China. The most interesting event of the year was the Communist Party Congress in November. It became guard duty without drama: the party’s 76-year-old general secretary Jiang Zemin handed over to 59-year-old Hu Jintao, once appointed “crown prince” by Deng Xiaoping. But Jiang retained power as chairman of China’s military commission, and six of nine members of the newly elected Permanent Committee of the Politburo are Jiang’s allies. One of them, Luo Gan, has led the hunt for Falun Gong followers.
In March 2003, the change of power will be completed. Then Hu Jintao also becomes president and then Prime Minister Zhu Rongji is replaced by his “disciple” Wen Jiabao.
Human rights were a problem for China even during this year. Amnesty International criticized the thousands of executions during the “Strike Hard” campaign against crimes, of which 46 were executed just before the party congress. A Falun Gong demonstration in February on Tiananmen Square resulted in the expulsion of 53 foreigners, including Swedes.
China’s 45 million Internet users also had a difficult time. China turned off the search engines Google ® and Alta Vista ® and raided Internet cafes.
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North Korean refugees seeking asylum at embassies in Beijing were met by relative tolerance. They were allowed after negotiations to travel to South Korea.
China softened against the United States; criticized the military deployment of Americans in Central Asia, but supported the war on terror. China welcomed the US stamp of the Xinjiang separatists as terrorists. The US security police opened an office in Beijing. President George W. Bush visited China in February and received Jiang Zemin in Texas in October. The mood was positive, but China refused to support the US war plans against Iraq.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Beijing in December. The parties agreed that a counterbalance to the US superpower was needed. During the year, an agreement was signed on Russian supply of oil to Daqing in northern China. In this oil town, tens of thousands of workers protested against poor compensation after being rationalized – one of many worker demonstrations.
Unemployment and corruption were described during the party congress as China’s biggest problem. Against corruption, power was taken before the congress: 780,000 party members were dotted.
During the congress, a major step was taken away from Marx’s principles in order to broaden the party. Zhang Ruimun became historic when he was elected as the first private entrepreneur in the party’s central committee.
Water from Chang Jiang was released for the first time in the disputed Three Ravines pond in November. Next year, the mastodont plant will start producing energy, but it is not ready until 2009.
According to Countryaah website, national day of China is every October 1. Economic growth was 8% during the year despite the Asian recession. Gradually, China adapted to the WTO requirements by lowering tariffs and phasing out state-owned enterprises. But the United States felt that China after one year of membership should have done more.
China is investing in increasing the Zhongchan – middle class, now about 20% of the population thanks to increased wealth. But the farmers, 70% of China’s nearly 1.3 billion residents, are still poor, which Prime Minister Zhu Rongji publicly lamented.
China, who emits the second most greenhouse gas in the world, wrote on the Kyoto Protocol against emissions. The environmental problems in the country continued to be large. Deserts, which make up 30% of the country’s area, grew. More than 100 cities suffered from severe water shortages. In the summer, flooding caused serious problems in many provinces, even in deserts. Over 700 people were killed.
The UN warned of disaster unless anti-AIDS measures were launched in China. In the autumn, China recognized for the first time the AIDS problem and commissioned one million students to run a campaign against the infection. One million are now HIV-infected according to official data.
China announced that taikonauts, Chinese spacecraft, are preparing for a manned spaceflight before 2005. An unmanned aerial vehicle, Shenzhou III, completed a successful spaceflight in March.
The soccer World Cup in South Korea and Japan fared worse. China’s debut in the World Cup was over without a single Chinese goal against Brazil, Turkey or Costa Rica.
1958-61 The big leap forward
In 1958, Mao launched an attempt to solve the Chinese development problems. It was known as: “The big leap forward” and had as a basic idea a decentralization of industrial development all the way to the villages and a stronger collectivization of agricultural production.
The organizational framework for the new policy was the People’s Municipality. The emergence of peoples municipalities was partly a spontaneous process, partly a process driven by the local and central party apparatus. Already in 1958, people’s municipalities were established all over the country – approx. 26 000. The main tribe in the people’s municipality was the work team, which consisted of 20-30 families. The work team made use of the land and worked out its own production and sales plan. Above the work team was the brigade who took care of major agricultural work, irrigation plants, canals and smaller industrial companies. The brigade consisted of 150-300 families.
At the top stood the municipal council, which took care of the larger administrative tasks, the larger industry and the larger schools and hospitals, and which coordinated the larger tasks with other public municipalities. In this way, production should be able to increase considerably, while at the same time increasing production should benefit the local community directly. During 1958, more than 7 million small industries grew in the villages. produced steel, coal, cement, fertilizers and consumables. For starters, expectations were rampant. China talked about overtaking England in industrial growth over 15 years and overtaking the United States a few years later.
It was going to go quite differently. The small local industries entailed a huge waste of resources while extracting labor from agriculture. When the harvest failed at the same time, the consequence was widespread famine. It is estimated that around 20 million Chinese lost their lives in the period 1959-61 before the big leap was finally shelved. The experiment thus became one of the biggest tragedies of the century, and one of the few disasters that has released the least information.
1961-65 Mao removed as head of state
Already during the 1959 Lushan Conference, Defense Minister Peng had directed a strong attack on the strategy behind the big leap forward. He called it petty-bourgeois fanaticism, and it was about replacing realism with miraculous faith. Peng was a supporter of making the army professional and of introducing modern weapons. Peng was therefore purged.
But in 1962, Mao had to make self-criticism for his disastrous leadership of the country’s economic policy. He was replaced by Liu Shaoqi as head of state, but continued to lead the party and had the backing of the People’s Liberation Army.
During the same period, relations with the Soviet were deteriorating. Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev had already unveiled the crimes in the Soviet Union under Stalin in 1956, and had begun the cleanup after Stalin’s 30 years in power. But the Chinese did not need any showdown with Stalin. The ideological and political conflict between the two countries continued to grow until the final rupture in 1963, when the last Soviet advisers left China and Soviet assistance ceased.
Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping was now given the main responsibility for implementing a political stabilization policy in China. Professional expertise came to the fore again. The central administration gained greater control over the development. The education system again aimed to provide purely professional education. The bureaucracy increased its influence – also at the local level. The material stimuli were reintroduced. The private plots that had been abolished during the big leap were reintroduced together with private markets for agricultural products. Agriculture was given priority over the first five-year plan and greater emphasis was placed on scientific methods to increase agricultural production. In addition, emphasis was placed on limiting population growth. The new political line brought economic growth back on track.