By Regina Maria D’Aquino Fonseca Gadelha, January 2017, São Paulo, Brazil.
I had just over 17 years old when a novel marked my existence:
La Condition Humaine (Man’s Fate) by André Malraux. Written in 1928, the book received the largest and most coveted Literature Prize of France, the Goncourt Prize of 1933. The thought came to my memory when hearing, on 19 October, 2016, the lecture given by Durval de Noronha Goyos Junior for students, professors and researchers of the Centre for Analysis of the International Environment of the Economics Post-Graduation Programme at PUC – SP and receiving from the author’s hands the original text of his new book, “Introduction to
Cultural Revolution in the People’s Republic of China.”
Almost a spontaneous parallelism, I remember the great book of André Malraux that evokes a China defeated by the English, invaded
by foreigners and humiliated since 1842 with its territory occupied by adventurers of the major Western imperialist powers that, together,
plundered and despised its people. Evoking the march of Chiang Kai-Shek on Shanghai ahead of the Army of the nationalist Kuomintang
(Nationalist Party of China) in 1927, Malraux recounts the betrayal of this leader by crushing the uprising of the communists and rail workers
of Shanghai who, helped by the Soviets, prepared the ground for his triumph in that city. The book is eloquent testimony of the human
condition in which ideals and will of personal power are confused and speak louder, unmasking the men, reality and fiction mixing in the
denunciation of narrative of the clear and succinct language of the great French writer.
In a romanticised way, Malraux touches deep problem by evoking reflections on the sacrifice and the meaning of life, to show how Chiang Kai – Shek, on 12 April 1927, co-opted by the Western imperialists, allowed the murder, of thousands of communist and labour leaders thrown alive in hot oil furnaces of trains, leading to the failure of the communists nationalist revolution. All under the impassive and neutral look of the USSR government. Having taken control of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party of China) in the end of 1927, Chiang Kai-Shek finally, in 1928, became the head of the new nationalist government installed in Nanjing, being proclaimed the “Big General” of all Chinese nationalist armed forces.
I remind this novel to talk about the new book that we are now presented with by Durval de Noronha Goyos Junior, mapping a vast overview of China, since the nineteenth century to the end of the Cultural Revolution led by Mao Tse Tung in 1966, in the People’s Republic of China. This successful lawyer in the international business world is, nevertheless, also a thoughtful writer, author of extensive work on international trade treaties (GATT, Mercosur & Nafta, 1993), the Uruguay Round (The WTO and the treaties of the Uruguay , 1995), Arbitration in the World Trade Organization (2003), The March of History – Notes about Law and International Relations (2008), The Twilight of the Empire and the Dawn of China (2012), and several books on public international law, amongst other work.
With a deep knowledge of China, country where he maintains law firms, and an admirer of the Chinese people, this lawyer presents his new book, Introduction to the Cultural Revolution in China: economic, social and political aspects, to fill the void of knowledge about the history of this great country, by covering the dramatic period from the post-war (1948) when Mao Zedong, better known to us as Mao Tse Tung defeated nationalist troops of Chiang Kai-Shek and released China from the imperialist domination, proclaiming on 1 October, 1949 the People’s Republic of China. The book reports the events that took place since then until the death of the great Chinese Communist leader, in 1976.
Indeed, without Japan’s invasion of China and the subsequent occupation of that country from 1937 to 1945 and the events triggered by the Second World War, bringing its trail of misery and extreme poverty on the suffering Chinese people, hardly the Red Army of Mao Zedong would have been able to be formed and to have triumphed.
That is because, as shows Noronha, immediately after the surrender of Japan the civil war between the Kuomintang nationalists and communists started again, the latter gathered around Mao Zedong’s leadership. Followed until Manchuria, however, the Red Army, commanded by Lin Biao, was able to react and defeat the nationalists in November, 1948. Durval de Noronha reports: “In January, 1949, the
Communists entered Beijing and also took in May of the same year the important city of Nanjing, the former Chinese imperial capital, which
was devastated by the Japanese occupation.” But the Communist victory was only completed when in December, 1949, Chiang Kai-Shek fled Chongqing and left China, settling on the island of Taiwan or Formosa. Appointed President of the island, Chiang Kai-Shek governed Taiwan until his death in 1975, when the island was formally returned to the People’s Republic of China, by cession of the Treaty of 1842 with the British. Since then Taiwan has been resisting this annexation.
