Communist China 1955-1959: Policy Documents with Analysis

Communist China 1955-1959: Policy Documents with Analysis

Communist China 1955-1959: Policy Documents with Analysis

Communist China 1955-1959: Policy Documents with Analysis

Excerpt

The history of the Chinese Communist Party from 1955 through 1959 may be viewed in terms of the major issues of "socialist construction"--that is, of remaking China into a socialist country. Perhaps the most characteristic political device of the Chinese Communist Party (or of any Leninist party in power) is the singling out of opinions (or "deviations") which the Party regards as dangerous at a given historical point. It is by means of careful and continual redefinition of deviations that the Party line is arrived at. Not far below the surface of official propaganda and unity it is possible to detect the outlines of a considerable debate on major questions of internal Chinese policy. During certain periods this debate was carried on without any check except the assumption of good faith. At certain junctures, however, the Party felt it necessary to lay down the line. The documents selected in this volume are for the most part summations of Party wisdom at such junctures.

I. THE FIRST FIVE-YEAR PLAN

A documentary history of Communist China in the second half of the 1950's can find no more significant starting point than the lengthy report delivered to the National People's Congress in July 1955 by Li Fu-ch'un, Chairman of the State Planning Commission. His speech qualifies as Document 1 in this collection for two major reasons. First, it marks the end of a period of makeshift year- to-year economic planning and the final adoption of a fully detailed Five-Year Plan which, since it appeared more than two years after it was originally promised, really amounted to a two-and-one- half-year plan. And, second, Li's report contains in embryonic form many of the key issues of "socialist construction" which led to divisions within the Chinese Communist Party and caused it to adopt alternatively enthusiastic and cautious policies.

One of the most sensitive issues was the applicability to China of the experience of the Soviet Union in economic growth. The speech of Li Fu-ch'un contains suggestions that the Chinese People's Government wished or felt bound to cut away from the Soviet economic model, and to content itself with more modest standards of capital investment. The mechanical application of Soviet experience to China was a fault apparent in various fields, from overly grandiose buildings to anti-religious propaganda. The extent of blind imitation was to become apparent later when intellectuals aired their grievances in May and June 1957, but it was in 1955 that the Chinese authorities began seriously to discourage it.

At the same time, material considerations were probably forcing the Government to think out new and in some ways less ambitious economic plans. Bad harvests in 1953 and 1954 had reduced the amount of agricultural produce available for exports, and in consequence less equip. ment could be imported from the Soviet Union (the great majority of imports had to be paid for on a basis of current trade). By 1955 the limits of aid from the Soviet Union, even in favorable years, must have been apparent to the most optimistic of the Chinese leaders. By the end of 1959 at the latest the second Soviet loan (of 1954) would be exhausted; and in the meantime its annual instalments of $26 million did not cover the annual amounts due from 1954 onwards in repayment of the first Soviet loan (of 1950). Valuable an Soviet aid certainly was in terms of visiting experts, blueprints, and the like, it could certainly not he reckoned as a major factor in China's "socialist construction." The Chinese People's Government would therefore have to rely on its own resources for the implementation of the first Five-Year Plan, to be content with less than the highest standards of physical construction, and to insist on thrift and economy in the standard of popular consumption as well as in the factories.

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