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Alone I stand in the autumn cold

On the tip of Orange Island,

The Xiang flowing northward;

I see a thousand hills crimsoned through

By their serried woods deep-dyed,

And a hundred barges vying

Over crystal blue waters.

Eagles cleave the air,

Fish glide under the shallow water;

Under freezing skies a million creatures contend in freedom.

Brooding over this immensity,

I ask, on this bondless land

Who rules over man's destiny?

-----Mao Zedong (1925)

The 1949 Chinese Revolution was a transformative, epochal event, not only for the Chinese but for the rest of humanity, as well. If the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia (that resulted in the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or Soviet Union) inaugurated an international competition for the hearts and minds of people all over the globe, the Chinese revolution raised the stakes of that struggle. The popular media, academics, political leaders and others in the "West" produced an understanding of this struggle as between "capitalism" and "communism," although these terms were rarely defined in more than loose and unusually flexible terms, and in spite of the fact that the Chinese revolution was shaped by domestic struggles with a long history within China, much more so than by global struggles between two super-systems.

Nevertheless, the intensity of the perceived global struggle between super-systems was shaped, in part, by the fact that communist ideology, as represented by certain statements of Vladimir Lenin, the central intellectual and political figure of the Bolshevik Revolution, was understood as grounded upon an idea of worldwide revolution --- all nations would, according to the logic (teleology) of this (orthodox) version of Marxism, ultimately succumb to communism. (The Soviet leadership expressly supported the idea of "worldwide revolution" and took steps to help achieve this objective, including organization and leadership of the Communist International or Comintern, although C.L.R. James, among others, argued that Stalin's political machinations sabotaged international solidarity within the communist movement.) The threat to "spread the revolution" created, at the least, the illusion of a mortal conflict (mortal from the standpoint of the elites who stood to lose if the resolution went against them). In other words, this idea of worldwide revolution and the efforts by Soviet leaders and communists in other countries to make it a reality presented little room for compromise between the opposing camps (on the one side, the supporters of the existing social system in the Western nations and, on the other side, the communist movement). Thus, the communist victory in China (the most populous nation on Earth) created a stronger sense of threat in one camp and of impending victory in the other. It also contributed to the way this bipolar struggle came to overshadow all other international relationships and many domestic conflicts within nations, as well.

The conflict was mystified by both sides: it took on the dimensions and intensity of a religious crusade that permeates all aspects of social life.[1] Indeed, if societies are really formations of social and environmental processes, all interacting and shaping one another, then the introduction of this polar conflict into the fiber of existing social relationships could not help but impact virtually every society (or social formation) and transform numerous cultural, economic, and political processes within those societies. The mystified (metaphysical) nature of the conflict served both sides: those who wanted to defend the status quo (the moral, political, and economic arrangements that predominated) in the "Western" nations were able to promote anti-communist attitudes and actions by depicting the other side as opponents of freedom, goodness, democracy, and light; while those who supported the goals of the Comintern could rally greater support for overturning the status quo by making use of the rhetoric of the Soviet or Chinese versions of Marxism (which looked all the more prophetic and, therefore, True, in the wake of the Chinese revolution). The existence of the new "Chinese model" was particularly troubling to one side and encouraging to the other precisely because it opened the door to a "domino effect" of revolutionary change in the less industrialized world, creating the possibility of accelerated social change that might threaten the established order in the advanced capitalist nations. [2]

Sometimes the effects of this conflict were quite unexpected. For instance, many individuals have argued that the "Cold War" (particularly the post-1949 Chinese Revolution version of the Cold War) may have been critical to the success of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, as U.S. political leaders sought to win the hearts and minds of leaders in newly independent African nations and intellectuals throughout the "Third World" by demonstrating the openness, flexibility, and fairness of the American way of life (including the American economic system, which was presumed to be the embodiment of capitalism and diametrically opposed to the "communist" alternative). Ironically, the Civil Rights Movement was also interpreted, within certain anti-communist circles, as a subsidiary operation of the international communist movement. Civil Rights leaders, such as Martin Luther King, were often accused of being communists (or, at the least, "fellow travelers"). Thus, the new language and logic of communism and anti-communism (mostly in rhetorical and metaphysical form) transformed the rules of social engagement over racism, as well as many other issues.[3]

In a larger sense, the conflict between these two camps reshaped popular culture. New images and ways of thinking about the self and society permeated the media, from literature to the motion pictures. For the most part, the conflict was not waged in terms of social theories or ideas about the proper organization of society. Instead, the conflict took on a religious connotation. In the West, communism was portrayed as "sinister," even "evil." Behavioral norms were changed, influenced by images of impending



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