According to Durval de Noronha Goyos Junior, “the creation of the People’s Republic of China rescued the dignity of the Chinese people and represented a severe coup to the global colonial regime and the imperialist forces in the same way that brought a new dimension to international cooperation.” However, according to the author, urgent economic measures were necessary. As China was devastated and the majority of its population suffered starvation, it was natural that Mao Zedong, himself of peasant origin, first encouraged the peasantry
to take agrarian properties, sponsoring the formation of the first rural communes. Already in 1952 the first Five-Year Plan was being launched, which aimed to increase the participation of the industrial sector in the national Gross Domestic Product. As a result, between 1953 and 1957 China’s industrial growth was of 9% per year.
However, Noronha does not hide the abuses occurred at all levels of government, with the Communist Party in charge and controlling everything, from regional local governments to agricultural and industrial production to artistic, intellectual and literary production, as all sectors had to be consistent with the “socialist values”. Despite the most immediate economic gains occurred, as history shows, in all countries where single-party systems prevailed and of totalitarian nature, there has been real “witch hunts” with expurgation and arrests that hit, in the occasion, even historical Communists put under suspicion, which came to be persecuted and sent to prisons and re-education centres (forced labour). Therefore, before the numerous and incontestable abuses committed, Mao Zedong was forced to launch the program called “Hundred Flowers Campaign”, suggesting tolerance and coexistence among the different streams of thought in socialism.
Whale country, in the words of Ambassador Samuel Pinheiro Guimarães, third country in the globe, with territory of 9,596,960 km2, of which 1,295,000 km2 belonging to the Gobi Desert, extensive areal between Manchuria and Mongolia, the fourth largest desert on the planet, China owns a small arable land compared to its huge population.
Currently the population of China is already more than 1.357 billion people (World Bank, 2013 data). Therefore, nature and population
explain some of the difficulties faced by the communist government to achieve in short term the level of modernisation needed to overcome its historical underdevelopment. As a result, since 1958, the government tried to implement the plan known as the “Great Leap Forward”, comprehensive programme that also prioritised the development, in the short term, of science and technology. In the industrial sector domestic foundries were prioritised, a huge logistical mistake that, according to Noronha, caused massive destruction of forests and natural resources, leading even to the destruction of houses, furniture, agricultural implements belonging to the rural population as a result of the efforts required by local leaders to the humble peasants. This brought a disproportionate trail of destruction of environmental resources and human capital.
The agricultural collectivisation was also then implemented in a large scale, often in absentia of the affected population. However, the drop
in agricultural production was aggravated by numerous problems of lack of logistics infrastructure, which contributed to the increase of
hunger, which once again devastated the region. The failure of the “Great Leap Forward” led to the death of about 30 to 50 million Chinese (disparate and inconclusive numbers) and caused a reaction against the hard core of followers established around Mao Zedong’s leadership who, isolated, felt momentarily threatened of losing power. In 1966, Mao denounced the growth of bourgeois intellectualism and revisionism, urging the Party to endorse the flag of the new “Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” The general crisis of authority and excesses that occurred in the period, led him to recognize the new failure of this policy and to recognize the seriousness of the economic and social problems, which had resulted in the decline of the Chinese economy and persistent social disorder.
Thus, eight years after the start of the so-called “Cultural Revolution”, Mao was forced to urge the Chinese people to unite: “Now is the time
for stability. The whole Party and the armed forces must now come together. ”
True writer, Durval de Noronha Goyos Junior unravels and leads between the ins and outs and inset of the difficult Chinese domestic politics, in order to make us understand the determined pursuit of this people to overcome major obstacles to the development of its country. He reveals in a clear and simple way the main cultural foundations of this people, heirs of personal and governmental regulations prescribed by Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC), and that have allowed the Chinese people to accept, within its faith, but also under a dialectical perspective, the unquestionable conduction of its leaders until the present days.