Chinese Communism vs. Russian Communism
Problems of China in 1949
a) China was devastated by a long period of war. The warlord era prevented any development during the years from 1916-28. Then soon it was embroiled in a war with Japan in 1931. Simultaneously, the civil war between Kuomintang (KMT) and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was raging on and it lasted till 1949 when the latter, under Mao Zedong emerged victorious. However, there was no respite from war as China had to again intervene in the Korean War (1950) on the side of North Korea. China had cautioned US to not invade North Korea but in its enthusiasm to unite the two Koreas, US-led and United Nations sanctioned forces crossed over into the territory of North Korea and came very close to the Chinese border. China, threatened by the possibility of a pro-capitalist Korea in its immediate neighbourhood pushed back the UN forces. Finally the frontier between North and the South Korea was restored to its original position along the 38th parallel north. (38th parallel north is the 38 degree North latitude).
b) China was in dire need for infrastructure development.
c) It also had to deal with inefficiency in agriculture and industrial sector.
d) The poor agricultural output was failing to meet the need for food security of the huge population and thus China faced the dual challenge of food shortages and the consequent food inflation.
e) China in 1949 was an inequitable society. The Kuomintang had supported wealthy landlords and
industrialists. Thus land reforms were part of the immediate agenda of the Chinese Communist Party. The model adopted by China was similar to that of Russia till 1958.
The 100 Flowers Campaign (1957) was launched by Mao to allow people to express their views towards the system. After the 100 Flowers Campaign, Mao realized that there was simmering discontent among the masses and thus he launched the Great Leap Forward in 1958 which thereafter became the basic program for socialism in China.
Why was there a shift from the Russian Model?
Mao abandoned the Russian model because:
a) The focus on heavy industrialization was starting to result in creation of a new class of technicians and engineers. The conflict between the party cadres and the new class of technicians and engineers was growing. The work of the party cadres was to mobilize people politically and economically. For example, during collectivization of farms and during the land redistribution programme it was the party cadres who conducted land eviction.
b) 100 Flowers Campaign (1957): The government wanted to resolve the class conflict in Chinese society. Happy with the result of the 1st Plan (1953-58), the Government decided to hold open discussion for conflict resolution between the cadres and the experts. Mao said “let 100 flowers bloom and 100 school of thoughts contend”. Thus through the 100 Flowers Campaign, Mao called for “constructive criticism”, but what he got was an aggressive vocal criticism that targeted – incompetence and over-enthusiasm of the party cadres; over-centralization by the government; and the Chinese Communist party was criticized for being undemocratic. Some critics even suggested a multi-party system. The result was that, Mao called off the campaign immediately and clamped down on his critics. The 100 Flowers Campaign showed how much opposition was still there against communism. Thus he abandoned the Russian model and launched the Great leap Forward (1958) to protect the revolution and consolidate the advances of socialism.
Following can be argued as basic differences between Russian Model and the Chinese Model of communism:
1) Innovation of Communes was specific to China. Communes were much more than agglomeration of collective farms. They acted as units of local self governance, provided welfare services and allowed the party to remain in touch with masses.
2) Less focus on heavy industries and increased focus on basic consumer goods. This addressed the basic daily needs of the common man by preventing shortages of daily life goods and by keeping inflation under control. Russia on other hand suffered from shortages in the basic consumer goods.
3) Decentralized industrialization instead of centralized Industrialization was focused upon by the Great Leap Forward. Mao talked about 6 lakh backyard steel furnaces to be organized and managed by communes. These were much smaller factories to provide farm machinery.
4) Focus on developing an agricultural-centred economy rather than an industrial economy: Mao under GLF decided that China would mainly be an agricultural economy with small scale industries scattered in the countryside. Also the industries were to be labour intensive with less dependence on machines. This prevented unemployment which was a basic feature of highly industrialized western economies and was thought to be the best strategy given the huge population of 600 million in China. The agricultural economy also allowed for improving the position of women in the society.
Chinese Communism vs. Russian Communism