Courtesy Reuters

Mao's China: The Decline of a Dynasty

For a long time it was thought that the way the People's Republic of China was being governed opened a new chapter in Chinese history. Some scholars argued that the communist system in China was a continuation of Confucianism, but a closer look disclosed little resemblance. The country was subject to spasmodic, repetitious political campaigns; the national economy constantly went through major reshuffles-land reform, socialization, communization, the retreat from communization and the Great Leap Forward. Traditional Chinese values were repudiated or ignored. Even the old Chinese concern for "face" seemed to be disregarded. Everybody was expected to expose in public meetings the evil words and evil deeds of friends and colleagues, of parents and brothers. The traditional Chinese family was severely disrupted, though, as the old Chinese proverb says, it is useless to attack a city if the hearts are not won over. The hearts were not won over, but for a long time it appeared that the régime was solidly established and enjoying general support, if not from love, then from fear.

The People's Republic was not a police state in the ordinary sense of the word. It was the superlative perfection of a police state in which everyone was a spy on everyone else. When two years ago at a students' meeting in Chungshan University in Canton a student was accused by another student of having said privately that Mao Tse-tung was an ordinary human being, he became, as is usual in such cases, the target of vituperation at prolonged "accusation meetings." In the end he was dismissed from the school as unworthy to be a university student.

If you lived in a Chinese city, let us say Canton, and subscribed to the newspaper of Shanghai, then the leader of your youth corps branch, or the chairman of your section of the trade union, or the party secretary of your factory, or the head of your street organization, or an official from the local police station might come

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