BLAIR FRASER REPORTS FROM CHINA
I here are two schools of wishful thinking about Communist China.
One is the Formosa fantasy that China’s millions, captives of a Red tyranny, will rise and cast off their chains if Chiang Kai-shek makes a successful landing on the mainland. Nobody out here believes this except a few visiting U. S. senators and, perhaps, the Chinese exiles who hand it out, but it still appears to influence American foreign policy.
The other school, intellectually more respectable, thinks China can be won over to our side by the opposite treatment. If the West will recognize the Peking government and seat it in the United Nations, if normal trade is restored and normal intercourse resumed, if, in short, we give the Chinese any choice, they will forsake the Russians as the Yugoslavs did and come back to the free world. So runs the argument, and it is accepted by many people in Britain and more in India.
Here are his blunt views on four questions vital to the West:
Would the Chinese forsake communism for Chiang Kai-shek?
Given a chance, would they rise against their Red rulers?
Do they feel an urge to be independent of Russia?
Would recognizing Red China make her our friend?
His answer in each case is NO
Inside Red China, the transient visitor finds no evidence to support either of these comforting theories.
As he emerges at Hong Kong he meets China experts, both real and spurious, who remind him of what he knows too well already: that in this vast country a three-week tripper sees very
little, and the little is mostly chosen for him by official guides. If he talks to five Chinese farmers he has interviewed .000001 percent of the rural population—through a government interpreter. When he interviews workers they are speaking in the presence of the boss. The English-speaking Chinese is a marked man and knows it, and if he is not a Communist he has good reason to be cautious in talking to strangers.
There are two rejoinders to these home truths. One, the restrictions are much the same in other Communist countries but the reporter’s impressions are different. Not only in half-free Poland but in the Soviet Union too he gets a feeling that people are troubled, that the events of the past year have been a great shock. Not so in China. There the impression is one of selfconfidence, a national pride all the deeper for not being boastful, and a matter-of-course acceptance of the government even by the few who admit they don’t like it.
The second answer is that the Hong Kong experts are blindfold too. Their sources of information are the Chinese press (like all controlled media it can sometimes be very revealing), the refugees who still come out of China from time to time, and continued on page 81
B Blair Fraser reports from China
Continued from page 20 ___
“Chiang’s spy reports are useless. His officers will manufacture them to suit their own purpose”
the intelligence system operated by Chiang Kai-shek from Formosa.
Chiang’s intelligence reports are worthless, because his officers will distort and even manufacture information to suit their purposes. Not long ago a Canadian official paid a routine visit to Formosa. He did not talk to reporters, only to government spokesmen. Much of what he said in these private conversations, and several fantastic statements he had never uttered to anyone, appeared in the official press and were relayed back to Canada. These were stories that could be checked and denied. It is easy to imagine what the Kuomintang would do with “secret” information from its own sources.
As for the refugees, it is a historical fact that an emigre’s account of the country he has fled is oftener wrong than right, and should be accepted with reservations.
There are exceptions like Hungary, where two percent of the population ran away in a few weeks for reasons that need not be doubted. Chinese refugees in eight years total about six hundred thousand, one tenth of one percent of the people of China.
The press is the best source, and it does contain much information concealed from the visitor, for example, of food shortages that don’t appear in show-window areas like Peking and Shanghai. But news taken out of the context of daily life can be misleading. Westerners who live in China read the same papers as do the experts in Hong Kong, and their conclusions are less sanguine.
The truth is that none of us knows the truth about Red China. All anyone can do, in trying to choose among the Six Blind Men and their varying reports, is to pick the one most in harmony with
common sense and with the known facts about the beast they are trying to describe.
One known fact is that Chiang Kaishek’s government was a failure. The Chinese have not forgotten the nightmare of political and economic anarchy into which his rule dissolved.
“No one here has any loyalty to Chiang Kai-shek,” said a Roman Catholic priest in Shanghai. “People may oppose the present regime, some because they have lost money and some for reasons of faith. But their wish is to have the Communists out, not the Kuomintang back.”
Roman Catholics, who number half of one percent of all Chinese, seem to be the only people who oppose the government for reasons of principle, and even they are divided on the question. It may be instructive to recall that this is not the first time Roman Catholics have met the same dilemma with the same divergent reactions. In the time of Queen Elizabeth I, some Catholics felt their religion forbade them to accept a heretic sovereign, and obliged them instead to conspire on behalf of Mary Queen of Scots or even Philip of Spain. Other English Catholics thought they owed their secular loyalty to the Queen, and took ship to help destroy the Invincible Armada.
