Sunday, 17 August 2014

Chinese leadership-Past and Present and Their Caricatures

                                                 Xi Jinping
                     Born : June 15th 1953 In office since Nov 15th 2012
China's Communist Party General Secretary, President of the country and Chairman of the Central Military Commission Xi Jinping, is an unshakable, strong man and leader at the helm of the mammoth nation, the world's second super-power. International leaders were impressed of his leadership when they met him either in China or during his numerous overseas visits. They were equally stunned by the  elegance and beauty of his charming wife, Madam Peng Liyuan too.  Xi exudes a distinctive air of steel determination in tackling China's biggest and most chronic and acute scourge - corruption. Xi's recent order to arrest People's Congress Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang is deemed to show his true colours.

His efforts yield some crucial results but some of those taken to book to face the law were left and right men of his predecessors.   Though he is a modern, contemporary administrator and has vast experience and training in the West, he remains steadfastly a faithful party stalwart and a conservative. Xi's current challenges are many, viz. how to wade off the "cry wolf" aggression of Japan while dealing with its claims of Diaoyu island; while Vietnam and The Philippines too jump onto the wagon to poise more island ownership disputes with China . Just like his predecessors, Xi has reiterated few times about China's willingness to be friendly with the rest of world, but he will not hesitate to remind the US that China is a strong military power to be reckon with. China under Xi has so far kept an arm's length with Marxist totalitarian ruler of North Korea. It was widely reported that Xi had told DPRK leader Kim Jong-Un that they had to be self-reliant to feed its populace of impoverish millions, instead of emphasizing its military might. China lately had extended olive twigs to Russia and Cuba, formerly its close allies.
The Chinese leadership is troubled and concerned by Hong Kong's democratic and human rights movement's call for more freedom to hold direct election to select their own leaders without interference or approval by the People's Congress in Beijing (Though Hong Kong is already an autonomous special economic region). That is deemed to be a progressive step to turn Hong Kong into an independent country.  As for Taiwan, the island's 23 million population has never accepted the status of their island paradise as part of China and the main continent of China takes Taiwan as a renegade province. Xi is probably disturbed too by some sporadic small scaled "uprising" incidents in the western province of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region where scores of citizens and policemen were maimed or killed. Such unrests have become rampant lately. Tibetan dissidents had held few violent demonstrations that alerted Beijing's vigilance that despite the central government's continuous effort to develop the far-away highland county, (for e.g. The Qinghai-Tibet Railway) there are still objection voices to be heard.  Xi Jinping as a no-nonsense man realises his monumental task to carry out his presidential duty to manage his country will not be an easy one.

                                   Hu Jintao, Born Dec. 21st 1942.
                    In office since Nov 15th 2002 till Nov 15th 2012
Hu Jintao was the paramount leader of China between 2002 to 2012. Born in 1942, Hu was rather reticent as a party chief and a national leader as seen in the eyes of foreigners. During his reign of almost 10 years, he oversaw the smooth process of China turning into an economic, and industrialised giant. His predecessor Jiang Zemin had laid the solid foundation to ensure all transition of reformation proceed without obstacle and hindrance. Fortunately for Hu Jintao, it was plain sailing without major hitch apart from some annual natural calamities in China during the 10 years when he was in charge. There was no major crisis that plagued him. Hu spent his final few years in his capacity as the national head visited many Asian, African and Western countries so as to foster better diplomatic and trade relationship with these nations. It is known that Hu Jintao now concentrates on improving his health (He has no known ailment anyway) and writing his memoirs.

