To see a note from the editor, click here.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Back to Bases

Xinhua today featured comments by Chinese Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu calling for increased social and economic development for China's old revolutionary base areas.  Made in the context of a letter to the China Association for the Promotion of the Construction of Old Revolutionary Bases (which has just convened its fifth meeting), Hui's remarks are telling in demonstrating two rather interesting elements of the Chinese Revolution.

Firstly, the need to invest specifically in locations of historical value to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reflects the extent to which it relies on the appeal of revolutionary icons to bolster its political legitimacy and image.  State media articles and editorials routinely mention the likes of Sun Yat-sen, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, specifically with the intention of reminding readers of the current leadership's connection to these iconic individuals.  In the same vein, identification with the holy sites of Chinese Communism (for example Yan'an) bridges the divide between the pre-1949 revolutionary CCP and the modern, established ruling party.

In addition, and on a more subtle level, Hui's comments also betray the paradoxical nature of the revolution that the CCP has presided over.  After several abortive attempts to foment proletarian uprisings in the cities in the 1920s, the Party found that the key to victory in China's civil war lay in the peasantry.  It was Mao's notion of revolution in the countryside that was to ultimately result in the Party's victory over the Nationalists in 1949.  However, ever since then, and especially in the post-Mao era of policy-making, city-dwellers have been the real beneficiaries of the Party's policy programme.  China is now having to wrestle with a town-countryside gap that is getting wider rather than narrower- this has led many to question how Communist today's China really is.  Beijing planners are attempting to try and right this wrong, and Hui's calls can be seen as part of this.  Nonetheless, while the PRC's cities continue to grow and yield record levels of economic productivity, the temptation amongst policy-makers to look no further than urban areas may be too strong to resist.

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