The Prospects for Communist China

By W. W. Rostow. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
THE REGIME AND THE PEOPLE: 1954

It is difficult to assess firmly the current attitude of the Chinese people toward the regime. Human motive and attitude are the most complex of subjects with which the social sciences pretend to deal. Human beings in themselves are so wonderfully complex that men can carry in their heads and hearts extraordinarily divergent and even conflicting reactions to the situation they confront at any moment.

We are acutely aware not only that the subject matter of this part of our essay is difficult but also that our information is limited and unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, we have a clear if rough picture of Chinese attitudes. We trust that its errors will be corrected in time and that its inadequacies will be made good. But we feel that the broad position at which we have arrived should be firmly set down, if only as an unambiguous target for later research. The purpose of this chapter is to put the position we hold in its widest context.

The top Chinese Communist leaders are now a unified, mature, determined, disciplined ruling group. From what we know of their early lives-and we know a good deal -- their original motivation was often good, both in their own eyes and by western standards, if one is prepared to accept the distinction between ends and means. They sought an effectively unified China capable of overcoming the economic and social consequences of its deepening agrarian poverty and taking its place in the twentieth-century world with dignity, a goal which they came to believe only a disciplined, militarily competent, purposeful, conspiratorial group could achieve. They committed themselves as young men to the pursuit of power, and have long since ceased to question their moral right to rule.

In Chiang Kai-shek they fought an opponent who shared their sense of private destiny and right to rule; for the top KMT leaders

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