned before.

High American government sources have admitted that the objective of the economic warfare was aimed at causing a breakdown of Communist China. The idea was that problems in the Chinese economy would lead to loss of support from the people causing the collapse of the Communist Republic. Source: China for all.info and Asia for Educators – Columbia.edu

This embargo was lifted in 1969, when Richard Nixon was President. Source: Washington Post.com

However, while people were starving in China and US officials were waiting for Communist China to collapse, Washington D.C. had no idea how much suffering the Chinese people were capable of enduring and that even with the drought and famine, most Chinese were better off than they had been in centuries.

The evidence that the quality of life was improving was the fact that in 1949 when Mao came to power, life expectancy in China was 35, and by 1960 life expectancy had improved to age 60 or almost double what it had been in 1949, while the population of China increased by 19.5% with child mortality rates improving dramatically.

Field-studies in the 1930s revealed that in all parts of China, large numbers of landless laborers lived in tremendous poverty, and their situation had not changed since the sixteenth century. Source: China for all.info

If you want more evidence, I refer you to Pearl S. Buck’s “The Good Earth”.

We may never know how much of an impact America’s “economic warfare” against China crippled its ability to import food to feed its starving people in a time of drought and famine. In fact, this may have also influenced Mao’s decisions since he wanted the world to see China as strong and capable of feeding itself.

If anyone pulled a trigger on China’s people, it was not Mao. It was Washington D.C. fueled by fear of everything Communist caused by the Korean War, Vietnam, McCarthyism’s Red Scare and the Cold War with Communist Russia.

Continued on September 3, 2011 in China’s Great Famine (1958 – 1961) Fact or Fiction – Part 4 or return to Part 2

View as Single Page

Recommended reading on this topic for those who seek the unblemished truth: From the Monthly Review, Did Mao Really Kill Millions in the Great Leap Forward? by Joseph Ball

From Griffith University, Australia, Poverty, by David C. Schak, Associate Professor

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution (Viewed as Single Page)

August 6, 2011

Before reading this post, I suggest first reading China, The Roots of Madness to understand what led to Mao’s era in China (1949 – 1976). This link will take you to that post. When you finish, return.

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Mao’s era started October 1949 with victory celebrations in Beijing, as the country with the largest population saw a Communist government come to power.

Mao says, “The People’s Republic of China is founded today. China will be free of inequality, poverty and foreign domination.”

Before 1950, most Chinese lived as they had for centuries as part of a feudal system. Even after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, warlords ruled much of China, and then China was torn by Civil War and an invasion by Japan during World War II.

For most Chinese, feudalism describes the “old society” that existed before “liberation” in 1949.

The following video shows what this life was like before Mao’s era.  It is estimated that about half the people in rural China lived in severe poverty and were in debt to landowners.


(When the advertisement appears, advance the video scroll bar to 2:00 minutes to avoid it.)

In the video, Hu Benxu, a peasant farmer from Sichuan says that in the past, there was justice for the rich but nothing for the poor.

Chiang Kai-shek believed that improvements would spread through the country (sort of like President Reagan’s trickledown theory, also known as voodoo economics or Reaganomics, which did not work in the US) as foreign investments poured into China.

However, the opposite happened. As the country industrialized, the gap between the rich and the poor widened because the rich held on to money and wanted more and protests about working condition in the factories were met with death from Chiang Kai-shek’s troops.

Meanwhile, at the same time, Mao promised land reforms, and his troops treated the peasants with respect.

When Mao won China, he said, “We Chinese should work hard. The country is poor. Our people are uneducated. We must make China a modern industrialized state.”

However, there would be many mistakes and much suffering during the next 27 years. After two thousand years of an Imperial system of government, China was embarking on a journey of reinventing a country and a culture without foreign influence.

Mao held more power than anyone since the emperors, and he wanted China to be a purer, fairer more progressive state than the Soviet Union, so the peasants were the first to benefit.

As Mao promised during China’s Civil War (1926-1949 – with a break during part of World War II), there were land reforms.

Luo Shifa, a party official in Sichuan, tells his story about what happened in 1950. Rural property owners were judged enemies of the people (by the people) and hundreds of thousands were executed.