                                 Wen JiaBao. Born: Sept. 19th 1942.
                      In Office since Mar 16th 2003 till Mar 15th 2013.
As the most hard-working premier in recent years (2003-2013), Wen Jiabao could only be compared to the like of his early predecessor, the most respectable Premier Zhou Enlai (since 1949-1976). Diligent Wen JiaBao as the 6th premier was a reformist but the effect of his effort yielded little result as his People's Congress clung tightly to Mao's legacy and despotic communism. Under Hu Jintao's paramount leadership as party chairman, Wen steered his huge and powerful nation into the thrust of modern era with advanced technology and market economy. He propagated and strived to apply Deng Xiaoping's "Paradigm of change for the better" policy for the newly prosperous country. On the other hand It has been a slow and painful transition as China remains a grave abuser of democracy and a despicable player in infringement of human rights. Wen's contributions towards China's leap in economic growth and general improvement of standard of living, and on the quality of life for its mass population are irrefutably recognised. Unfortunately Wen's reputation as an upright personality was somehow tarnished when there were rumours of corrupt practice involving his family members after his retirement. His daughter Wen Ruchun holds a senior position in China's governing agency in regulating the country's vast foreign reserve. She was a Cambridge scholar in her students days in UK. Wen Ruchun was suspected  to be instrumental in donating  a hefty sum of British pound sterling 3.7million on behalf of Chung Hua Charity Foundation to her Alta Mater, the famed University of Cambridge. The university denied vehemently any malpractice, claiming that they had scrutinized the foundation's motive and background before accepting the donation. There might be investigation against Wen JiaBao in his retirement days but he remained solid and undisturbed in his position as a retired member of China's central executive politburo.

                                        Jiang Zemin. Born: Aug. 17th 1926
                          In Office since June 24th 1989 till Nov 15th 2002
Jiang Zemin was General Secretary of China from 1989-2002, and Party President since 1993. A strong and hard-working leader and administrator Jiang laid the foundation of positive and progressive economic growth of modern China. A flamboyant and articulate public figure both at home and abroad, he was well-liked by foreign leaders, including the EC and US presidents. However he was most fiery and adamant to show his great anger when US fighter jets (of the NATO forces) bombed Chinese Embassy by mistake in Belgrade in 1999. Widespread and large-scaled demonstrations against the US in China erupted and the American Embassy and few consulates were damaged considerably in a few melees. Eventually President Clinton apologised for the blunder NATO forces had done. Later a sum of US$4.5million was paid to the families of the three diplomats who died and 27 embassy staff who was injured during the bombing. The US needed to fork out another US$28million to repair the Chinese embassy and China paid US$2.87million to repair the few US consulates in China. (The one at Chengdu was damaged by fire).

Jiang Zemin was rather iron-fisted in implementing his far sighted national policies but there were rumours that during his administration, he promoted scores of his closest allies and supporting assistants both in the People's Congress and the military. In due course corruptions emerged widely as the no.1 scourge without proper surveillance and restraints from the top leadership. Jiang was reported to have encouraged in a way the rampant corrupt practice all over China. There were even rumours involving Jiang in some scandalous affairs with a singer lady. To be very fair, during Jiang Zemin's rule, many provincial, district heads and officials were detained and trialled for corruption. Some of them were found guilty and were executed subsequently.

