I used to be confused by many names in the history of China; Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Chiang Kai-shek, Dr. Sun Yat-sen…and many more.
I realized that to understand the big picture of China’s economic transformation, it is better to start at drawing the timeline in my head. Using the timeline, you will be able to see the historical contexts of why China have risen today.
No worry, we are not talking about Imperial China back in the 9th century when everyone was wearing long silky gown. We are talking briefly about modern history of China in the 20th century.
China used to be ruled under the empire system. You might have heard names like Tang, Han, Ming or Qing dynasty. The last dynasty in China was Qing dynasty. And the last emperor was Puyi, who was chosen to be the emperor when he was two years old. Try searching his name on youtube, you will get a lot of good dramas developed from his story.
The dynasty collapse in 1911 from many reasons. China under Qing were fighting with Western countries and Japanese who seek to expand their colonization. They lose in the Opium War to the British and French and were forced to sign unequal treaty of Nanking which forced them to open the country and gave privileges to the foreigners. Not long after that they suffered from Japanese invasion in 1930.
Inside the country, the dynasty was facing rebellion after rebellion as well as natural disaster. Famines and plagues also killed a substantial number of Chinese population. Finally, from the weaknesses inside and attacks from outside, the Chinese empire system was overthrown by a group of well-educated Chinese led by Dr.Sun Yat-sen in 1911.
China after 1911 is called “the Republic of China” and the first president in 1912 was of course Dr.Sun Yat-sen. After Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the Republic of China had several presidents. The last one was Chiang Kai-shek (sound familiar?). At the end of his presidency, he was fighting with the communist party which was getting more supports from Chinese farmers. Finally Chiang lose and escaped to Taiwan. Now his ideology is still with Taiwan.
You might have got a T-shirt from your friend who just got back from a trip in Asia. And that T-shirt has a picture of a Chinese guy with a green hat and a red star on.
There is high possibility that you are wearing Mao Zedong T-shirt.
Mao Zedong was called the founding father of “the People’s Republic of China”.He was the first Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China since it won in the civil war over Chiang Kai-shek. If you want to talk about communist system in China, he was the one who was fighting for it until his death.
You can see that Chinese people had suffered so long from the foreigners. Fighting with Westerns and neighbor stimulated a strong nationalism among Chinese people. The Western people introduced capitalism and they were the one who invaded China. Chinese people therefore tied imperialism to the capitalism in their head. And they hated it. Whatever against capitalism might sound like a good idea for them during that period.
When Mao introduced the Lenninism which developed from Marxism, his idea therefore got supported easily from Chinese people, especially peasants. Mao knew when was the right time for revolution and who to target. It was claimed that one million people came out and celebrate after Mao’s victory declaration. Mao Zedong became the first Chairman of the People’s Republic of China.
Now let’s do the timeline;
Last emperor of China (Puyi) –> Dr.Sun Yat-sen –> Chiang Kai-shek –> Mao Zedong
However, over twenty nine year of socialist system, Maoist ideology has become less and less popular. Why did Maoist ideology become less popular overtime?
If you have only one group of people trying to control and govern 3.7 million square miles (the world’s second largest by land area) with 1.3 billion population, I think it must be a really difficult work.
What did Mao do during 1949-1978? What were the problems of the central planned economic system in China? How did China handle those problems?
Please come back next week!