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Let a hundred flowers blossom

By Owei Lakemfa
CHINA is an ancient civilization with such breath taking achievements like the Great Wall. However, it fully blossomed with its revolution which was sixty years yesterday, October 1. But China did not just take on the world; it was already  ripe before the rest of humanity knew what was afoot.

One of the most enduring creeds which continues to guide its actions is the 1957 one crafted by Mao Tse-Tung  who in his usually flowery style   wrote: “Let a hundred flowers blossom, let a hundred schools of thought contend”. It was his contention that only ideas and its contestation can advance the revolution and not closed minds.

His submission was that: “Different forms and styles in art should develop freely  and different schools in science should contend freely. We think it is harmful to the growth of art and science if administrative methods are used to impose one particular style of art or school of thought and to ban another. Questions of right and wrong in the arts and sciences should be settled through free discussions in artistic and scientific circles and through practical work in these fields. They should not be settled in summary fashion”.

This creed was to assist China later to embrace some capitalist modes of production and trade while holding on to its socialist principles. This also partly explains why  there are no visible challenges to the future of the Chinese socialist system. Rather, China is teaching the capitalist world some basic lessons in economics.

Another basic Chinese principle enunciated by Mao is that which formed its philosophy on education. It was directed at teachers, scientists, technicians and professionals. He said: “ Being educators and teachers, they themselves must first be educated. Naturally, we have to learn while teaching and be pupils while serving as teachers. To be a good teacher, one must first be a good pupil”.

Based on these clear ideas situated within socialist ideals and adapted to national peculiarities, China launched itself on the path of development. It used the same basic strategies it employed in the revolutionary struggles when first, it gained strength in the rural areas, gathered speed like an hurricane and swept the old order away.

This time, it built a strong, self sufficient country, and having gained much strength, including ideological coherence, unshakable patriotism, good industrial foundations and a self-reliant economy, it emerged out of its cocoon and absolved all that was thrown at it. These included the strong capitalist economic system and a world dominated by its chief antagonist, the United States and China’s ally, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

One of the first challenges of the revolution was its huge populace which was a quarter of humanity. It  turned this to an advantage by producing for itself and providing a market that consumed its own products.

It ensured that  the country’s populace was not an indolent one that needed to be fed on a diet of external food aid. Unlike countries like Nigeria where population is essentially used to corner larger share of national wealth, in China, population is essentially a factor of production.

Mao said  on February 27, 1957: “…We have a population of 600 million people, that is an objective fact, and that is an asset. Our population is a good thing, but of course it also involves certain difficulties”.

In abandoning the so-called market forces and rubbishing the claim that government has no business in business, China set out on a centralized, government -controlled economic system. In espousing this, Mao said: “Whatever the problem – whether it concerns food, natural calamities, employment …  we must always proceed from the standpoint of overall planning which takes the whole people into consideration”.

With  most socialist countries collapsing and few allies to do favourable trade with, the fourteenth Party Congress in 1992 approved a “Socialist Market Economy”. With that, China fully took on the capitalist world; rejecting basic capitalist principles and dictating terms. While the capitalist creed is not to fix exchange rates, China insists on fixing its rate.

While all countries, according to capitalism, must allow their currencies to  “float and find their level” which led to the currencies of  countries like Nigeria drowning, China refuses to float its currency. While the dominant capitalist system dictates that foreign investment must be allowed unrestricted access all over the world, China controls foreign investments and has been the better for it.

One of the most notorious investors in the world is the American Wal-Mart chain of stores which all over the world, including Europe, forbids staff unionization. When it got  to China, the government educated the company that trade unionism is a basic right of all Chinese.

The company threatened to pull out of China if it was forced to accept workers unionization and the Chinese bade it farewell. It remained in China.

In international politics, China from onset made Asia, Africa and the Socialist countries its centre of focus.

After the revolution,  America refused to allow China seat in the United Nations; giving the seat to secessionist Taiwan. China bided its time and 12 years later, took the seat, sending Taiwan packing. It used similar deft diplomatic steps to play the United Kingdom out of capitalist-controlled Hong Kong on July 1, 1997 after 100 years of  British occupation.

Like all countries, China had its low ebbs such as the June 4, 1989 crackdown in its Tiananmen Square when a march to demand a high profile burial for former Communist Party Secretary, Hu Yaobang degenerated into chaos and the imposition of martial law.

China provided military support for liberation movements like the ANC and provided the impetus for many revolutionary movements in the world such as the Peruvian, Filipino and Nepalese movements. There is hardly any country that has not felt the impact of the Chinese revolution; herein lies its strength and its lessons.

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