Notes On China

Some thoughts on Cultural Revolution


The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known simply as the Cultural Revolution (Chinese: 文化大革命), was a social movement that took place in the People’s Republic of China from 1966 through to 1976. Set into motion by Mao Zedong, then Chairman of the Communist Party of China, it was designed to further cement socialism in the country by removing capitalist elements from Chinese society. Taken from Wikipedia, this view is quite prevalent in the western world. This dreadful portion of Chinese history could also be interpreted as a power struggle between Mao and his fraction, the infamous Gang of Four, and more moderate leadership headed by Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. But a third way of viewing this event is as the inevitable discharge of the growing dissatisfaction with the authorities because of growing exploitation of the working class. This might sound as a paradox to many - exploitation of the working class in Mao’s Communist China? In reality, even though the workers at that time were more or less privileged, at least in comparison to the peasants, there were enormous inequalities inside the working class itself. Not every worker had the benefits of permanent employment, which actually only existed in high-end manufacturing in bigger cities. In mining, textiles and other low-skill sectors, the Party retained an old and very exploitive contract-labour system using non-permanent workers and saving the state money by underpaying. The usual scenario was that the neighboring communes loaned out their work force to each other on a temporary basis and because this type of work force leaves after having done the work without asking for food or living quarters, it was possible to save the state a considerable amount of money. In Party-speak this was called “a higher type of social organization of labour” or what you in plain english would call exploitation. Every society, even as thoroughly authoritarian as China, the masses need some form of democracy from time to time. With no procedural democracy available, one other option is direct democracy. So that’s what happened! The increasing unease and dissatisfaction towards the authorities and especially the cadres, culminated in Cultural Revolution, where the working class vented all the pent up anger against their superiors (aka the cadres), that were labeled as “capitalist elements”. 

An important question arises - if the dissatisfaction was directed towards the authorities - how did Mao manage to escape the wrath of the proletariat? Well, Mao was not stupid. He managed to keep out the cultural revolution elements outside the  army and the tax base, a.k.a. villages. By doing this, he managed to contain the revolution and use it for his purposes. 

To become high level woman cadre in China, you must become Maggie Thatcher!

After reading numerous reports by various Chinese local authorities about promotion of gender equality among cadres in China, one name comes up over and over again - the dreaded iron lady of Britain, Maggie Thatcher! She is by far the most cited role model for Chinese women that according to many reports “lack quality to compete among the male counterparts” 

A good example:

For those who don’t read Chinese - Googletranslate it. You will manage to get the gist of it. 

Poverty line in China should rather be called Survival line

Excerpt from Southern Weekly (南方周末)

In China, people living below the poverty line are living in absolute poverty. International comparative studies show that China’s poverty line is among the lowest in the world. (…) Thus the poverty line in China should rather be called survival line. 

Since 1985, rural per capita net income increased by nearly 14 times the poverty line has increased only 5 times. The gap is widening

Source: National Bureau of Statistics

Translation of the op-ed on Ai Wei Wei in Chinese Global Times: The Law Will Not Bend For A Maverick

The so called “avant-garde” artist, Ai Weiwei, was taken by the Chinese police. Some countries in the West and human rights organizations promptly came out and demanded the immediate release of Ai Weiwei. They characterized this matter as deterioration of human rights in China. Ai Weiwei was proclaimed as Chinese human rights fighter 

In this situation were all the facts are not clear, criticizing Chinese judiciary system and assaulting China with sharp commentary is an indiscreet and hasty insult against the Chinese political framework and a total disregard of the sovereignity of Chinese judiciary system.  

In the recent years, Ai Weiwei was a very active “performance artist” and also often called “avant garde artist”. He is a maverick (independent mind in action). He opposes traditional art, likes to use shocking language and acts likewise. He also likes to live on the edge of the law, doing things that are improper and unclear for common people. 1.april he was traveling to Taiwan via Hong Kong. Reports claim that he had not completed some of the procedures. More specific details are not known.  

Ai Weiwei likes to go about things in his own way, frequently doing things ” that other people dare not to try” and he gathered around him a number of similiar people. He is well aware that he often operates far away from the red line of Chinese law and perhaps he likes this feeling. Frankly speaking, China has not much social experience of dealing with people like him, not to speak of the juridial precedents. But as long as Ai Weiwei will rush things forward in the same manner, he will definitely “touch the line” some day. 

