Archive for December, 2013

Deepening the Revolution

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

“They ate the earth”.  One of the most troubling lines for me from the documentary.

The GLF is devastating.  In the beginning as the communes came into being, quotas were put on each commune that were quite high, but promised the peasants if they made them they would be doing such extraordinary things for China and the Revolution that they not only exhausted themselves and their supplies but they lied.  If the quota was 100kg they would promise 120kg and claim they made it.  So the Government would say, “fine, you raised 120kg of produce, give us 100 and keep the rest for yourselves”.  The problem was there wasn’t a “rest” for themselves and they shipped away all their food.

Mao and others toured the countryside to see the incredible harvests for themselves.  They were greeted by visions like the picture below;

carefully orchestrated and in no way reflective of reality.  In one sad account in the film a farmer, newly introduced to petro-chemical fertilizer, digs a giant pit, pours in all the seeds he has, all the fertilizer he has…  and grows nothing.  They shipped away what they had.  They ate roots, and bark, and ultimately even the earth.  Death tolls range from 20 to, in the book at the top, 40 million persons.

In another tragedy of the day, steel production needs to be increased so the peasants are encouraged to build back yard steel furnaces;

as seen above.  The unfortunate reality, as shown and testified to in the the film, is that they take all their bed frames, pots and pans, and everything useful made of metal, and melt it down into useless pot-metal.  They didn’t have the sophistication to make real steel.  Apparently for sometime these furnaces could be seen lighting up the countryside for miles around, and they were literally melting their future away.

I’ll leave it to you to google the grissly images of the famine.  I couldn’t bring myself to reproduce one here.  Needless to say the GLF appears to have been the height of human suffering, and like some other famines, as in the Ukraine, or Ireland, a result of government policy, more than any natural circumstance.

The Sino-Soviet split has traces going back to the 1920s.   Here you simply get a fine tuning of the point near the center of the circle and the mysteries of the cultural revolutiopn and death of Lin Biao are explored further.

Happy New year!

Remember to get your Rough Drafts in at the end of the first week back!

Planning the New Society

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013


Figuring out who these two guys are (look at the guy’s smile on the right) would not help you go a long way into figuring out the significance of events here in Chapter 20, “Planning the New Society” but it will give you a chuckle.

Terms from the chapter are;

first five year plan        Tibet       John Foster Dulles

Vietminh                        Han Chinese                        PLA

100 Flowers movement

and there are more, like “Zhou Enlai” that I haven’t bothered to repeat.  stick to those seven terms, + repeats and you’re good for the quiz.

What is striking to me on the re-read of this chapter, is the extent to which China is swayed by international events that, I’m afraid, you haven’t read about yet.  Khrushchev’s speech in 1956 denouncing Stalin, and revolts in Poland and Hungary, also in 1956.  This all leads into what is often called the 100 flowers campaign, Mao’s desire to open up criticism from the intellectual community that remains in the PRC, much of which has its origins in the Nationalist party era or before.

You will have a question on your review that goes something like, “If we have criticism to our policies we are not afraid of them” or something like that from Mao.  Many students (unadvisedly) try to answer that entire question based up on the 100 flowers campaign.  Spence will come right out at the start of the next chapter and say the 100 flowers campaign was NOT a plot by Mao to reveal hidden rightists.  He honestly wanted some critics to stand up.  If that so, why did so many, like Ding Ling with her Stalin prize in hand, end up in permanent exile?


Birth of the PRC

Monday, December 16th, 2013


In 2009 they celecbrated the 60th birthday of the PRC.  Is it the same PRC it was in 1949?  Certainly not.  Just as you are not the same as when you were born.  However when you were born no doubt there were certain expectations of what you would be like.  You were likely to have brown eyes maybe, or a proclivity for dance.  Maybe you were expected to be very intelligent or athletic.

What were the expectations of the PRC at its birth?  How does it hold up now in 2012?  Is it what Mao would have expected?  Is it what the West would have expected?

The birth of the PRC. Several interesting things to note here.

1, yet another perspective on the Korean war. What’s different here?

2 – how does the PRC establish itself? How does land reform work? What of the three anti and five anti campaign? What about women’s rights. Why was this at all successful?

3 – a couple new people in your terms. Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai. Who are they and what are they up to?

