EDITORIAL: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Mao's long shadow over China
, October 17, 2009
The 60th anniversary of Mao Zedong's conquest of China, when the Chinese Communist Party captured Beijing and cemented its control over the nation with the world's largest population, affords an occasion to reflect on the significance of this event, and what it portends for China and the world.
Given China's increasing economic power and its growing prominence in the world, the celebrations could have been a celebration of China's coming-of-age as a global power and an opportunity to project an image of China as a peace-loving people's republic.
In fact, it featured China's military might and a spectacular fireworks display by the same person who choreographed the corresponding event at the Beijing Olympics just a year ago. The Chinese people, who might have been expected to celebrate the event, were excluded - having been told to stay home and watch the event on television.
Sixty thousand hand-picked guests watched 180,000 troops of the People's Liberation Army parade through Tiananmen Square, where 20 years ago hundreds of pro-democracy students were brutally killed in a military crackdown.
Thousands of extra police were on duty in Beijing; all residents whose houses adjoin the parade route were instructed to stay indoors, to keep their windows closed and not to go out on their balconies. Paranoia
Before the 60th anniversary celebrations began, the arrests of Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, human rights activists and anyone else who was deemed to be a threat betrayed the paranoia of a regime built on the premise that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun", as Chairman Mao Zedong said to his communist colleagues in his work, Problems of War and Strategy
Despite the economic improvements of the past 30 years, China's history over the past 60 years has been saturated in blood.
Millions died during the civil war that engulfed China from the 1920s to 1949, and the massacres of the Japanese occupation were followed by retribution against the defeated Nationalists after 1949.
After Mao consolidated power, he provoked the Korean War, assisted the Viet Minh and later the Viet Cong and the Khmer Rouge in Indo-China, supported the Malayan Communist Party's 20-year insurgency, and sponsored the formation of communist parties in many countries, including Australia.
Inside China, Mao's rule was characterised by unrelenting political struggles, first against his enemies and then against his co-revolutionaries.
An estimated 20-40 million people starved to death during the "Great Leap Forward" of the late 1950s, and millions more died during the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" which Mao launched in 1966. Mao's reign of terror ended only when he died in 1976.
While the breathtaking scale of Mao's savagery has not been emulated by his successors, they have been forged on the same anvil.
Pro-democracy student demonstrators in Beijing were massacred in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and a decade later, a brutal campaign of suppression was launched against Falun Gong, a meditational practice which preaches the virtues of truth, forbearance and compassion.
Hundreds of thousands were imprisoned, and an unknown number - at least in the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands - were murdered and their internal organs harvested so that they could be sold to wealthy foreigners.
The Beijing regime today is the principal supporter of such tyrannical regimes as Robert Mugabe's in Zimbabwe, Kim Jong-il in North Korea, the Islamist fanatics in Sudan, and the military junta in Burma.
Even the impressive economic achievements of the past 30 years, begun by Mao's successor Deng Xiaoping in 1978, have been built on the forced labour of hundreds of millions of Chinese people, and have made the Communist Party elite extremely rich.
China's economic growth reflects the extraordinary work ethic of the Chinese people, rather than the ideology of the regime. On a per capita basis, it still falls far behind Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, all of which have built prosperous societies which respect the rule of law on the foundations of traditional Chinese culture.
It is vitally important for the future of the world that China should emerge from the shadows of totalitarianism, and here the lessons of the collapse of the Soviet Union are instructive.
Ultimately, the Soviet empire disintegrated under its own internal contradictions, because there were heroic figures such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Lech Walesa, Andrei Sakharov, Vaclav Havel and many others who defended truth and endured persecution to free people from the bondage of Marxism-Leninism.
There are many men and women in China today who have taken a similar stand on principle against the regime. It is our duty to stand alongside them, to support them, and to help them effect the peaceful transformation of China. Peter Westmore is the national president of the National Civic Council.