                                                 Deng Xiaoping.
                               Born: Aug 22nd 1904, died: Feb 19th 1997.
                            In office since Sept 13th 1981 till Nov 2nd 1987
Deng Xiaoping had been known as the Capitalist Roader by his nemesis and rivals during his early political life until he held the realm firmly in 1978. He was the paramount leader of China during the turning point years from 1978 to 1992. Deng relinquished his position as Chairman to CPPCC national committee in 1983 and as well as his military chairmanship in 1989.   Deng survived at least two purges during his tumultuous political life which were spearheaded by party stalwarts who were against his bold attempt to turn China into a modern economic power. Fortunately for China, Deng's far-sighted vision materialised to some progress even while he was still in power. However his image and reputation was tarnished as it was widely known that Li Peng (The then Prime Minister 1987-1998, nicknamed Butcher of Tiananmen) ordered the quashing of the student unrest during the notorious Tiananmen Square Massacre in June 4th 1989, with the tacit approval of Deng Xiaoping. During the mass protest the student demonstrated to demand for greater freedom and democracy. Hundreds if not thousands of students were killed at the popular Tiananmen Square during the clamp-down. Deng died in the year 1997, February the 19th at age 92. His only regret remained his inability to live long enough to witness the peaceful transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong back to China on July the 1st 1997.
Mao Zedong  1893-1976
In office since Jun 19th 1945 till Sept 9th 1976
One needs to read volumes of books in order to understand the most controversial character of modern Chinese political leaders. Mao Zedong, popularly known as The Great Chairman Mao was a very contradictory person. While promising the general mass who were mainly poor peasants a bright, improved and peaceful future during his struggle to liberate the country with their support, yet he was responsible for the death of estimated 50-70 million in the next 2 decades of his totalitarian-communist rule. It was a morbid figure that surpassed the number of deaths during the Japanese Invasion. Some China watchers and historians put the figure at an estimated 70million. (Wikipedia-I guess it was overly exaggerated). Mao had been quoted to have said: Without contradiction, there will be no progress. He had also expressed his annoyance when told about mounting widespread of massive hunger and death: It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill....When questioned about the executions of thousands of farm land owners (most of them farmers), traders, more affluent businessmen and other property owners (who were termed as bourgeois in Marxist communism as compared to the have-not's, the proletariats) who refused to surrender their properties and land. Mao and his loyal party comrade Zhou Enlai answered smilingly with unison: How else could we obtained farm lands to be distributed to the wretched farmers who had nothing at all, and to house the millions who had nowhere for shelter.
                Brutal executions exposed the widespread abuse of human rights
                           under despotic communist rule right since the beginning.
                   This picture was taken  during the Great Leap Forward.
Under decades of incessant party propaganda inculcation,  Mao was still revered by China's vast populace to the extent as a Demi-God. By weighing his evil elements and his virtues, international China watchers classified him more as a villain than a fatherly, benevolent character. Mao was so self-centred and conceited as he had placed the troubled country in one piece after decades of turbulence and social disparity, under his volatile leadership. After the Xinhai Revolution aka the Chinese Revolution in 1911 in which the Manchurian Empire of Qing Dynasty was overthrown, warring factions of territorial powers-the War Lords fought furiously to gain their stronghold in various provinces. Their sporadic skirmishes were interrupted by the Japanese invasion in 1937 (Japan's Imperial Army occupied Manchuria as early as 1931) till the WWII ended in 1945. After that it was Mao and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek at each other's throat, fighting relentlessly to gain control of China's fragile  administration. Mao won in December, 1949 as his military forces were  hot on the heels in merciless pursuit of Chiang's retreating KMT army. Chiang Kai-Shek holed up in Taiwan without stepping on Chinese mainland till his death in 1975.
In 1958 Mao Zedong launched a wicked, scheming and heinous campaign that mobilised the nation's vast labour force, thrusting everyone to be involved in steel making in the foundries. The campaign enlisted hundreds of million people's servitude despite their professional and varied background not related to iron smelting and steel making. Young men, women and teenagers left their universities and schools, farmers laid down their farming tools and ploughs, scientists and teachers joined the mass in a maddening frenzy to follow their bigoted, egoistic Chairman Mao's instruction. The campaign was named unabashedly The Great Leap Forward! However it became the "Great Famine" very promptly as the country ran out of food rapidly as fewer farming workforce was involved in farming of all sorts at all levels to feed the millions. The aged and the young and the massive poor died by tens of millions of hunger and illness as a result of The Great Leap Forward, a wretched misery affecting the already impoverished country. When the Great Leap Forward campaign finally ended in 1963 the CPC conveniently put the blame on the cause of large scaled, hunger-famine induced death toll as the work of natural calamities inflicting their nation. The irrevocable, tragic disaster turned China backwards for at least 20 years in economical and industrial advancement instead of the realisation of the Great Leap Forward.

