Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How significant was The Long March in the History of China in the Twentieth Century?

In October 1934 Mao and the main body of the Red Army fled from their Kiangsi Soviet base to escape capture and death by the KMT forces. The KMT had seen the communist party as a threat for a while, but Chiang Kai-Shek finally decided that they must be destroyed. The communists escaped in circling retreat to the north, which covered 8,000 km over a year. It was a difficult route that extended to some of the most dangerous terrain of western China and arrived to Shan Xi. Of the 100, 000 soldiers who had set out from Kiangsi in October 1934, only 5000 survived the march, but there was a communist victory. While costly, the Long March gave the CCP the isolation it needed, allowing its army to recuperate and rebuild in the north of China.

The Long March was fundamental in helping the CCP gain a massive positive reputation among the peasants, especially due to the determination and dedication of the surviving participants of the Long March. This is shown Mao’s policy for all soldiers to follow, which told not to do harm the peasants in any way, and paying for food rather than stealing it. This was an ideal that was probably responsible for winning them most of their followers. The Long March also began the partnership and bond between the Red Army and the peasants that was to play such an important part in the eventual triumph of Communists. The long-term effects are evident as China is still a communist country, but it was not just the Long March that secured this.

An event that had notable impact on China was The Cultural Revolution. This was in the mid 1960s, when, alarmed about the direction which China seemed to be taking, Mao put out posters celebrating his achievements and millions of copies of Mai’s Little Red Book were distributed free. Between 1966 and 1968, Mao encouraged Red Guards to take power from the CCP authorities to form revolutionary committees. In the violence that followed, many died and millions more were injured or imprisoned. Teenagers are the Red guards were feared, for they found a new power of attacking their tutors. This was just the sort of behaviour that Mao had warned against on the Long March.

Like the Long March, this was an attempt to make Communism the political party of China, and Mao wanted to destroy rank by telling the teenagers to attack all things bourgeois. But unlike the Long March, this may have hindered rather than helped. The Cultural Revolution plunged China into crisis, and short term effects include lot of blood shed needlessly, and generation of people losing their education. This was an event that caused doubt for communism, and some historians believe that it only arose because Mao was out of touch. In addition, with the death of Mao and the end of the Cultural Revolution, nearly three million party members had wrongfully been thrown out of their homes. It took Bold measures were taken in the late 1970s to confront these immediate problems, but the Cultural Revolution left a legacy that continued to trouble China. The Cultural Revolution had serious consequences for China as a whole, and did not win followers like the Long March had.

Another important event is the revolution of the Double 10th in 1911. This occurred before the Long March. Several unsuccessful attempts to overthrow the Empress Dowager had been made, but this one had worked, and ended the Qing dynasty. Under the her reign, peasants had suffered, landowners had taxed heavily on them and China was falling failure of the Boxer Rebellion that convinced many that they had to act. At this time, China was very behind, and the mandarins were educated on classics rather than current affairs, which meant they did not understand the harsh conditions that the peasants lived in. But finally, on October 10th, a group of Chinese soldiers rebelled and the Manchu governor and his commander fled, and a Chinese commander, Li Yuan-hung, was pressured into taking over the leadership. By early December all of the central, southern, and northwestern provinces had declared independence. This was a first for 4000 years, and a the rebellion opened doors for ideas about democracy.

After the rebellion, Nationalism in started China, and here, the leaders cared about the people in China, and the Republic of China had started. This is very important because under the Empress Cixi’s rule, China had been disintegrating. The Nationalist rule was of paramount importance as it was the official political party of China for a further 40 years, and it was the revolution of the Double 10th that made such a thing possible. Like the Long March, this was an example of how perseverance gained success – there had been previous rebellions that had failed, but this was the one that was successful. Without the 1911 Revolution, there could be no Long March, as political parties would still be non-existent. The Rebellion was also important in showing how revolts could be successful. Therefore the Double 10th had great Long Term effects, ending a monastery and with the intention improving quality of life for all people who lived in China.

However, after the rebellion, there was a short power struggle in which China was not bettered, and things must have proved unsettling for those living in China at the time. Yuan Shi-kai was made president for the sake of peace in China, but soon there were clear differences between how Sun Yatsen and he believed China should be run. He even betrayed KMT beliefs in democracy by trying to make himself the emperor. Japan took advantage of China’s unsteady state, and it fell to pieces under “21 Demands” that the Japanese forced upon them, and after Yuan’s death, warlords took control of China. This shows that the long-term causes of the Double 10th were better than its short term causes.

Another event that made an impact in the history of China were Deng’s economic reforms. After the death of Mao, he became president, with the intention of building better relations with capitalist countries. He tried to move China forward by creating alliances with foreign countries, which had introduced four modernisations – industry, agriculture, science & technology and the army. These modernisations made living standards much better for the people of China. By the 1980s radios, TVs and watches could all be obtained. This is something that Mao could never have brought about, as in his Cultural Revolution; he had banned anything that appeared western, even hair flowers. In this sense the economic reforms were very different from the Long March as it was not truly communism.

Deng’s economic reforms were very important because as a result, the people of China worked for rewards rather ideas, and so more work was done overall. Overall, Deng’s economic reforms introduced new concepts and items into China that the Long March never had. Deng tried to stay true to Mao's legacy in that he stressed the primacy of agricultural output. In this sense, communism was still being promoted, as in the Long March, but here, Deng believed in modernisation, too, as with the Revolution of the Double 10th. As a result, life got better for the people of China.

Although it was an act of bravery on the parts of all people involved, The Long March was not the most important event in the history of China. It depended on previous events – namely the Revolution of 1911, to have happened, and on later events, such as Deng’s economic reforms, to secure communism in China. However, it may have been the actions of the Red Army on the Long March that redeemed later wrongdoings by communism, namely Mao’s cultural reforms. Each action, however, did impact others. If Maoism hadn’t been detested so much due to the Cultural Revolution, Deng might not have been put in charge, and then he would not have been able to introduce his reforms. It is argued that all four of the events occurred in an attempt to make life better for the people of China, but whether or not that is true, it can only be seen now that things are.


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