Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic (Transformation of Modern China)

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9780029208700: Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic (Transformation of Modern China)

In this much-anticipated revision, Maurice Meisner again provides piercing insight and comprehensive coverage of China's fascinating and turbulent modern history. In addition to new information provided throughout this classic study, the new Part Six, "Deng Xiaoping and the Origins of Chinese Capitalism: 1976-1998," analyzes the country's uneasy relationships with democracy, socialism, and capitalism. Meisner incisively displays the contrasts between China's speech and actions regarding these subjects. Retaining the elegance, lucidity, fairness, insightfulness, and comprehensiveness he is known for, Meisner moves far beyond his previous work to paint a never-before-seen portrait of the political and social realities of China on the brink of the millennium, and the global implications of its rise to economic and political power.

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About the Author:

Maurice Meisner is the Harvey Goldberg Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Visiting Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics. His writings, which have been translated into Chinese, Korean, Japanese, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese, include Li Ta-chao and the Origins of Chinese Marxism; Marxism, Maoism and Utopianism; and many other works on modern Chinese history.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

From Chapter 25

The End of the Reign of Deng Xiaoping: China in the 1990s

In the weeks following the Beijing massacre of June 3-4, 1989, itwas widely predicted that economic stagnation would be the price China would have to pay for the brutal political acts of its leaders. It was a time when many Western commentators were celebrating the victories of Western capitalism and political liberalism over European Communism, some of the celebrants proclaiming that the triumph of the "free market" was the culmination of human progress and that it heralded "the end of history." This utopian celebration reinforced a long-standing belief that capitalism and liberal democracy went hand in hand. And from that assumption it followed that the Chinese Communist "hard-liners" who ordered the military suppression of the Democracy Movement would also terminate the market reforms that had stimulated the economic successes of the past decade. That Deng Xiaoping was at once the most prominent of the hard-liners in 1989 (indeed, he was called "the butcher of Beijing" at the time), and at the same time the most ardent promoter of Chinese capitalism was an apparent contradiction that was conveniently ignored.

Deng Xiaoping, for his part, saw no incongruity between capitalist economic methods and the Stalinist political system over which he presided. In his June 9th speech congratulating the soldiers who had crushed the Democracy Movement, or what he called "the counterrevolutionary rebellion," he vowed that the policies of market restructuring and the "open door" to the world capitalist market would not be abandoned; indeed, he suggested that they should be pursued at an even "faster pace?" This would not only strengthen the nation and the power of the Communist state but also raise the living standards of the people, thereby dulling memories of the "Beijing Spring," Deng reasoned. The interests of the nation, the Party, and popular welfare would be equally well served by speeding up capitalist development. Thus in a secret speech to top Communist officials delivered on June 28, 1989, Deng advised that the difficult question of fixing political responsibility for the traumatic events of the spring of 1989 be set aside for several years to enable Party leaders to fully devote, their efforts to promoting economic growth.

Nonetheless, the years following Tiananmen were a period of harsh political repression. Thousands of Party cadres in Beijing and elsewhere who had supported the Democracy Movement, or were suspected of having sympathized with its aims, were expelled from the Communist Party or demoted. Purges also struck intellectuals, who instantly lost the limited degree of free expression they had painstakingly gained during the 1980s. Newspapers and periodicals, some of which had acquired a small if precarious degree of autonomy, were again reduced to their customary status of official organs of Party and state. Witch-hunts seeking out religious and political heretics were intensified, and dissenters were often jailed, sometimes under brutal conditions that brought international protests.

Yet it was during this time of harsh political repression in the early 1990s that China made its most spectacular economic gains, which, it was soon revealed, gave the PRC the world's third largest economy (in terms of gross output) and raised the specter of a new superpower in the making.

In 1989, to be sure, China had suffered severe economic difficulties during the "bust" phase of a typically capitalist economic cycle, enduring a painful combination of inflation and recession. Inflation, rising to a rate of 30 percent per annum in the major cities, resulted from Premier Zhao Ziyang's expansionary market policies of 1987-88 -- and recession resulted from the austerity measures Zhao had been forced to adopt in late 1988 to control inflation. Both had contributed to economic hardship in the cities, which in turn had generated popular support for the student movement of 1989. Production declined and unemployment increased during the dreary last six months of the year and into early 1990. However, with inflationary pressures subsiding, the government's austerity policies were eased in the summer of 1990 and growth resumed. In 1991, China's GDP increased by 7.5 percent. And following Deng Xiaoping's "southern tour" of January 1992, China achieved extraordinarily high rates of growth over a sustained and crucial period in the mid-1990s.