Relating stories about Mao's reign during his time at the helm of his country, it was inevitable to mention the tragic and calamitous "The Cultural Revolution". in which a further estimated 20-30million people perished.  Just three years after his failed project of The Great Leap Forward ended, Mao realized his power in controlling the CPC was waning and his grip on the military was loosening. He needed to do something drastic. The conniving and scheming old chairman introduced to the Chinese populace the devastating "Cultural Revolution". It was a sorrowful, earth-trembling period that lasted for a solid 10 years (1966-1976) to push China into the lowest ebb of irrevocable wretched misery. 
Public executions were common during the Cultural Revolution.
Defying the chairman's instructions or orders meant certain death.
This pictures showed the summarily carried out of execution of few landowner-peasants who refused to surrender their land to CPC government in the initial years.
Millions of slogan-yelling young red-guards waving frantically Mao's little red-books (which carried Mao's thoughts and quotes) marched vehemently, looking for supposed traitors and dissidents who strayed away from Mao's ideology. Children of scholars, educators, writers, former industrialists, bankers, and merchants were instigated to come forward to denounce the crimes, misdeeds and things their parents did and said disparagingly against the national policies. Then hell broke lose with the red guards ransacking the dwellings of suspects and carrying out unsparing arrests they deemed the right things to do, without any inhibition. Amongst the most vigorous forerunners and villains was Mao's official wife, the notorious Jiang Qing. In their uncontrolled zeal, many historical buildings notably the temples, priceless antiques and cultural artefacts were destroyed. They carried out those unsolicited mischief openly, in midst of massive and grave public disorder, as well as bringing forth unwarranted discomfort, and widespread fear at all levels of society.  
Effigies displayed in the ancient temples were removed
from the altars and destroyed and burnt to ashes.
Reading and reciting Mao's little red book out loud before diving
into water would guide them to excel in the swimming sports.
The so-called anti-revisionists were presented in chains and buckles on stage to publicly admit the follies and crimes they supposedly had committed, and to apologise profusely. They would then be punished to serve long jail terms or banished to toil on distant farmlands, besides being stripped off their citizen rights and their properties. They were publicly shamed and cursed; a large number of them committed suicide thereafter.  Among them were hundreds of well-know writers, poets, artists, singers, dancers and traditional stage performers. Many of them were treasured icons of their specialty and skills. Yet the most sickening and disheartened phenomenon was the total disregard of Chinese cultural value of family ties and union. Most families were broken as the core of society was scorned and disdained by the Lenin-Marxist communism. Spouses divorced each other since there were too many suspicions between them; teenagers left their weeping parents and grandparents as they packed and left to work on remote farm fields as a form of re-education. Infants and toddlers would have died of hunger as the parents left them to older folks at home without any means to support them. 

Senior positioned anti-revisionists were rounded up to face public trial and shaming. They probably would not live through it in the hands of the red guards.
Mao took the auspicious opportunity to annihilate few of his former comrades-in-arms to whom he suspected were about to usurp him. He was a ruthless, heartless and belligerent executor of his many conniving and insidious plots. A few years before his death in Sept. 9th 1976, Mao was practically living apart with his last and 4th wife Jiang Qing. He openly ignored her presence and side lined her at most of the important meetings like the People's Congress meet. However an aggressive and defiant Jiang Qing had plans of her own. She dreamed to become the Empress of China after Mao's death! She even had got her Empress gown tailored to stand by. Together with her three followers, (they were nicknamed the Gang of Four) she conspired to take over the helm of the CPC right after Mao's death. Jiang Qing was arrested for treason and sentenced to death, following the order from Mao's successor Hua Guofeng, together with the other three conspirators. An unrepentant Jiang Qing ended her dramatic and radical life by hanging herself in the bathroom of her hospital where she was treated for throat cancer in May 14th 1991, at aged 77.
Cheerful youngsters were too happy to go doing field works
to be away from their studies; they toiled exhaustively
in the rice or wheat fields as it was part of  their re-education.
But they realised very soon that they couldn't fare better than the farmers.
Qiang Qing and her Gang of Four during their trial.
Jiang Qing, Born : Mar 19th 1914; Died : May 14th 1991
A ferocious revolutionary fighter, she was ambitious, belligerent,
and a haughty snob. Here in this black and white picture,
she showed her true colours by putting up a defiant front while
undergoing her trial for treason.
What Mao Zedong had contributed to China's modern nation building was undeniably remarkable. The whole nation wept at the news of his passing despite knowing well he was mostly responsible for the death of multiple millions of Chinese civilians. It was unthinkable that as a man of letter, a great poet and intellectual, and a brilliant philosopher, Mao could be so bigoted and heartless to have no compassion for human life lost over his failed projects.   It was the result of inculcating  incessantly the saintly importance of the national leader-the party chairman and general secretary. Though the occurrence of The Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution brought forth immense sorrow and irredeemable misery to the Chinese mass, the country still worshipped and revered him by having his imposing portraits hung up at prominent places and landmarks. The two most unfortunate  events post a very disturbing and embarrassing era to Mao's successors. They chose to forget and tried  very hard to avoid mentioning the country's shameful past. Nowadays Mao's name is being mentioned only when the annual People's Congress is in progress. They know very well in their heart, it is so wrong to idol worship a national leader, lest an authoritarian and tyrannical one.  

                                                           for reading!
Alan CY Kok

1 comment:

  1. Good friend KK Low of Melbourne comments kindly through an e-mail to me:

    My Salute to you. Well researched, balanced and full of facts. The caricatures bring life into a group of serious leaders. Very proud to have you as a friend

    Kind regards