Chinese Economy Post-Mao, A Compendium of Papers Volume 1: Policy and Performance States, November 9, 1978.
The Future of China: After Mao
The Case of the Gang of Four: With First Translation of Teng Hsiao-ping's "Three Poisonous Weeds"
Teng Hsiao-ping: A Political Biography
Political Imprisonment in the People's Republic of China
Opposition and Dissent in Contemporary China
Feminism and Socialism in China
As we enjoy the Chinese-American honeymoon this time, it seems fitting that we look before and after. Knowing the periodic Marxist inebriation to be expected of one partner and the whilom anti-red frigidity of the other, can we expect it to last? Have Jimmy Carter and Teng Hsiao-p’ing tied a permanent knot or just begun another cycle in a love-hate relationship? Can the Chinese revolution and the American happening settle down together?
We figured in China’s revolution during Mao’s lifetime from 1894 to 1976. In 1899-1900 we announced the Open Door, after the imperialist powers were already inside, and in 1912 we applauded the Chinese Republic’s sudden attempt at parliamentary government, which didn’t work. When China by 1923 opted for party dictatorship, we blamed the reds and eventually backed the anti-red party dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek with his Wellesley wife and her Harvard brother. Mao later called us imperialist exploiters who backed “feudal reaction,” by which he meant private property, special privilege, and elitism. Today again we are becoming privileged tourists and foreign investors who help Chinese modernizers create a new technological elite. Will history boobytrap us again?
Chou En-lai and Teng Hsiao-p’ing’s program for modernization of industry, agriculture, science-and-technology, and defense is the latest revolutionary solution to China’s age-old problem, how to govern the villages from the cities. The villages today contain 800 million people, the cities 200 million. By the year 2000, whether or not the Four Modernizations are completed, China’s villagers are likely to total one billion, her city dwellers perhaps 300 million. Food and government will still be major problems. Americans accustomed to farmsteads more than villages, whose countryside has generally disappeared into suburbs, can only try to imagine China’s situation. The press of numbers creates problems of economy, government, and values including human rights that are all very strange to us.
If we repeat our experience of the 1930s with Nationalist China, trading, investing, educating, and touring mainly in the cities, we can again be startled, embattled, and embittered by what comes out of the villages. China’s farming people are not going to disappear like ours into urban centers. They were there in their villages before America began and will no doubt outlast us. The modern revolution is only beginning to reach them. Now that the Chou-Teng program seeks our investment of technology in training, equipment, and joint ventures, we must get our minds out of the familiar cities like Canton, Shanghai, and Peking and into the less known countryside. To help China blindly, knowing only what we are told in English, unaware of what our Chinese friends are up against, is a prescription for another American disaster in China reminiscent of the 1940s.
Having got beyond our thirty-year-old Two Chinas problem by agreeing that Taiwan is a self-governing, armed province over which Peking has latent sovereignty, we now face another Two Chinas, urban and rural. The…
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.