The "Southern Tour"

At the beginning of 1992 Deng Xiaoping no longer occupied a formal position in China's political hierarchy. In the autumn of 1989, just a few months after the PLA's suppression of the Democracy Movement, he had surrendered the last of his official titles, the chairmanship of the Party's Military Affairs Commission. Yet even without holding any Party or state office Deng remained politically dominant, meeting informally with retired Party elders of his own generation to decide the most important affairs of state, decisions which the elders implemented through their proteges in the Party and stale bureaucracies. Deng's new protege was Jiang Zemin, the former Party chief of the Shanghai region, who succeeded the purged Zhao Ziyang as Party General Secretary in June 1989 and who faithfully carried out Deng's policies.

But it was mainly by virtue of his own prestige and personality -- and by the aura of mystery that had come to surround him and his movements -- that Deng remained China's "paramount leader" in the early 1990s. Armed with a mini-personality cult that his supporters had constructed, especially after 1989, Deng began to hover over the Party apparatus in Mao-like fashion, bypassing formal Party procedures and personally intervening from above to turn policy in the direction he favored. Deng's most dramatic Mao-like intervention was his remarkable "southern tour," which transformed the pace and nature of China's economic development.

On January 18, 1992, the 87-year-old Deng Xiaoping embarked on a five-week journey through southern China, visiting the cities of Canton (Guangzhon), Wuchang, and Shanghai as well as the special economic zones of Shenzhen and Zhuhai. At each stop along his highly publicized tour, Deng exhorted local officials to accelerate economic development and to "deepen" market-oriented restructuring, praising the capitalism of the Shenzhen economic zone and the freewheeling market policies of Guangdong province as models for national emulation. "Low-speed development is equal to stagnation or even regression," Deng warned, one of the many sometimes cryptic comments made during the course of his journey, comments that were almost immediately translated into official policy and practice -- in this case, the abandonment of the post: Tiananmen policy of limiting economic growth to 6 percent per annum to avoid inflation and social unrest.

Other pronouncements by the "paramount leader" encouraged a more rapid and thoroughgoing process of market reform. To those who feared that greater marketization would result in a fully capitalist China, Deng replied that the existence of the Communist state guaranteed that economic development by whatever means ultimately would have a socialist outcome. "Political power is in our hands," he reassured the critics.

But Deng sought not simply to assuage the skeptics but to remove their leaders from power and influence. To this end, during the course of his "southern tour," he proclaimed that the main danger confronting the Party was no longer the rightist heresy of "bourgeois liberalization," presumably the source of the "counterrevolutionary rebellion" of 1989, but rather once again "leftism," which was broadly defined as a lack of sufficient enthusiasm for capitalist restructuring and the more rapid pace of economic development that Deng favored. Thus was set the ideological stage for the final Party battle between the Deng faction and the "conservatives," who favored retaining a significant role for central economic planning and the state industrial sector. The main spokesman for the latter was Chen Yun, long Deng's most prominent and tenacious foe, whose ideological capitulation in the spring of 1992 marked the definitive victory of "Dengism" in the Chinese Communist Party.

In May 1992, the comments and speeches Deng made during, his "southern tour" were collected in "Central Document No. 4" in the form of concrete policy guidelines issued to Party and state officials throughout the land. There followed a swift movement toward a more fully capitalist economy amid frenetic economic growth. State enterprises were allowed a wide degree of autonomy to operate on both the domestic and international capitalist markets, including conducting foreign trade on their own. Moreover, inaugurating a complex and prolonged process of semiprivatization, a limited number of state enterprises were permitted to modify their ownership status by issuing stocks which could be purchased by individual investors as well as by institutions. Such stocks were sold on newly established exchanges in Shanghai and Shenzhen, both stops on Deng's tour, and later some of these became the much sought-after "red chips" on the Hong Kong stock exchange. In addition, more generous terms and additional "open" cities were offered to foreign banks and investors who wished to conduct business in China. And a massive effort was undertaken to make the city of Shanghai the largest trade and financial center in East Asia, one which, it was predicted, would eventually eclipse Hong Kong.

These measures, along with expansionist monetary policies, and the political sanction Deng's tour gave local officials and Party bureaucrats to increase investment and take financial risks (and to enrich themselves in the process), combined to set off an economic boom unprecedented in Chinese history and perhaps in world history. Starting from an already substantial economic base, China's GDP increased 12 percent in 1992, voiding the post-Tiananmen government decision to the effect that China's social and natural environment could accommodate no more than a 6 percent ...

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