The rest of the opposition in Communist China appears to be the merely disgruntled—people who once owned factories or farms or shops, or who once had good jobs with foreign companies. Even when the disgruntled outnumber the gruntled (and there’s no reason to think they do in China) they are no great threat to a well-established government. The government of China is well established.
But many who agree that the Communists are securely in power believe they are not “real” Communists but Chinese patriots who, if we let them, will soon be alienated by the heavy-handed Russians. Mao Tse-tung will become a giant Tito, and swing to the Western or neutral camp.
Perhaps in time this dream will come true. At the moment, the evidence in China points the other way.
The Russians are not as tactless in China as they were in Eastern Europe. Many technical advisers from the Soviet Union are still there — some guess five thousand in Peking alone, where they occupy two hotels and a residential quarter—but they do not make themselves obtrusive. It is easy to recognize them on the street; nobody else wears the floppy, John Held Junior pants that are still the fashion for men in the USSR, and no other women would wear Soviet dresses in any decade. Yet, though they arc in fact the most numerous of the foreigners in Peking, the observer is hardly aware of it. East Germans, Poles and other Communist visitors are equally if not more prominent.
In factories built with Russian equipment and advice, Chinese are now in full control. Most of the Soviet technicians have gone home, and the few who remain keep in the background.
Not that the Chinese deny or minimize the help they have had from other Communist countries. Rather, they do all they can to stress it. In the machine shop of the new motor works at Changchun, Manchuria, they proudly pointed to machine tools from Russia and Czechoslovakia and East Germany. When we noticed three or four made in Rochester, N.Y., our hosts were as embarrassed as the American manufacturer would have been had he been there.
“We take the machinery the government issues,” they said. “We don’t know where they got those American machines.”
Of course they deny having suffered any loss at Russian hands. After the Red Army occupied Manchuria in 1945 the industrial plants there were stripped of everything movable, and all kinds of heavy equipment sent back to the Soviet Union as “war booty.” Today, Chinese guides tell visitors the Manchurian plants were looted by the Kuomintang. What the Kuomintang would have wanted with slag buckets and furnace chargers and overhead cranes, and how they would have carried such things if they had wanted them, is not explained.
There are still many propaganda posters in the Manchurian factories—a beaming Chinese worker in the foreground, a beaming Russian behind with a fatherly hand on his shoulder. They suggest that perhaps the co-operation between Chinese pupils and Russian experts required a lot of selling. A Western reporter who has visited China many times says that some Chinese engineers resented the loss of production caused by the shift to Soviet methods and organization.
But that phase is over. If it did not
cause open disaffection at the time, it is unlikely to do so now.
Now, China is a great power with an army that held the mighty United States to a scoreless draw in Korea. The army uses weapons and equipment that the Chinese cannot make for themselves. China’s status as the great power of Asia depends on the Soviet bloc, for nowhere else could these supplies be got.
No doubt the Chinese would rather be self-supporting, but they have no choice. The alternative, the discredited regime of Chiang Kai-shek, is even more dependent on foreign backing: a hundred and fifty million a year from the U. S. in economic aid alone, and vastly more in military aid. To many Chinese who are not Communist, dependence on the United States is worse than dependence on the Soviet Union.
Westerners forget, but conversations in China remind them, that the Chinese have other reasons than communism for friendliness toward Russia. Russia was the first, and for twenty years the only. European power to renounce the extraterritorial rights white men enjoyed under the “unequal treaties” imposed on a helpless China. Of other Western powers the U. S. was the least offensive, but the
U. S. now leads an alliance made up of the old imperialist nations. Thus all through the last years of the century of shame that began with the Opium War, the Russians were the only people to earn any exemption from the Chinese hatred of the foreigner.
And if all Chinese had this reason to look kindly upon the Soviet Union, the Chinese Communists had many more. For thirty years, ever since Chiang Kaishek turned against his Communist colleagues in 1927 and tried to exterminate them, their only friends in the whole world have been their fellow-Communists in the USSR.
More than twenty of those thirty years they have spent as actual rulers of Chinese territory, not mere theorists or underground revolutionaries. Since the Long March into the interior in the mid1930s, Mao Tse-tung and his men have been grappling with the practical problems of government. This pilot-plant experience they are now applying to the organization of all China.
Now that Stalin is dead Mao Tse-tung is the senior Communist leader in the whole world. China as a power may lag a generation behind the Soviet Union, but Mao as a man towers over Khrushchev and Bulganin. True, he was called a heretic when he based his Communist revolution on the peasantry, instead of on an industrial proletariat which did not then exist, but a successful heresy becomes a new orthodoxy. Mao is a heretic no longer.
Did Stalin make a mistake?
