The Sovietization Of China’s Economy – Part 5 of 5

The two models are irreconcilable, but it is the entire course taken by China that presents the traits of originality that will subsequently be glorified. The adoption of a Western model was a possibility in the years of the reconstruction. Nevertheless the imitation of the Soviet experience was revealed to be a tactical necessity, a mandatory, but not shared, transition. In the background lay evident two great Chinese connotations:  the ideological split from Moscow and the originality of China’s own experiment. The former – with the sourness of the political discourse – overshadowed the latter. The theoretical acrobatics at the end of the 1950’s could no longer contain the real issues of the fight against underdevelopment. The analytical categories – “left” and “right,” politicians and economists, revolutionaries and revisionists – reflected the Party struggle rather than the essence of the Chinese model. It was a difficult debate, filled with arrests, purges, and liquidations, but still it remained sterile, unable to dissolve the strategic knots. Was Mao Zedong a denial or a revival of Stalinism? Can Li Shaoqi be realistically compared to Khruschev? Were peasants ballast or a springboard for development? These questions were left to propaganda because they could never have an adequate answer. The solution was unclear, in gestation, and would only find confirmation in subsequent decades. The adoption of a specific model was immature but still presented itself in all of its dramatic effect. The solidity of typically Chinese manufacturing relationships resisted the most radical reforms. Backwardness did not liberate energy, favoring the permanence of conservative elements. The peasant presence – both in the population and in the Party – slowed social dynamism. Equality was sought more than growth, but it was holding back the rise of the nation. China therefore refuted foreign models and sought refuge internally, where the Great Wall rose to the defense of its ideology. Rather than give in to the Soviet empire or American threats, China decided on a self-sufficient direction for its experiments. Inexperienced and unable to manage economically complex situations, China soon found itself exposed to the great instability of the 1960’s. Enthusiasm for the Liberation, the will to build a new society, and mobilization as the binding agent of collectivity were still strong in the previous decade, and in one titanic effort China sought to erase a past of oppression, both internal and foreign. Soon the country would realize that this would not have been enough, that “courtyard foundries” produced poor quality steel, that poverty was the real enemy to defeat before wealth, and that China had a historic and cultural hinterland that was only damaged and certainly not eliminated by the revolution.