Fall of the GMD

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Cruelties all around.  Neither the Nationalists nor the communists can claim in these pages to be great humanitarians.  In fact Prof Pickowicz at UCSD claims that the land reform struggles against the land lords that often resulted in murder, orgy like feasts, and then murderous redemption, almost lead to the collapse of the CCP.  Had the CCP not pulled back on the reins of the frustrated peasants in that time, then their support might have collapsed.

Bonus question.  What do the stars stand for?  Extra secret double bonus question.  How do you reconcile the answer to the first question with your understanding of Marxism?

Terms in this chapter that I count;

Guomindang                 CCP                Chiang Kai Shek

Mao Zedong                George Marshall           Lin Biao                       fabi

Deng Xiaoping       PRC                Liu Shaoqi                Zhou Enlai

So ask yourself, what did Lin Biao do here?  What about Deng Xiaoping and George Marshall?  Keep focused on the terms and their relation to the chapter and you’ll be fine.  Good luck!

WWII in China, according to Spence

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

How was “China’s War” our war?  You’ve been here before.  This is WWII.  How is that we have posters such as these seeking relief for the Chinese?

There was another one I couldn’t save that showed a portrait of a Chinese soldier saying “This man is your friend.  He fights for your freedom.”  So whats up with all these English language relief posters for China?

There is lots of great stuff in this chapter.  Your terms are, in this chapter;

Guomindang                 CCP                Marco Polo bridge                   Chiang Kai Shek

Long March*               Burma Road     united front

“New Fourth Army Incident”                Gen Joseph Stillwell                  “Hongkew”

Mao Zedong                    fabi

So, place each of them in context in the chapter, the fabi is the Chinese currency, part of their nationalism, that the Japanese seek to undermine.  The “united front” is the alliance of the nationalists and the communists against the Japanese which is effectively ended with the “New Fourth Army Incident.”

There are other things that you should catch just because of context or humor.  Remember that test question about American involvement prior to Dec 7?  There is good evidence in here for that.  What is it?  What was Stillwell’s nickname for Chiang?  Hysterical.

See you tomorrow.

Keep an eye on those terms.  They should make life easier here.  Questions, comments, confusions?


Test Day

Friday, December 6th, 2013

cause of cold war

I normally don’t post on test days but I found this neat, simple graphic.  Everything, even Nelson Mandela and Apartheid in South Africa, comes to be seen through the lens of the Cold War.  Much like today where nearly everything is seen through the “War on Terror”.  Have we always been so binary?  Before ’45 was it all about the Axis powers? Before that was it all about the Great Depression?  The North v the South?  The World is such an exceedingly complex place how can intelligent, thinking, rational people so easilly reduce that complexity to Good v Evil?

ambrose on korea

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

I love this image and caption.  Those “cheeky” Brits!  The image is, of course, Kim Il Sung’s son, Kim Jong-il, the leader of North Korea until his death in December 2011, but it nicely illustrates the isolation that N Korea has endured.

A&B portray the events in Korea a wee bit different than Dr K.  I don’t recall Kissinger painting Truman as needing this crisis in Asia in the same way that A&B insist on.

Also interesting for me here is this little voice going off in my head about the 1950s and “Leave it to Beaver”.  The economic vitality of 1950s America that we can all picture with 3BR 2 Ba houses spreading into suburbia, tailfins on Cadillacs and TVs selling us soap…  well A&B say it shouldn’t have happened.

If permanent containment was to come, and it did, than America would have a “permanent postponement of the social and economic promises of the New Deal”. (124)

So what’s up?  The economic promises of the New Deal, stability, low unemployment, rising GDP all happened.  Why?  We were spending all our money on defense.  How did everything go so “well”?

As you might have guessed I sort of think the answer is in the question.  We were spending all our money on defense.  If you like things that fly or go fast or are secret or all three read this;

one of my favorite books of the era.  The military industrial complex as it has come to be called includes Lockheed, Boeing, and our own General Atomics.  These domestic industries get fed billions of government dollars and those employees go and buy Cadillacs and TV and soap.  Its all connected.
“Why are things so bad today when we’re spending even more billions on defense? ”, you might ask.  I don’t know.  Ask Strebler.  I think though, that the economic doldrums of the 1970s and the post 2007 era, haven’t stopped the ever banking up of the GDP.  I frankly worry about the trillions in cuts known as the sequester, because those cuts mean cuts in contracts, cuts in jobs, and less people buying Cadillacs, TVs and Soap.  From an environmentalist standpoint I praise less consumption, but from the desire for a stable economy I’m concerned.
What about you?