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A Special Feature: What Is Happening in China?

The Purge in the Schools and Press

The purge not only cleaned out the Peking Party Committee, but reached into two other major organizational sectors, dominated by the Peking Committee: the high schools and universities, and the mass media. Newspaper and radio staffs throughout the country were purged, and by May it became clear that the Peking People’s Daily (the equivalent of Pravda and Izvestiia) was being attacked for having come under anti-Mao influence. It had been virtually impossible to detect any overt revisionist influence in Chinese newspapers, for the line propounded before the purge was not so different from the now current line. But the newspapers now publish almost nothing except praise of Mao and reports of the great demonstrations2 No doubt the real sin of the People’s Daily and of others in control of the mass media was not so much propounding errors or neglecting the thought of Mao Tsetung, but that they were part of a political group that wanted to gain control of the highest policy-making positions.

The campaign against the high schools and universities was more dramatic and equally thorough. In June, it was announced that a number of top university officials, in Peking and in other major cities, had been dismissed. Since none of those ousted were ivory tower academics, but leading Party officials mainly concerned with the training and placement of young leaders of “cadres,” it became obvious that a revolution in the cadre-training system was in the making. By June the People’s Daily was once again under “proletarian” control. It railed against academic power cliques and urged “left wing” students to seize control of the universities (June 18, 1966). Students, mainly of poor social origins, mounted great demonstrations in which Party cadres were personally denounced. The campaign also turned against other students, notably those who had been favored by earlier educational practices. Since China’s schools educate a disproportionate number of children of urban bourgeois origin, the revolution aimed at nothing less than changing the prevailing patterns of student selection and cadre appointment. Mao, in line with his confidence in the masses, appeared determined to bring the young and the poor into the organizational system.

THE CAMPAIGN against revisionism, bureaucratism, and bourgeois and feudal elements reached a point of frenzy; teenagers committed acts of desecration and even of violence against anything that smacked of the old. In this atmosphere the Yenan cult of austerity was preached as the model for all Chinese to follow. For a few weeks in August it seemed as if all political power in Peking had passed into the hands of the red defense guards. Yet, it does not appear that the red defense guards are to become a permanent organization supplanting either the Party or the Youth League. They arose in the high schools and universities as instruments in the struggle against Party vested interests there. When Mao Tsetung and Lin Piao felt that they had not completely carried the day in the plenary meeting of the Central Committee, they were called on to spearhead the campaign against Party oppositionists in all sectors of organization. Behind the red defense guards stands the army, always ready to back them with force if necessary and to restrain them if they get out of hand. Mao, unlike Stalin, has long since learned that the use of instruments of violence, such as the army and police, to resolve political disputes can create a chain of escalating violence without end. The use of these teen-age red defense guards, with the army in the background, thus avoids the appearance of military power emerging as the leading organizational force of the country. Presumably as the Party and the Youth League have been cleaned out and new cadres have taken the place of those ousted, the red defense guards will disappear from the scene.

The Struggle Over Training and Appointments

Up to this point, we can draw a few conclusions. We know that three main organizational sectors were thoroughly cleaned out: the Peking Party Committee, the cadre training system, and the mass media (notably the all important newspapers). Let us look at the cadre-training system more closely. Chinese universities generally are divided into two main parts, one roughly technical and the other political. Graduates of the former go into administrative, operational, and research fields of science and technology. Graduates of the latter go into the state administrative system. Obviously, the group which controls the training and appointment of personnel wields considerable organizational power. Among the most important branches of Party organization are the so-called “political-legal sections,” which have control over cadre training and appointment (anyone familiar with the importance of the nomenklatura in the Soviet Union understands the importance of personnel control in a Communist country). The ousted university officials were obviously a part of this system, and, given P’eng Chen’s long career in the political-legal field, it is safe to assume that this is precisely where one of the major sources of P’eng’s power lay.

There has always been conflict over personnel control in China and for the past few years there appears to have been conflict between the political and military bureaucracies over cadre training and appointment. The military wanted its ex-officers to gain greater entry into the administrative system. On the other hand, give the “expert” trend in Chinese education since the great economic crisis, we can presume that the political-legal sections of the Party preferred taking talented students, which meant a large number of urban and bourgeois young people. The struggle over cadre training and appointment is really reflected in the phrase “cultivating a revolutionary successor generation.” As a consequence of the present purge, it would seem that the army—the proponent of the “red” line and the force of the country’s young and poor—has won out over the Party bureaucrats.

Winners and Losers

In the recent purge there can be little doubt that cadre training and appointment were a major issue. Yet it is hard to believe that this volcanic eruption was the result of a struggle merely over the immediate issues described. I can see why the young red guardsmen would lash out in anger against the “old fogies” in power. After all, this has happened in the past; Party cadres have several times submitted to withering criticism from the masses. I can also see how the high schools and universities were split between the privileged and less privileged students, producing a veritable class war. But had there not been deepest dissension at the highest levels of the political system (as there was in 1957 when the “anti-rightist movement” broke out), there would not have been such violence and upheaval at the lower levels.

