This course explores the political dynamics of revolutionary change in 20th century China in
comparative historical perspective.1 We will begin by examining key elements of political
philosophy in East and West that might enable us to comprehend more fully the origins and nature
of revolutionary change from above and below. We will scrutinize critically competing social
scientific models of political and social revolution. Our common point of departure is the French
Revolution of 1789, a world-historical event that defined both the notion of revolution itself and the
key dynamics that defined its leadership and consequences as revolutionary in nature. The
Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 was inspired by the French example and in turn encouraged Chinese
thinker activists to consider socialist revolution as the solution to China’s national dilemma. Among
the themes we will consider are the notion of a continuous or “permanent” revolution, the idea of
“Oriental society,” and the difficulties that Chinese thinker-activists faced in relying on a European
theory of revolution (Marxism) to guide a revolution in a non-European social and cultural context.
We will use both primary and secondary readings, with the objective of establishing the dynamic
relationship between indigenous Chinese and Western revolutionary thought, on the one hand, and
the practice of mass mobilization, on the other. We will conclude by assessing the strengths and
weaknesses of the social scientific models with which we began the quarter in explaining the
dynamics of the Chinese Revolution.
7. Responding again from the perspective of the social group that you have been following:
It is January 1952, and you are your current age living in Hubei (Hu-pei) Province in central China. The CCP has successfully consolidated its military power after defeating the KMT in the civil war. What is the most urgent task confronting China now? What potential positive role could you and others in your social group in accomplishing those tasks? With which other social groups could you cooperate in doing so? Be sure to answer using the 1st person (e.g., “As a rather poor peasant, I think….”). [Note that I have indicated in this example, my status relative to other members of my class. If I were a “rich” peasant, I might have different views!
respond to 2 other students :
1) Jing Zou :
In January 1952, as a poor peasant living in Hubei Province, I was very happy that the Chinese Communist Party had defeated the KMT in the civil war. I think the most urgent task facing China now is that the CCP needs to maintain and develop its current policies, after the foreign war and the civil war; both the government and the people need to be fixed. The country needs to be unified after the war with squares and policies needing to be improved, and the people need to reload after the war. In accomplishing these tasks, I and others in my social group were able to advocate from the bottom because I believed in the power of the peasants and the power of the people at the bottom! I might be able to work with people from the middle class in this regard because after the policy reforms; the peasants have become a brand-new group as well. So, building a good foundation from the bottom is the only way to have a longer-term development.
2) Kangming Fang
In January 1952, as a poor peasant in Hubei Province, I think the two most important things for China at present are the recovery of domestic production and the situation of the Korean War. Obviously, China still needs a lot of time to recover from the damage caused by the war of resistance against Japan and the civil war. China’s industry and technology are now relatively backward, our production tools have not been fully industrialized.. As a poor peasant, the Communist Party’s land policy gave my family the land to cultivate after the war. Maybe I should start thinking about what crops can bring the most tremendous benefits to my family. In another case, if I choose to lease the land to relatives or others. I will choose to respond to the call of the Communist Party and join the army. I will follow the military into North Korea and fight with the South Korean army and the U.S. Army there. Because after joining the military, relatives in my hometown can get government subsidies, and I will also have material and economic security. Obviously, this choice is worth considering.
8. .From the perspective of the social class or social group you represent, what were the two most important challenges to the CCP as it prepared to implement a program of socialist construction Mao proclaimed the People’s Democratic Dictatorship in the new People’s Republic of China? Can your family help to address those challenges? (answer 150 words )
respond to 1 other students : (respond each 100 words )
Derek Rusher :
As a poor peasant, the two most important challenges to the CCP as it implements a program of socialist construction are ensuring that the party maintains a strong relationship with the peasantry and that other social groups are kept in tune with party, and thus the peasantry, via rectification campaigns. The CCP needs to ensure that the peasantry can work unabated, free from red army soldier requisitions as had happened in the Soviet Union. The peasantry is the voice of the party and needs to continue to be so, now that the war has ended and we move into a new era for China, the CCP must not forget the strength and importance of the peasantry and abandon us. This is why we need literacy campaigns, so that we can better understand how the party feels about the peasantry.
The other side of this coin is that the CCP must not only keep itself in tune with the peasantry, but also ensure that the rest of China is in tune with the peasantry. Intellectuals must be rectified as had been done earlier during the war. For the CCP to maintain its strong relationship with the peasantry, it must not allow itself to be shaped by those like the intellectuals, but rather shape the intellectuals.
9. Speaking from the perspective of the socioeconomic class or group that you have been following this quarter, do you believe that Mao was right to make a shift from the Soviet model to developing an indigenous Chinese model tailored to Chinese circumstances? Why or why not? (answer 150 words )
respond to 1 other students : (respond each 100 words )
Jing Zou :
From the point of view of socio-economic classes or groups, I think Mao was right to move away from the Soviet model and develop a local model appropriate to China’s conditions. Although the Soviet model was a very successful and appropriate model for social development, it was not applicable to China. One of the important reasons is that the peasant class in Chinese society is too large, both before and after the reform and opening. Marxism, on the other hand, became a model that was well suited to the development of China’s national conditions, i.e., it put the peasants in the plan as well. Even though Chinese society is evolving, it is inevitable that the peasantry will always exist, and so will the upper class. So, if one uses a single social model to run the country, there is bound to be disruption. Mao’s way of development, on the other hand, started from the bottom but at the same time did not neglect other classes of people; so, Mao’s model was suitable for China’s local development.
9. What do you think made Chan (Zen) Buddhism so attractive in China and Japan after all the resistance initially experienced by Buddhism in China? You need not answer from the perspective of any particular philosophical school or philosopher.
(answer 150 words )
Tian Pei Hu : (respond to 1 other students : (respond each 100 words )
Why Chan (Zen) Buddhism was Attractive in China and Japan
Buddhism experienced a lot of resistance in China during its introduction. This is partly because Buddhism originated from India, and it was hence considered foreign and barbaric. Other than that, Buddhism was infiltrating ancient China when the country was susceptible to sedition, and it was not politically stable. I also can’t ignore that some Buddhism beliefs and teachings probably didn’t sit well with the ancient Chinese people. However, the case was different for Chan Buddhism, which was considered attractive by Chinese and Japanese people. Chan Buddhism is a key sect of Chinese Buddhism accredited to Bodhidharma, which stresses achieving Buddhahood as a key religious goal of Buddhists.
I believe Chan (Zen) Buddhism was welcomed by people in the two countries because it introduced ideologies that were more appealing and fulfilling compared to other sects of Buddhism. Other than that, the Chan philosophy was founded in China when some traits of original Buddhism got integrated with Taoism. As a result, Chan Buddhism was more relatable compared to foreign Buddhism. In addition, the Chinese people could have resisted Buddhism because it highlighted ignorance in its notion of humanity and welcomed Zen which was not ignorant. Zen follows a theory that teaches that yearning for material things causes suffering.
Unlike Buddhism, which encouraged people to learn from past experiences and apply lessons learned in the future, Chan Buddhism focused on reclaiming and expanding the present moment. Zen Buddhism emphasized on personal enlightenment of an individual’s mind in the present life. This form of Buddhism was different from other sects of Buddhism as it disregarded sacred texts, religious rituals, intellectual understanding, or godly figures. Contrarily it focused on intuition, living in the present, master-student relationship, and intuition. It also deeply encouraged the attainment of mental serenity and the nature of human life. All these reasons made Chan Buddhism more attractive.