Thursday, December 28, 2017

China’s Cover-Up

From Orville Schell, at Foreign Affairs, "When Communists Rewrite History":

The Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong’s “permanent revolution” destroyed tens of millions of lives. From the communist victory in 1949 in the Chinese Civil War, through the upheaval, famine, and bloodletting of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, until Mao’s death in 1976, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) set segments of Chinese society against one another in successive spasms of violent class warfare. As wave after wave of savagery swept China, millions were killed and millions more sent off to “reform through labor” and ruination.

Mao had expected this level of brutality. As he once declared: “A revolution is neither a dinner party, nor writing an essay, painting a picture, or doing embroidery. It cannot be so refined, so leisurely, gentle, temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”

Today, even experts on Chinese history find it difficult to keep track of all the lethal “mass movements” that shaped Mao’s revolution and which the party invariably extolled with various slogans. Mao launched campaigns to “exterminate landlords” after the Communists came to power in 1949; to “suppress counterrevolutionaries” in the early 1950s; to purge “rightists” in the late 1950s; to overthrow “capitalist roaders” during the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s; and to “rectify” young people’s thinking by shipping them off to China’s poorest rural areas during the Down to the Countryside Movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The ideological rhetoric obscured the extremism of these official actions, through which the party permitted the persecution and even the liquidation of myriad varieties of “counterrevolutionary elements.” One of Mao’s most notable sayings was “the party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the party.” Long after his death, his successors carried on in that tradition, most visibly during the Tiananmen Square massacre and the ensuing crackdown that the CCP carried out in response to peaceful protests in 1989, which led to untold numbers of dead and wounded.

Today, China is enjoying a period of relative stability. The party promotes a vision of a “harmonious society” instead of class struggle and extols comfortable prosperity over cathartic violence. Someone unfamiliar with the country might be forgiven for assuming that it had reckoned with its recent past and found a way to heal its wounds and move on.

Far from it. In fact, a visitor wandering the streets of any Chinese city today will find no plaques consecrating the sites of mass arrests, no statues dedicated to the victims of persecution, no monuments erected to honor those who perished after being designated “class enemies.” Despite all the anguish and death the CCP has caused, it has never issued any official admission of guilt, much less allowed any memorialization of its victims. And because any mea culpa would risk undermining the party’s legitimacy and its right to rule unilaterally, nothing of the sort is likely to occur so long as the CCP remains in power...