Article in People’s Democracy of October 04, 2009
Sixtieth Anniversary of People’s Republic of China
Prakash Karat
On October 1, 1949, sixty years ago, the formation of the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed. Mao Zedong making that historic announcement said: “The Chinese people have stood up”. The reverberations of this historic event have been unfolding in the past six decades.
The Chinese revolution was an epoch-making event. China at that time was the biggest country in the world with a population of 475 million. This Asian giant, which till the 18th century was the world’s largest economy, had been in servitude of the Western powers and Japan from the 19th century. After the first world war, Britain, France, USA and Japan aligned to feudal warlords had carved out enclaves of power on its territory. China groaned under feudal and semi-colonial bondage. The Chinese Communist Party (CPC) founded in 1921 became the harbinger of the forces opposed to feudalism and colonialism. The fight for the emancipation of the Chinese people went through three decades of arduous struggle against the feudal warlords and the colonial powers. The CPC acquired the leadership of the national resistance against Japanese occupation displacing the corrupt, rightwing Kuomintang. The final act of the Chinese revolution was played out in the civil war between the People’s Liberation Army and the Kuomintang army after the Japanese surrendered.
The Chinese revolution coming three decades after the Russian revolution had a profound impact on the world. It set in train events which are still unfolding. China today is the second largest economy in the world after the USA, in terms of purchasing power parity. It is the third largest economy if its GDP is measured in terms of exchange rate. China is expected to surpass the US as the biggest economy in the world in the next 25 years. This indicates the tremendous progress made by China which was at the time of liberation, more backward than India in industry and other indicators.
The foundations for this remarkable development were laid by the programme of the CPC which abolished landlordism by undertaking radical land reforms; laid the basis for heavy industry and took steps to provide basic education, health and social benefits for the people. The Chinese path of democratic revolution – emancipating the peasantry and building the economy by self-reliant methods – held enormous appeal for the third world countries, most of whom were emerging as independent countries from colonialism. Those who glibly talk of capitalism providing the motive force for China’s current development, ignore the foundations on which such development is based. China has built upon the land reforms, the State-sponsored industrialisation and the public-funded educational system and social sector to initiate reforms. The role of the reformed state sector and collective enterprises alongwith the growing private sector underpin the dynamic growth witnessed in China.
The six decades of the history of new China was not one smooth road to progress. There were wrong turns and upheavals such as the cultural revolution and earlier the mistakes of the Great Leap Forward. The CPC was able to recognise the mistakes and wrong outlook and take steps to correct them. The rapid progress made in the last two decades have thrown up new problems. The 17th Congress of the CPC noted the problem of growing inequalities – income-wise, region-wise and between urban and rural areas. Steps were suggested to tackle them.
The CPC acknowledges that building socialism in a backward country is bound to be a protracted affair. Moreover, China’s development is taking place in an international environment which changed drastically in the late nineteen eighties with the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the setbacks to the socialist system. There will be many more political, ideological and material steps to be taken before a higher stage of socialism can be achieved.
The crucial position occupied by China in the world economy became evident during the global financial crisis which erupted last year. China announced a $ 585 billion fiscal stimulus for its economy. This has proved effective in boosting economic growth. In 2009, when the global economic growth is expected to be minus 3 per cent, China is expected to record at least 7.7 per cent growth.
The rising economic power of the two Asian giants – China and India – is presented as a source of conflict between the two. In strategic terms, China is sought to be pitted against India. Those dominating the world economic order would like nothing better than a relationship of rivalry and conflict between China and India.
There has been a revival of the bogey of the threat from China among sections of the corporate media and strategic experts. A series of hostile maneouvres by China have been cited. In the recent period, there has been a deliberate campaign mounted through the corporate media about growing incursions by Chinese troops on the border. A report appeared of firing by the security forces across the border with injuries sustained by two ITBP guards. All such reports were either baseless or highly exaggerated. The spokesmen for the Government of India and the Army Chief have refuted these reports and denied the purported firing. Both the Chinese and Indian governments have stated that there are no tensions growing on the border.
The rightwing circles in the country have been prompt to pick up the theme of a threat from China. The RSS chief has highlighted the alleged threat from China in his annual vijayadashami speech. All this is being orchestrated to demand greater defence preparedness against China with the unstated requirement being deeper strategic and military ties with the United States.
There is active lobbying to buy arms from America. As a recent Washington Post article pointed out: “Almost every weekend, there are cocktails and closed-door presentations in the suites of New Delhi’s five-star hotels, hosted by retired admirals and generals from the US armed forces who now work for defense firms, such as Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.” (U.S. Eyes Bigger Slice of Indian Defense Pie, September 26) The top ranking commanders of the US armed forces who regularly visit India, unfailingly point to the military threat posed by China.
The recent efforts to create complications in India-China relations must be seen in this context. Within India, the lobbies that want the strategic alliance with the United States to be cemented are precisely those who seek to thwart the potential of India-China cooperation.
Steps to normalise relations and develop ties between the two countries have been steadily progressing since Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China in 1988. Since then, successive governments in India have taken steps to improve relations with China and to have a negotiated settlement of the outstanding border dispute. Cooperation between India and China is in the interests of both countries and has a natural basis. This is seen most dramatically in the manner in which trade between India and China has developed. In 2008, the volume of trade reached $ 52 billion. The target of $ 40 billion set for 2010 was reached and outstripped by 2008 itself. This growth is all the more significant considering the various irritants in the relations between the two countries.
Being two major developing countries, India and China have found it necessary to cooperate on major questions like the WTO round of negotiations and climate change. Both countries articulate the interests of the developing countries as a whole. The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) forum whose summit meeting was held recently and the India-China-Russia tripartite consultations are important developments keeping in mind the increasing loss of American dominance in the international economic order and the developing trends towards multipolarity.
India and China strengthening their bilateral relations and working together in international forums for restructuring of the international economic order, advancing the interests of the developing countries and working for regional cooperation, peace and security will be a major factor in countering imperialist domination and the various provocations for aggression and wars.
The 60th anniversary of the Chinese revolution is happening at a time when the People’s Republic of China is poised to make fresh advances and to play a key role in world affairs in the 21st century. The Chinese people can take pride at their accomplishments and look forward to the future with confidence.