Among his own people, of course, he never was a heretic at all. Rather, he is a dedicated Marxist who has been so all his life. He has never been outside his own country except to the Soviet Union. There is absolutely nothing to indicate any deviation in his mind from the creed he has always lived by, or any breach between him and his men on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other.
On the contrary there is plenty to show they are standing firmly together. Before last October, Chinese spokesmen like Premier Chou En-lai were rather encouraging the new individualism among Communist countries, and the idea of “many roads to socialism.” Since the Hungarian rebellion this theme has been dropped.
Last December 29 the official press carried a fourteen - thousand - word editorial which laid Chinese policy on the line: solidarity in the socialist camp must come first.
There may have been some differences among socialist countries, but these were not fundamental as were the differences between socialist and capitalist countries. Stalin had made grievous mistakes; the Soviet leadership was not infallible. Nevertheless, the “core” of the international proletariat was still the Soviet Union, and the Chinese revolution “a continuation of the great October Revolution” in Russia. The motto, in short, was “rumps together, horns out.”
Mao Tse-tung, of course, is getting on in years. His lieutenants are the wellknown front man Chou En-lai and a shadowy figure named Liu Shao-chi, a grey eminence who keeps out of the public eye even in China and is almost unknown abroad. Liu is said to be a rigidly orthodox, doctrinaire Marxist; Chou Enlai a more flexible, practical, easy-going type. From time to time there are rumors of a “split” between these two on the issue of co-existence or co-operation with the West, or the related issue of obedience to Moscow.
Westerners who live in China say that
this is just another symptom of the wishful thinking that pollutes so many Western views of Red China. Men who know both Liu and Chou say they are rivals, indeed, but still comrades, and that either would serve under the other. In any case, they add, the doctrinaire Liu and not Chou En-lai is believed to be the real Number Two in China today.
One of the differences between Chinese and Russian Communists, and one of the greatest strengths of the Chinese, is that the Peking group has never had a really serious split while the Russians have had a seemingly interminable series of them from Trotsky to Beria. The Chinese have not been wholly exempt from trouble within the party: two years ago the party announced that Vice-Premier Kao Kang had been expelled and had "committed suicide,” and a few of his followers disappeared too. But the purge was apparently slight and the damage trivial. The men who matter in the Chinese Communist Party still give every appearance of being a band of brothers, and their deference to Mao merely the respect due an admired leader, not the servile worship that Stalin demanded of the men who hated and obeyed him.
Below the leaders, though, are the hundreds of thousands of educated Chinese, the intellectuals without whose support no revolution in China’s long history has ever lasted more than a few years. Can these men. bred in academic freedom, have been converted so quickly and -%o easily to communism?
Many old friends of China cannot believe it, and they may be right. This, even more than the other big questions, is one no outsider can answer. But the Chinese Communists, and the converts they introduce to visitors, make a rather persuasive case for the affirmative.
“Academic freedom?” said a chemistry professor, "in 1947 I sold all my books to buy food. My salary was the same as it is now, but inflation made it worthless. You don’t feel free in those circumstances.”
It was a reminder that in China capitalism never appeared at anything but its pitiless worst. Even today you can get an idea, right here in Hong Kong, of what China must once have been like.
Hong Kong is a beautiful city. It is a delight to travelers, and to those English gentlemen (local rank) who still contrive to make a fat soft living out of the China trade. To its two million Chinese residents it brings the solace of law and order, an honest civil service run by the British, and a currency that is both free and stable.
Beyond that they have little to be thankful for. Competition among Chinese in Hong Kong is cutthroat. You can get a suit hand-tailored, with three or more fittings. in thirty-six hours for thirty-six dollars, because the tailors give each other no quarter—the workers sleep in the shops, so they don't need to stop until bedtime and can start again before breakfast. Hong Kong has no modern docks because it is cheaper to lighter cargo ashore in sampans rowed by women. Hong Kong has no steam shovels because it is cheaper to have women carry the earth out of excavations in baskets on their heads. Often they are also carrying babies on their backs. This is capitalism, Chinese style.
On top of every evil it ever developed anywhere else, it had in Chinese eyes the additional vice of being alien. In actual fact most of China's industries by the mid-1930s were in Chinese hands, except for Japan’s development of Manchuria; but the Chinese did not believe it. They thought the benefits of capitalism all accrued to foreign exploiters, and that the
only Chinese who gained by it were toadies.
With all these special reasons for hating capitalism, the Chinese had also some reasons of their own to find communism an attractive alternative. The Marxist analysis is much more plausible when applied to the economy of China than to the postwar economies of the West. Marxism has many features in common with Confucianism; it too is a purely secular and materialist philosophy with a strict code of conduct in which loyalty to the state is the supreme duty and social order the supreme goal. Above all, communism seemed to bring intellectual coherence and a rational pattern back to Chinese whose inherited values had disintegrated, and who for a century had been hopelessly adrift.
