ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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China's Ideological Purge

The central problem that faces China's leadership today is how to retain movement while standing: still.

Since 1961 the economy has been run in a low gear with only short-term and conservative targets. Abroad China's foreign policy has had some severe defects. The prospect that faces the country's leadership is very different from the triumphs of 1964 when China was chasing the Soviet Union hard.

Unsuccessful intransigence abroad makes necessary a continuously intensified campaign at home and since real economic campaigns have had to be ruled out ideological campaigns must take the whole strain.

It Is in this situation that the genesis of the ideological purge of the Chinese communist party is to be  found.

The spring purge of the Chinese Communist Party has left few clues as to its proper meaning, but it is worth trying to summarise some of the main events. After the disasters in the Chinese economy in 196061, the Party had litle practical option but to pursue a domestic policy of conservation, slow rehabilitation.However, the results of such conservatism must have been clear to them. When sheer economic movement subsides, those sitting on the right chairs as the music stops, lay claim to the perpetual right to those chairs: social mobility declines and social stratification increases, the Party and army cadres on the ground begin to realise their own immensely privileged position and to exploit it, and what power they hold reduces the overall control of the central government. Perhaps to try and combat this erosion of its central position, the Party inaugurated in September 1962 the 'socialist education campaign'; if real change could not be attempted, ideological change could easily be simulated.

To Restore Party Control 
The campaign focussed in turn on different privileged groups, despatching urban intelligentsia, factory managers and students to country districts to help with the harvest, a time of labour shortage in an otherwise labour surplus economy; the campaign, a useful safety valve for both urban worker resentment and peasant hostility towards the urban privileged, could be posed in terms of salutary medicine for the attitudes of the inteligentsia. The campaign also severely tightened up on the censorship of works of literature, the opera and film, making the cultural opportunities for resentment or opposition less. In July 1964 the campaign was intensified with the beginning of what is now called the 'cultural revolution'. The campaign as a whole has at times shifted between the army, Party and intelligentsia, seeking at all times to restore and safeguard the supreme control of the Party leadership over any 'professional' pretensions of the groups concerned. Last September, a Central Committee meeting decided to step the current phase up even further.

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