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June 4, 1989, stands as a stark watershed in China's modern history. The slaughter of unarmed civilians by units of the Peoples Liberation Army as they blasted their way to Tiananmen Square illuminated the "reform" era as nothing else could. It lit up, like a bolt of cosmic lightning, the reactionary essence of China's current leading group.

This essence was known to many in China and to some abroad long before the lightning struck in June 1989, but most members of the Western media and academic world were too mesmerized by China's reform rhetoric and market progress to apprehend the reality of the events unfolding before their eyes. Since privatization matched their prejudices and a consumption boom confirmed its validity, they preferred not to look too closely at the underlying currents of economic dislocation, infrastructural decay, environmental degradation, social disintegration, cultural malaise, and rising class antagonisms that threatened to unravel the fabric of Chinese society.

Mao Zedong was far more astute. More than twenty years ago during the Cultural Revolution, he exposed Deng Xiaoping, Yang Shangkun, and most of their "hard line" colleagues as capitalist roaders. He accurately predicted that if such persons ever came to power they would transform the Communist Party into a revisionist party and finally into a fascist party and then the whole of China would change color.

The surprising thing is not how accurate Mao's prediction turned out to be, but rather how quickly it materialized in history. The Third


Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee, dominated by Deng, set out to "reform" China only eleven years ago. Big changes, such as family contracts for farmers and the exploitation of wage labor by private entrepreneurs, large and small, surfaced in a major way only five years ago. Yet in this short span unforeseen afflictions have so alienated the Chinese people, especially the urban dwellers most favored by reform, that in May and June 1989 they filled the streets with protesters from one end of China to the other.

Deng responded with guns and tanks that churned up the pavement of Changan Avenue, leaving thousands of dead and wounded in their wake. The moral bankruptcy of this ferocious military repression coupled with a revengeful nationwide hunt for culprits demonstrated to all who cared to see what the color of the reform really was and had been all along.

Make no mistake. The leaders in Beijing are not motivated by communist ideals; they are not revolutionary planners or socialist builders. They are newly constituted bureaucratic capitalists, busy carving the economy into gigantic family fiefs, ready, in true comprador style, to sell China out to the highest bidder. Their armed assault on the square was not an aberration but rather the culmination of a process that began when they first assumed leading posts after the death of Mao. They set out then to dismantle whatever socialist institutions, culture, customs, and habits the Chinese people had so painstakingly built up in the course of postliberation reconstruction. In doing so they put in motion a chain of events that led inexorably to confrontation with the whole Chinese people.

How, in so short a span of time, did Deng go from the status of admired hero, defiant yet irrepressible victim of the hated gang of four, to that of corrupt autocrat and bloodstained oppressor?

Part of the answer may be found in the reforms currently sweeping China. These essays chronicle and analyze the course of those reforms since the beginning, with the break-up of cooperative farming in the countryside. The collection makes a strong case for doubting the viability of any capitalist road strategy for China and asks whether China's reform leaders, having chosen just such a road, do not already show signs of degenerating into a group of bureaucratic capitalists similar to the Chiang Kaishek clique -- the four-family junta that dominated China both politically and economically prior to liberation.

The events of June 3 and 4 point toward a conclusion that Deng and his colleagues have matured into just such a group. They used reform, particularly the openings provided by privatization and free-market trading, to parlay bureaucratic power into economic dominance at home, leading to comprador-type profit-sharing partnerships with multinationals abroad. This helps explain why, when faced with student demands for dialogue, for free speech, for truthful reporting, and for exposure of high cadres' personal assets Deng firmly rejected any and all concessions. At Tiananmen, it was not the future of the revolution that was at stake, it was the credibility of the dominant clique, its very mandate to rule. Any breach in the wall of secrecy surrounding wheeling and dealing by high cadres spelled "red alert" to Deng and his new emerging gang of four.

"It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, just so long as it can catch mice," Deng said in the early 1960s. This phrase, more than any other, made him famous. By the 1980s many people, observing the great man's social practice, came up with a phrase more apt: "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, it doesn't even matter whether the cat can catch mice. What matters is that the cat not get caught."

With the students and the people of China hot on the track of the cat, the hunter became the hunted. Disdainful of consequences, he struck back.

Introduction: China's Rural Reforms

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Created by keza
Last modified 2005-07-17 01:46 AM

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