I spent my last evening in Shanghai arguing with a middle-school history teacher about the Marxist theory of history. He was a man in his early thirties who, at university, had majored in political science; now he was teaching the Marxist-Leninist version of history with all the zeal of a missionary.
“According to you, history doesn’t follow any pattern at all,” he said. “If that were true, history would be a mess. What purpose would there be in studying it at all?”
I asked what would happen to a teacher who did agree with me, one who had been brought up in the pre-Communist school and had not been convinced that everything he used to think was wrong.
“We would have meetings with him. many discussions to prove to him that he was mistaken and bring him to a right point of view.”
But suppose he persisted? Suppose he never did come to think the new viewpoint right?
“We use only argument and persuasion. We would not coerce anyone. In this case the man’s own pupils might challenge him, say he was wrong.”
What would actually happen to him, then? Would he continue to teach history?
“Perhaps he would remain a teacher, but of some other subject.”
Did he know of a single case where this had happened?
“No, I do not. So far as I know, all the teachers have been convinced that the Marxist-Leninist view is correct.”
Previously I had asked a similar question of the chemistry professor. He had told me that even science students had to take three hours a week of MarxismLeninism; I asked what was done to teach professors the new philosophy.
“We have a two-hour seminar once a week where we discuss these matters.”
Was it compulsory?
“Not at all, quite voluntary. For example, if I were busy with a class or if I had some other engagement, I would not go to the meeting.”
But if he had no other engagement, just didn’t want to go?
The professor didn’t answer that one. Evidently it had not come up before; in practice, everybody either went to the weekly seminar or produced an explanation for his absence.
It is a fair inference that some teachers and professors feel a bit restive under all this militant persuasion, but the indications are that these dissidents are an aging minority. As the students become more and more firmly grounded in Marxist-Leninist doctrine, less and less tolerant of deviation or doubt, it will take more and more courage for a teacher to hold out against the established creed. Since there is no evidence that many of them are doing so now, there is no reason to expect that they will in future.
Meanwhile the Communists have been
equally vigorous, and seem to have been equally successful, in converting adults to their point of view. Unlike the Russian Bolsheviks of 1917-20, the Chinese have not had to massacre their intellectuals and then laboriously, over a whole generation, train up new ones. They have been able to convert some, and to intimidate others with little bloodshed, because they themselves have had a large, experienced, well-indoctrinated group to form the core or skeleton of a new civil service.
For a dozen years in the interior province of Shensi, and in a steadily expanding territory that finally came to include all China, the Communists learned the practical techniques of administration. As they took over new areas their officials were able to tell their new subordinates exactly what to do and how to do it. In contrast to the anarchy and corruption that preceded it, communism seemed to work.
No one, even in Peking, would suggest that all six hundred million Chinese have become Communists in eight years. They do suggest, and appearances bear them out, that there are enough Communists among the few millions or even hundreds of thousands of literate men who must, and do, operate any government of China.
Is our own Red revolt coining?
If the dogmas of Marxism are permanently imbedded in Chinese thinking this bodes ill for co-operation between China and the West. However much they may talk about peaceful co-existence, the true believers of Marxism must regard conflict as inevitable between the socialist and the capitalist camps.
According to them, we are not warmongering Fascist-imperialists out of mere perversity. We behave in this horrid way because we must — our economic system makes it inevitable. We could no more become peaceful than a tiger could turn vegetarian, until, of course, we go through our own Communist revolution which is equally inevitable.
A nation committed to that belief is not likely to change sides merely because it is recognized by the Western enemy.
1 don’t suggest that this is a valid argument against recognizing China. The new government of China is a fact of life, and the sooner we accept it, the better. But neither is there any point in trading one set of illusions for another. Whether we recognize her or whether we don t, China will not be friendly—not for a long time.
Unfriendly China is growing stronger. Almost certainly the twelve million overseas Chinese who live in southeast Asia and Indonesia and the Philippines, and who are still believed by Chiang Kaishek and some Americans to have uncommitted loyalties, will become admirers and supporters of the new China. Almost certainly this will make them a formidable fifth column, at least for a while, in the nations wherein they are a foreign body, if, indeed, they are not so already.
Of course all this means trouble for the free world. It means a continual succession of difficult decisions, probably followed by disappointing results. It means doubt, confusion, acrimonious debate. It means also a test of maturity.
The free nations of the West are the strongest, richest, technically most skillful the world has ever seen. China is among the most backward, and will be for years to come. If we cannot face her challenge without the anesthetic of illusion, and without falling into panic and hysteria, we don’t deserve to win the contest for the future. ★