Frank Dikötter wrote what is called an ARGUMENT published by Foreign Policy.com. Dikötter alleges that “The People’s Republic of China Was Born in Chains” and “The Communist Party calls 1949 a liberation. But China was far freer beforehand.”
Dikötter has a right to his biased opinions about China, but he is wrong to the point of being a liar.
For instance, David C. Schak reports, “Throughout most of Chinese history the majority of Chinese have lived in poverty. As the hundreds of famines that have killed millions of Chinese attest, Chinese poverty has often been absolute, i.e., lacking the very material resources needed to sustain life and maintain health.”
Later in his paper, Schak says, “The fall of the Qing Dynasty and the dynastic system in 1911 changed China significantly, but the major change to the condition of the peasantry was from armed conflict. Between 1911 and the communist takeover in 1949, China suffered thirty years of warfare: battles between warlord armies over territory; the Northern Expedition leading to the establishment of the Nationalist government in Nanjing; the extermination campaigns against the communists; the very deadly war against the Japanese (1937-45); and the resumption of the civil war from 1946 to 1949. Aside from the destruction caused by the battles themselves, marauding armies often confiscated crops and forcibly conscripted men, leaving the peasants with no resources. Moreover, competing warlords each taxed the peasants, sometimes many years in advance.”
Then there is Chiang Kai-shek, a brutal dictator from 1928 until his death in 1975. Along with Mao Zedong, he is listed as one of the top nine killers of the 20th century. “Surprisingly, Chiang Kai-shek ranks number four, killing ten million people from 1928 to 1949.”
In 1927, When Chinese workers (some of them belonged to the Chinese Communist Party) attempted to organize labor unions and negotiate working conditions with better pay, Chiang Kai-shek, ordered his army to slaughter them. This resulted in the Shanghai massacre of April 12, 1927 and started the Civil War between China’s Communist Party and Chiang’s Nationalist dictatorship that would not end until 1949.
Before April 12, 1927, the Chinese Communist Party was one of several political parties that belonged to the so-called Republic of China that was founded by Sun Yat-sen soon after 1911, a republic that never held any elections.
Even after Chiang Kai-shek lost the long Civil War to the Chinese Communists in 1949, he remained the never-elected president of Taiwan. In fact, he declared martial law in Taiwan on May 20, 1949 and ruled with a brutal iron fist until he died in 1975. Martial law would remain in place until July 14, 1987, and Taiwan would not hold its first democratic presidential election until 1990. That means, between 1949 and 1990, Taiwan was an authoritarian state and not a democracy.
The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health reports, “In 1949, the life expectancy in China was only 36 years. In early 1980s, it has increased to 68 years. This increase in life expectancy is attributed mostly to improved nutrition and lowering of mortality due to decrease in infectious diseases. Though population, disease and mortality statistics of modern China are spotty and sometimes questionable, common consensus among the researchers is that since 1949 the public health situation in China has improved tremendously (after the Chinese Communist Party ruled the country).”
Mao might be as guilty as Chiang Kai-shek for brutality, but when Mao died in 1976, the average lifespan had dramatically increased from age 36 to 64.63. In addition, in 1949, China’s population was 541.6 million people. By the time Mao died, China’s population had reached 930.7 million people, an increase of more than 389 million people.
It is obvious that Frank Dikötter does not know what he is talking about unless he is deliberately spreading lies about China. It is a fact that the Chinese have a better quality of life and more freedom today than they have ever had throughout the history of their country.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.