Finding a rebellious figure like Ai Weiwei among 1.3 billion Chinese is a normal thing. In the art, you can emphasize numerous exceptions, but the law on other hand emphasizes restriction and control of unnormal behaviour. If there were no people like Ai Weiwei or if the law didn’t set the boundaries for their “surmount”, than this kind of China would not be real and could not exist. 

The West is ignoring the complexity of China’s judicial environment and also ignores the complexity of Ai Weiwei’s individual actions. When he was “taken away”, they used simple slogan-like sentences saying Human rights in China “are detereorating”. “Human Rights” became a bucket of paint for Western media and politicians. See it, wipe it - they have erased all of the subtle differences that exist in this world. 

"Human rights" a basic concept, has been transformed by the west to make it seem like China and its great economic strides are not compatible with social progress. This is a big joke. The so-called "Human rights problems" became a way to exert pressure on China. Chinese livelihood is still under development and number of public rights are increasing. People publishing their ideas on the Internet has become a common practice. One cannot deny this. Ai Weiwei’s personal misfortune, including other such mavericks’ misfortunes cannot simply be put on the same scale as the progress and development of human rights in China.  

Ai Weiwei was “taken away”. The specifics of the case will be clear soon. Overall, if Ai Weiwei opts for an attitude towards the law that is different from common people, the law will not compromise just because of the critical public opinion in the West. History will pass a judgement on the likes of Ai Wei Wei. Prior to this, in this particular circumstance of time, they will have to pay the price for choosing their own special ways. This is the same in every society. China, as whole, is progressing. No one has the right to adapt a nation to his personal likes and dislikes. This and respect for minority rights are completely different things. 

Original Chinese article:

Translation: From the blog of Mao Yushi

China is a country of 1.3 billion and therefore should be a country of many different thoughts. But the government authorities do not encourage different ideas even to the point of being against them. The result of this is a very unusual situation: the whole country has only one voice, one opinion. This phenomenon of policy-making is unfavorable and even dangerous. The errors in policies are hard to correct. These types of situations have in fact already occurred. Also in respect to foreign affairs, there is a lack of new thinking and flexibility. This is disproportionate with China’s “Great Power” identity. 

It must be said that, China is increasingly ruled by the elite class. In the ranks of the government you’ll find more and more people with high education but the situation is not going to change. This is because promotion to the official circles is dependent on loyalty to the authorities.  Different views may be perceived as the lack of loyalty. (…) To be honest, strong patriotism or sense of responsibility is absent because nobody is willing to take the risk of being viewed as disloyal to the motherland. But here I need to clarify that by patriotism I do not mean the narrow-minded nationalism form of it. We must mutually respect other peoples right to love their country and understand that patriotism is not something that will put obstacles in our way. Eliminating extreme patriotism gives foundation for the world peace. If our patriotism is based on not liking Americans, not liking Japanese, than we must start worrying about the world peace. 

Freedom of speech in China has greatly improved since the Mao era. In private, we can say anything we want, but than the same things can’t be said in public. We must not gloss over things and continue to fight for the freedom of speech. This is also stipulated by our constitution because it will be beneficial for the unity and stability of our society and government.  




Note on Bo Xilai

Quotes like: 

‘Happiness in people isn’t just about the scale of the economy, but is also related to the national environment, living conditions, safety and human relationships…(So) some cities, even though their economic development might be slower, could improve quickly if people feel ownership of them.’


‘Effectively improving people’s lives won’t be a drag on the economy, but will continuously push the economy forward in a sustainable way.’