Changes in urban areas were not as violent. The owners and managers of factories were needed to keep things running but all property was signed over to the state. Factory and business owners who resisted were executed.

Women were given new rights at work and in marriage and foot binding was abolished. Literacy was also important. Before 1949, illiteracy in Mainland China was 80% and life expectancy was 35. When Mao died, the average life expectancy had increased to 55 and today it is 76 (while literacy is now more than 90% and China has done more to reduce poverty than any country on earth).

To deal with disease, the Communists launched programs to improve health care that had never existed before. Millions were inoculated against the most common diseases.

The nation went on a cleaning spree. Posters said everyone had to help exterminate pests. Songs were sung, “Pest free areas are glorious. Let’s wipe out the flies, bugs, mosquitoes and rats.”

Sparrows were considered pests since they were accused of eating crops. Whoever killed the most sparrows in each village was rewarded.

However, exterminating sparrows led to insect populations exploding, which endangered crop yields.

Then the people were told to watch for capitalistic or counter revolutionary behavior and to denounce suspicious people.

In 1958, Mao’s boldest program was launched. He wanted to out-produce industrialized nations in manufacturing and crop yields. The land given to the peasants in 1949 was confiscated and people communes of 100 thousand or more were created.

Mao believed that more people working together meant larger projects. By the end of 1958, 700 million people had been placed into 26,578 communes.

Ironically, one of the key factors in food production in China was the weather and 1958 had particularly good weather for growing food.

Then in 1959, things started to go wrong.

The excellent growing weather of 1958 was followed by a very poor growing year in 1959. Some parts of China were hit by floods. In other growing areas, drought was a major problem. The harvest for 1959 was 170 million tons of grain – well below what China needed at the most basic level.

Soon, in parts of China, starvation occurred and millions died.

In addition, political decisions/beliefs took precedence over commonsense and communes faced the task of doing things which they were incapable of achieving.

Mao said, “Revolutionary enthusiasm will triumph over all obstacles.”

To achieve Mao’s goals, the Communist Party encouraged competition between communes. Instead, overproduction caused crops to rot in the fields and the communes hid the truth by faking records.

Huge construction projects began without proper planning leading to accidents and deaths, which were hidden by the project managers. No one wanted Mao to discover the lack of proper revolutionary enthusiasm.Some critics claim that Mao was aware of what was going on but others argue he had no idea of the extent of the problems until late 1959.

During this time, steel production was to double in one year. Instead of producing steel from industry, Mao wanted the peasants to build small furnaces.

Again, there was competition between teams of peasants, and forests were cut down to fuel the crude furnaces the mostly illiterate peasants built.

All over China, people were neglecting the fields and crops to produce steel because the people were told they had to listen to Mao. All metal was melted — including cooking woks, but the steel produced using these methods was useless.

While the peasants were producing this useless steel, the crops rotted in the fields. Then in 1960, there was a drought and food production fell more than 25% and millions died from the resulting famine (no one knows the exact number — estimates run from 10 million to 45 million or more).

Having failed, Mao publicly admitted he had been wrong and stepped aside to let someone else run the country.

The large communes were abandoned in 1960, and the peasants returned to their villages and were given land again.  At the time, Mao was still popular with the people but he still resigned as the Head of State.

However, fearing a return of capitalism and exploitation of the people, Mao’s supporters printed a book with his quotations and slogans.

The goal was to break the thinking and attitudes of old China. Using film, a propaganda campaign was launched so Mao could regain power. Then in 1966, the Cultural Revolution started.

By 1966, Mao’s Red Book of quotations was being used as a textbook in the schools.

Shao Ailing, a head teacher in Shanghai says, “The pupils began to realize that all the changes taking place in their families, in school, in Shanghai and China were because of Chairman Mao.”

Mao encouraged students to attack authority and the leadership of the Communist Party that did not agree with his beliefs.

This advice was coming from a man considered to be the “George Washington” of China, the man who had delivered on his promises to the peasants in 1950 and brought them medicine and land reforms—something the emperors of Imperial China and Chiang Kai-shek had never done, and Mao was still popular with the vast majority of the Chinese people.

Zhang Baoqing, an early Red Guard member in Beijing, says, “Chairman Mao started the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976) to keep up the momentum for change. We thought if we followed Mao, we could not go wrong.”

