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The New Emperors, Mao & Deng, A Dual Biography.

This is the story of one dead Chinese 'Emperor', Mao, and one who is still managing the country, Deng, as he demonstrated at the October Communist Party Conference. Deng, 88, an old comrade and rival of Mao, who launched his own Revolution, that of introducing a 'Socialist Market Economy' by explaining that 'Communism is not Poverty' some years ago, may be gone any moment -- a nearly blind and paralyzed Mao took months to 'pass on to Marx', and only then will one see what survives of that second Revolution. An assessment of what may happen is vital for the West, especially for Britain, now on a collision course with Peking over Hong Kong. Again, post-Maoist China is now beginning to seek to rival Japan as the major power of the Far East.

Harrison Salisbury's book has therefore come at the right time. He is a veteran newsman with 30 years of dealing with China and he travelled 7,200 miles in that country whilst researching. His book is attractively organized in lively local reports and interviews with people, high and low. We can learn a lot because he never misses the human factor. The 1,200 million Chinese have only 100 surnames, always the first mentioned, and there are millions of Maos. In the village where Mao, the 'Emperor' was born, everyone is called Mao. He never carried money and, of course, moved into an Imperial Palace at Peking where he kept a pornographic library of over a thousand.

While Mao came from a poor peasant family, the first to be educated, Deng's family were village notables. He went to Paris as a youngster and had a straight, simple family life while Mao had many relations and his last notorious wife, Jiang, was all the time engaged in political struggle and had to face the courts after Mao's death. We learn a lot about the savage and cruel infighting in the leadership around Mao. Once the comradeship of the famous 'Long March' was broken, Mao never hesitated in arranging the killing or jailing of Old Comrades and their families. This is given in arresting detail, like a mix between a thriller and a Shakespeare drama. Harrison Salisbury proves dramatically that Mao and Stalin were enemies. Stalin, for instance, promised Mao, whose only foreign visits were two short trips to Moscow -- by train -- to come to his aid in the Korean war, and didn't. They suspected each other of planning an attack. Hence the great success of the Nixon-Kissinger visit to the dying Mao.

Mao emerges as a charismatic leader who produced his own mixture of Marxism and Imperial tradition. He unleashed the 'Cultural Revolution' of 1958 to purge the Communist Party and the country from anyone who was suspected of thinking, from possible rivals. Millions were killed or humiliated by the 'Revolutionary Guards' in pogrom-like actions. 'Old Thoughts', 'Culture' 'Customs' were to be eliminated. It did not work, of course, and the vicious struggle for Mao's succession started going on until his death in 1976. In this complex and vicious struggle, Deng, who had been a competent commander in the long civil war that brought the Communists to power, progressed step by tricky step with the support of the generals, Mao sending him to work as a village labourer and later accepting him back in key posts. This is given in detail and is so important because it shows what is likely to happen when Deng is gone.

As a consequence of that Cultural Revolution the two main political groups within the Party emerged gradually, the 'Reformers' led by Deng and the 'Traditionalists' led by several veterans. But the book suggests that the Reformers are also committed to the permanent rule of the Communist Establishment. It also emerges that Deng, over the years, promoted radical but discreet changes in the Central Command System of Stalinist economies. Gradually land was returned to the peasants, still 70 per cent of the population, and provinces and town were encouraged to work on their own. Salisbury, for instance, mentions a self-governing giant oil corporation that controls a vast area, thousands of square miles. One has to remember, of course, that the Maoist regime was the first to make a real effort to control the whole vast country from Peking, as the cruel suppression of the Tibetans has shown.

To regard Deng as some kind of 'Liberal' is wrong. Salisbury's account of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989 shows it. He gave the order. Salisbury suggests convincingly that Deng feared that the Tiananmen meetings would lead to another Cultural Revolution which would, however, this time, sweep away the Communist Party regime. TV, radio, telephones, studies abroad by Chinese students, that is technical development, had changed the social situation. Millions of Dengs and Maos had sent their children to school for the first time. Due to him, in 1991 only 53 per cent of industrial output is listed for state-owned enterprises, 36 per cent go to self-governing collectives and 11 per cent to private business.

In the new seven-member Standing Committee of the Politburo, the leading role is that of Zhu Rong-ji, former Mayor of Shanghai, promoted by Deng. He, as forecast by Salisbury, is to promote those Socialist Market reforms Deng first mentioned some years ago. He will be the new man in charge.

A new factor emerges from Salisbury's book. The Chinese leadership is determined to ensure Communist Establishment control by adopting a manipulated capitalist system, dropping central planning, but retaining with ruthless vigour that Central Command Political control. The Russians are not that far yet. It means too that China is now on the road to super-power status. Hong Kong will be treated like any other Chinese province, never mind the treaty with Britain. For those interested in the Far East this book is a must.
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Author:Muray, Leo
Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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