The Political Economy of Rural Development in China, 1978-1999

By Weixing Chen | Go to book overview

thereafter. By any standard, this campaign failed. The failure of the campaign was at least a temporary victory for the reformers.

The failure of this campaign gave a new level of legitimization to reforms and therefore further delegitimized ideology. However, such a result, as the later Tiananmen incident proved, implied a political crisis for the CCP since the central pillar justifying party rule had been and would further be eroded.

The Tiananmen incident in 1989 made reassertion of control both urgent and necessary. The Chinese countryside has been the CCP's real power base. To make the Chinese countryside a secure haven was thus a new priority in the 1990s. The political and ideological necessity was evident to both conservatives and reformers. Relaxation of political and ideological control on the part of the Party in the countryside had been a fact since the reform in 1978. The Tiananmen incident alarmed many CCP leaders and made them think of a nightmare that nobody wanted, that is, the consequences when 73 percent of the Chinese population were set loose. If students could be "ignored" simply because of their mobility and the limited representativeness of the student population, the 73 percent of the Chinese population living in the countryside could by no means be ignored by any leadership in China. Any leadership that attempted to maintain the current structure and did not want to see the CCP out of power would have to face the problem of relegitimizing ideology (although it is not easy) and of strengthening ideological leadership, while the Socialist Ideology Education was a familiar approach to this problem. The new Socialist Ideology Education Movement, which was the third effort by the CCP and its most serious since the reform in 1978, was thus introduced in late 1990s against such a background.

In contrast to the Maoist antecedent in the 1960s, efforts by the Party to curb the "by-products" of economic development such as bourgeois liberalization throughout the 1980s were unable to change the priority of economic development on the CCP's development agenda in the 1980s. As in the 1960s, the liberal economic policies in the late 1970s and early 1980s resulted in greater production in rural areas; but unlike the situation in the 1960s, the scope of the Dengist reform has become broader and broader and the stride greater and greater after each such campaign.


NOTES
1.
Brantly Womack, ed., Contemporary Chinese Politics in Historical Perspective ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 2.

-68-

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