Are Taiwanese happy under Chinese rule


Prof. Dr. Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer

Prof. Dr. Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer

To person

Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer, born in 1948. Habilitation in Bonn (1979) for the subject Sinology with work on Buddhist historiography in China. Since 1993 director of the Herzog August Library Wolfenb├╝ttel and full professor at the University of G├Âttingen. Studies of Chinese Buddhism and other Chinese religions as well as the history and literature of China. Among other things, member of the Academy of Sciences and Literature Mainz. Research focus "Cultural Transformations". Currently chairman of the board of the German Association for Chinese Studies, Berlin. Most recently he published "A Little History of China", Munich 2008.

Political history of China

On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China. Decades of political change followed - from the "Hundred Flower Movement" to the "Great Leap" to the Cultural Revolution of 1966. The socialist modernization that followed also prepared the ground for an unprecedented economic and social awakening in China. Its dynamism continues to this day.

Mao Zedong the party leader of the CCP (in a dark suit) greets a group of officers in Beijing, the city that made Mao the capital of China, to the right of Mao General Chi Teh, summer 1949. (& copy AP)

The seizure of power by the Communist Party and its military associations in 1949 was preceded by decades of internal Chinese conflicts between individual political directions and factions, but also between China and other states. It also became clear to the Western powers that a new era had dawned for the political situation in East Asia and that they had to reckon with the independence of political actors.

In the final stages of World War II, China had become one of the most important theaters of war between Japan and the Allies. The Chinese armed forces, however, had long since lost their credibility with their own people. The economic conditions and the social misery were so catastrophic that even massive arms deliveries from America could not prevent the collapse of the Guomindang rule under General Chiang Kaishek. Considerations on the American side to give more support to the communist forces and to involve them in the fight against Japan were ultimately rejected. This favored radical socialist politics in the communist-controlled areas.

Proclamation of the People's Republic of China

The end of the war in Europe created new opportunities for power shifts in East Asia, where Russia marched into Manchuria with a large force to attack Japan in early August 1945. Despite agreements between the national government and the communists in the meantime and an understanding of the establishment of a democracy in China, the regaining of power by the national government failed, especially because it soon rejected the democratic principles and denied the provinces greater autonomy. The communists were therefore able to assert themselves more and more, not least because of their popular support, which had been strengthened by a successfully introduced land reform program; The American-backed retaliatory actions by the national government also drove them into the arms of other supporters. The carefully planned takeover of power and the proclamation of the People's Republic of China were staged by the communists by demonstrating troop entry into Beijing on October 1, 1949, while the national government withdrew to Taiwan.

The Communist Party (KP) with the Standing Committee of the Politburo at its head and the government with the State Council chaired by the Prime Minister now faced gigantic tasks - and initially showed a lucky hand. Mass organizations and associations worked broadly and held the country together. Above all, however, the achievements of the centralization of the military for the People's Liberation Army achieved in the 1920s were maintained and the cohesion of the country was ensured through administrative measures.

The foreign policy of the People's Republic of the Soviet Union was expressed in Mao Zedong's trip to Moscow on December 16, 1949, his first ever trip abroad. These relationships were strained from the start, but the young state focused on domestic politics and consolidating its power. The reintegration of Tibet and Taiwan remained the goal, which was achieved in part with the entry of the People's Liberation Army into Lhasa in 1951. The situation changed with the Korean War, which broke out in June 1950, but it was only after American troops marched into Pyongyang that China entered the war, which was to be very costly, especially for Koreans and Chinese, before it was ended with a ceasefire in 1953. The US military presence in the region, which has been maintained since then, also formed the framework for action with regard to territorial disputes. Except for a few border skirmishes with the Soviet Union and India as well as with Vietnam, the USA acted as a guarantor of peace in the region in the following decades.

Big Leap Policy

Domestically, the experiences of the Korean War led to a radicalization of the party, which has now grown to more than five million members, and its policies. This included mass campaigns and, with the preparation of a first five-year plan (1953-1957) in 1953, a planned economy based on the Soviet model. In the priority expansion of heavy industry, there was close cooperation with Soviet advisors. The "Hundred Flowers Movement" initiated by Mao Zedong in the spring of 1956, an expression of a dispute within the party, was given a new twist by the protests in Poland, Hungary and Tibet and in 1957 led to a brief phase of liberal diversity of opinion. When this threatened to escalate, Mao changed his position and there was an unprecedented persecution of more than 300,000 intellectuals who were branded as "deviants". Weak economic growth and hardly any increases in food production led to a new debate in the run-up to the second five-year plan, in which Mao Zedong finally prevailed with a policy aimed at mass mobilization, a "permanent revolution", which led to the "big leap". With a movement to establish "people's communes" in 1958, it was hoped in the following years to increase the income for the approximately 600 million inhabitants, four-fifths of them rural. However, dwindling grain yields and, at the same time, grain exports to the Soviet Union led to such a supply shortage, which led to at least 30 million starvation deaths between 1959 and 1962.

The withdrawal of Soviet advisors in 1960 meant a further weakening, which was intensified by ongoing internal party disputes. But by appointing his comrade-in-arms Lin Biao as defense minister, Mao managed to get the military behind him and secure his position with the help of an unprecedented personality cult that began in 1963. This rose in the summer of 1966 to the first climax of the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution", in which students and schoolchildren were mobilized against the establishment. There was destruction and violence across the country, schools and universities were closed, and millions of young people were asked to destroy old temples, buildings and works of art and thereby settle accounts with the authorities. Within the party, individuals such as the deputy chairman of the Central Committee of the CP Liu Shaoqi and the general secretary of the CP Deng Xiaoping were removed from their offices and publicly humiliated.

Despite the orientation towards Mao Zedong's slogans, the protests, which were largely fueled by dissatisfaction, initially combined with different demands and led to conflicts among individual groups in Shanghai, for example. The first attempts to moderate the formation of the Shanghai People's Commune were made in the spring of 1967, and in the summer of 1967 the so-called "Wuhan Incident" led to a major clash between radicals and the military. Efforts to return to orderly conditions out of the nationwide chaos led from the end of 1967 to 1969 to a series of campaigns which - using the terms "self-criticism" and "cleansing" - in particular the members of the CPC with at times cruel and degrading ones Subject to procedures. On the other hand, forces of moderation increasingly prevailed. Although Lin Biao was appointed Mao Zedong's designated successor in 1969, Mao has since sought to strengthen the party again. Lin Biao's conspiracy against Mao ended in late 1971 with a plane crash in which Lin Biao was killed.