Mao motivated millions of students from speeches in Tiananmen Square. This time it wasn’t the rural peasants that suffered the most during the Great Leap Forward (1958 – 1960). This time he looked for support from China’s urban youth that did not remember or were not aware of Mao’s earlier mistakes.

Urban student anger focused on Mao’s rivals, President Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. Even small children were taught to denounce Liu. Then anyone in power was denounced. The structure of the Communist Party collapsed. Schoolteachers were attacked and tortured by their students. More than a million were killed or driven to suicide.

The anarchy caused by Mao’s Cultural Revolution spread. Schools and hospitals closed. Offices and factories were in chaos. Qi Youyi, who was a factory worker in Beijing, describes how bad it was. Production stopped. No one knew when he or she might be denounced and arrested. Many workers committed suicide.

After two years (by 1968), the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was called in to restore order and reestablish the Communist Party. Then to bring peace to the streets, millions of members of the teenage Red Guard were sent to the countryside to learn from the peasants.

However, the Cultural Revolution did not officially end until 1976 when Mao died.

After his death, Mao’s closest supporters, the Gang of Four, were arrested and Maoist revolutionary activities were abandoned. In an attempt to hold the country together, the Communist Party used propaganda and the PLA to maintain control.

Deng Xiaoping replaced ideological fervor with economic activity so the people would be motivated not by dreams of equality but by money. In the 1980s, the new message was “to get rich is glorious”.

This post first appeared as a six part series starting June 21, 2010 as China’s Great Leap Forward – Part 1.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

 


Turning on the Lights in China – Part 1/2

July 19, 2011

Access to electricity is the key to developing a country into a modern state with the potential to grow a large, consumer driven middle class.

Poverty reduction is also linked to access to electricity.

In fact, to reduce poverty, China has introduced electricity access to over 900 million rural residents in over 50 years and has achieved an electricity access rate of as high as 98%. Source: Stanford.edu


August 15, 2010

In 1949 when the People’s Republic (PRC) was founded, there were only 33 small hydropower stations in rural China, with a total installed capacity of 3.63 megawatts, and total electricity consumption in rural areas was 20 million kilowatts. Today, there are thousands of hydropower stations, and the PRC has more than any country on the earth.

In 1979, China’s Xinhua state run news agency reported a serious electric power shortage. The agency said China produced about 150,000 million kilowatts of electricity a year and ranked about seventh among the world’s electric energy producers.

In fact, China’s output was about an eighth that of the US. Source: History of China’s electricity use


August 15, 2010

In the last post, China’s Goals to Go Green, we discovered that China now produces more electricity than the US.

To understand what China has accomplished since 1979 when it was ranked seventh among the world’s electricity producers instead of first, it helps to discover the time it took for America’s electrical grid to be built, which will be continued on June 20, 2011 in Turning on the Lights in China – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.


Earning Honor by Going to the Moon

June 14, 2011

It looks as if China’s space program will fuel humanity’s next trip to the moon and beyond. The Middle Kingdom has everything needed to succeed. Why is this?

China is turning out more engineers from its universities than the United States is, and China has the technology and industry to support an active, growing space program.

China isn’t crippled by the deficit (debt) the US has.

China’s nine-man Politburo Standing Committee, the country’s top ruling body, are engineers instead of lawyers or businessmen like in America.

In the last few years, China has sent men into space and conducted space walks. There is a strong chance that in a few more years, there will be Chinese space stations orbiting the earth with footprints on the moon that were not made by Americans.

In fact, China plans to send a lunar probe with a rover to the moon in 2013. Source: The Next Big Future

My wife and I were in China in 2008 when one of the space walks took place, and it was big news filling TV screens and splashing headlines across newspapers. It was easy to sense the pride.

The excitement was equal to the time Americans walked on the moon decades ago. Now, America’s space program is limping along—almost a cripple.

To send supplies to the international space station, the world (except China) depends on Russia.

The honor China lost during the 19th and early 20th centuries to the bully tactics of aggressive Western powers and Japan during World War II is being reclaimed.

For more than two thousand years, China was a regional super power. They have achieved that status again.

Discover Mao’s War Against Illegal Drugs

This revised post first appeared on February 17, 2010 as Growing Great Honor in One Lunar Leap

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.