The slogan “defend Mao” and Mao’s dramatic re-appearance among the youth in the streets of peking indicated that a great power struggle was in progress. Leading Party names disappeared from the lists of participants in public demonstrations, making way for a new leadership group. Most prominent in the new group is Lin Piao, acclaimed with Mao as a leader of the Chinese people. Lin Piao is one of China’s great military heroes, yet until now he had not been associated with politics. After relinquishing his command of Chinese forces in the Korean War he receded from the scene, supposedly because of illness. He re-emerged again in the autumn of 1959 when his successor in the Korean War, P’eng Te-huai, was removed as Minister of National Defense. In late 1960 he played a prominent role in reinforcing military discipline in the face of the economic crisis. He has since become well known in the West as the author of an article on “People’s War” (September 1965), widely interpreted in America as a blueprint for world revolution.

IT IS SURPRISING that Chou Enlai emerged next, after Lin Piao, as one of the new leaders. He is the Chinese leader best known abroad. Like Lin, Chou is hard to place in the political spectrum of “right” and “left” (or “soft” and “hard”). He has been identified with many different issues, and has always emerged on the winning side. In general, however, he has the reputation abroad of being a reasonable man (a reputation which was established during his residence in Chungking during World War II).

During the great mass demonstration of August 17 which launched the red defense guards, the three most prominent figures appearing in public were Mao Tse-tung, Lin Piao, and Chou Enlai. Next to them, judging from the order in which they were ranked, were T’ao Chu, Teng Hsiao-p’ing, and K’ang Sheng. T’ao Chu had been Party boss of Kwangtung and was known as an authority on agricultural problems. His rapid rise in the hierarchy of power had already been noted by students of China, but his sudden prominence is surprising. Aside from domestic politics, T’ao Chu has not been known for any stand on major issues. Teng Hsiao-p’ing’s work appears to have been mainly organizational, running the extensive network of the country’s Party organization. K’ang Sheng’s work and career also seem obscure. K’ang Sheng has a long record of association with the Soviet Union, though his “opinions” are not known. In July 1963, K’ang went with Teng to Moscow for major Sino-Soviet summit talks, to try to dissuade the Russians from signing the Test Ban Treaty. It is significant that Peking did not at that time send P’eng Chen or Lu Ting-i, who were in the forefront of the anti-revisionist (i.e., anti-Soviet) campaign.

Among the most prominent figures purged were leaders in the Peking City Party Committee, in the universities, and in the mass media. P’eng Chen himself had been the former mayor of Peking and a member of the Politburo. Lu P’ing was the former President of Peking University. Lu Ting-i and Chou Yang were the chief Party propagandists. Lu Ting-i, in April 1960, wrote one of the first major articles attacking “modern revisionism” (i.e., the Soviet Union). P’eng Chen continued the attack during his visit to Bucharest in the summer of 1960. Chou Yang wrote prominently on China’s revolutionary politics in the third world. All those purged had a long record of anti-Soviet activities, whereas the group now in prominence, T’ao Chu, Teng Hsiao-p’ing, and K’and Sheng, are not associated with particular positions on foreign policy.

That all those purged played prominent roles in domestic power politics is of course evident, but their association with foreign policy issues would suggest that more was involved in the purge than just a struggle over political power. This is further suggested by the purge of a figure even more prominent than those I have named: Lo Jui-ch’ing, former head of the Secret Police and chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army.

The emergence of Lin Piao and the ouster of Lo Jui-ch’ing indicate that the purge had struck at the military as well as the other organizational sectors I have mentioned. Obviously Peking was not going to let the world know what issues lay behind the military purge, since national security factors were involved. Certain clues seem helpful in explaining what has happened, although some of them do not carry us very far. There is evidence, for example, that a conflict has taken place over the control of the People’s Liberation Army. In an article published last January, Hsiao Hua, the head of the army’s General Political Department, announced that henceforth the army was to share military command with the principal party committees, at least in the provincial command areas. In the past, the military professionals have opposed the sharing of power with Party committees (as they would in any country). But the principle of shared command was reaffirmed on August 2 in an editorial in Liberation Army Daily: “We must positively aid regional work, earnestly learn from the regions, and strengthen solidarity between the military and the regions.”

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    True, several years ago during the period of economic recovery, the People’s Daily began to devote considerable space to literary productions and less to ideology, but this was because ideology was not of much use to the practical problems of the times. In fact, although the “non-party” newspapers such as the Kuang-ming Daily and the Wen-hui pao published many articles that by present standards would be considered revisionist (e.g., on economic problems), the People’s Daily was generally careful to do so only when an opinion had received official blessing. It is ironical that these “non-party” newspapers served along with the Liberation Army Daily as a springboard for attacks against the People’s Daily.

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