China Under Mao: A Revolution Derailed
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China’s Communist Party seized power in 1949 after a long period of guerrilla insurgency followed by full-scale war, but the Chinese revolution was just beginning. China Under Mao narrates the rise and fall of the Maoist revolutionary state from 1949 to 1976―an epoch of startling accomplishments and disastrous failures, steered by many forces but dominated above all by Mao Zedong.
Mao’s China, Andrew Walder argues, was defined by two distinctive institutions established during the first decade of Communist Party rule: a Party apparatus that exercised firm (sometimes harsh) discipline over its members and cadres; and a socialist economy modeled after the Soviet Union. Although a large national bureaucracy had oversight of this authoritarian system, Mao intervened strongly at every turn. The doctrines and political organization that produced Mao’s greatest achievements―victory in the civil war, the creation of China’s first unified modern state, a historic transformation of urban and rural life―also generated his worst failures: the industrial depression and rural famine of the Great Leap Forward and the violent destruction and stagnation of the Cultural Revolution.
Misdiagnosing China’s problems as capitalist restoration and prescribing continuing class struggle against imaginary enemies as the solution, Mao ruined much of what he had built and created no viable alternative. At the time of his death, he left China backward and deeply divided.
self-criticism of the prominent Tsinghua University physicist Zhou Peiyuan, who was educated at Chicago and Cal Tech, included the following passages about his several stays in the United States: During the four years of my ﬁ rst sojourn in the United States I saw only the skyscrapers, automobiles and the licentious and shamelessly freespending life of the exploiting classes, but I did not see the tragic exploitation of the toiling masses by the monopolistic capitalists. . . . I erroneously
the economy as a whole. This obvious solution was ruled out by several hard realities. The ﬁ rst was that enterprise managers were not permitted to conduct money transactions with enterprises that were not in their production or supply plans. State banks administered enterprise funds and allowed transfers among enterprises only for ofﬁcially approved uses. The second is that so long as enterprise managers were evaluated solely by the fulﬁ llment of production plans, and so long as almost all of
unit in China was that employment was permanent: employees could not be ﬁ red except for criminal or political offenses that involved imprisonment. By the same token, workers could not leave to take up employment elsewhere. Upon the completion of schooling, urban residents were assigned jobs by labor bureaus (or by personnel departments that handled university graduates). Except for management and party personnel who had career lines that led out of state organizations into higher posts in the
considerable risk, hardship, even loss of life or limb. One could not say the same about those who joined after the party’s victory. As the years went by, and as the party consolidated its control over the economy and the educational system, joining it was an act of loyalty to established authority, one likely to be rewarded with status and career advancement. To be sure, party members were still expected to sacriﬁce time and effort, perform unpopular tasks, and set aside their personal beliefs
ofﬁcials in a village (or production brigade). In cities, rates of party membership rose by rank in a similar fashion: 8 percent of manual workers were party members, 15 percent of white-collar workers, 49 percent of lower-ranking cadres, and 85 percent of high-ranking cadres.12 These ﬁgures illustrate an important feature of the party in power: it was strategic and selective in focusing its efforts. Ruling communist parties are highly elitist. Because their goal was to control both government