make Bo Xilai a rather interesting figure in Chinese politics. A guy who was projected to have a peripheral position in the Party apparatus is now a leading contender for the Politburo’s Standing Committee for the 2012 leadership transition. Bo Xilai is the son of Bo Yibo, a Communist revolutionary elder, and his rise to fame came from his tenures as the Mayor of the coastal economic hub of Dalian and subsequently the Governor of Liaoning. The Chongqing party boss became something of a political rock star in China with his good looks (at least by Chinese standards),  and ease in front of camera. His political credo gained a massive boost with his ambitious mafia crackdown, also known as Chongqing gang trials. His political skills for handling economic issues didn’t go unnoticed either. In 2008, when China’s growth significantly slowed to only 9%, Chongqing’s GDP grew by 14.3%, 5.3 percentage point higher than the national level. This could be explained by Chongqing being less reliant on exports and more on domestic consumption and investment. This growth model came later to be known as the Chongqing model. But it must be said that Bo Xilai can’t take all credit for it. The Chongqing model was gradually developed under Bo’s predecessors such as Huang Zhendong and Wang Yang with significant contributions from government leaders such as Mayor Wang Hongju and Vice Mayor Huang Qifan. Bo Xilai is likely to reap the benefits of their labor and is better positioned for political advancement at the Eighteenth Party Congress in 2012. But many suspect Bo Xilai as a manipulator who seeks promotion for his own personal prestige and grandeur. According to the Wall Street Journal: ‘Bo…was asked bluntly by a Taiwanese reporter whether his ambitious mafia crackdown was aimed at getting him a seat on the Politburo’s standing committee. The normally charismatic Bo looked around speechlessly for a while before replying, “This isn’t an appropriate occasion for making a show.” Things like that doesn’t go unnoticed as he also risks a backlash from colleagues who also suspect Bo, in his quality of being a contender for the Politburo’s Standing Committee, of self-serving grandstanding. His launching of  ”Red Culture Campaign” to get people to get together and read, study and even sing about Mao Zedong’s work again, may be viewed as a manoeuvre to make him more acceptable for the conservative wing of the Communist Party.  

Nu-Mercantilism(sic): Chinese Intellectual Property Acquisition Tactics Exposed


"In an interview published in, Chinese rail engineers gave a detailed account of the history, motivation, and technologies behind the Chinese high-speed rail system. More interestingly, they blatantly revealed the strategies and tactics used in acquiring high-speed rail tech from foreign companies (Google translation of Chinese original). At the beginning, China developed its own high-speed rail system known as the Chinese Star, which achieved a test speed of 320km/h; but the system was not considered reliable or stable enough for operation. So China decided to import the technologies. The leaders instructed, ‘The goal of the project is to boost our economy, not theirs.’ A key strategy employed is divide-and-conquer: by dividing up the technologies of the system and importing multiple different technologies across different companies, it ensures no single country or company has total control. ‘What we do is to exchange market for technologies. The negotiation was led by the Ministry of Railway [against industry alliances of the exporting countries]. This uniform executive power gave China huge advantage in negotiations,’ said Wu Junrong, ‘If we don’t give in, they have no choice. They all want a piece of our huge high speed rail project.’ For example, [Chinese locomotive train] CRH2 is based on Japanese tech, CRH3 on German tech, and CRH5 on French tech, all retrofit for Chinese rail standards. Another strategy is buy-to-build. The first three trains were imported as a whole; the second three were assembled with imported parts; subsequent trains contain more and more Chinese made parts.”

My semester paper: The claim of uniqueness – exceptionalism in Wilhelmian Germany and post-Mao China

For the whole paper, send me an email request (found in the “about” section).

Here is the conclusion: 

In the beginning of the essay, I’ve asked my self a question – Is China an exceptional actor in the international system? Is China a country that differs qualitatively from other countries because of its unique origins, national credo, historical evolution and distinctive political and religious institutions? Or is this notion of exceptionalism just a bi-product of the strengthened nationalist consciousness caused by highly successful capitalist industrialization and socioeconomic modernization on one hand, and by surviving pre-Reform institutions, power-relations and culture on the other? I’ve tried to answer this question by comparing modern China to the Germany of the Wilhelmian era and their own sense of uniqueness, also dubbed as Sonderweg.  The way I did it was by first presenting the notion of Sonderweg, then describing the political atmosphere and public opinion of the time, later to do the same with China. What I found out was that there are several striking similarities: In both countries, media and influential figures and opinion makers played an important role in getting the public support. Both countries stood in front of enormous modernization projects with old cultural ballasts hanging by them and in both nations you have a powerful authoritarian state that have achieved a great deal and therefore gaining widespread acceptance and led to weakening of liberal-bourgeois virtues. So is Chinese culture so unique that it has to follow a certain Chinese path, or are they following a path that other countries have followed before? My inclination is to the latter. Of coarse this doesn’t mean that there is no Chinese culture, but in the sense of development in international system, there are few things indicating that China is so very different. This also doesn’t mean that China’s sense of exceptionalism will interpret itself into the path of conflict taken by Wilhelmian Germany. Whatever Chinese intentions are, it is doubtful that China will have the capability of challenging the international system in the near future. In addition, the Asian region has its own internal balance of powers. Chinese leaders will have to contend with the reactions of other countries as well as the constraints created by their own objectives of economic growth and the need for external markets and resources.