How Chinese Communism Fixed a Broken Society

China 1949: Fixing a Broken Society

by Gwydion M. Williams

 Available as a printed magazine.  Only this sample available on-line.  To subscribe or order a copy, see the Athol Books website.


  • The West’s false understanding of ‘Normal Politics’.
  • How the Kuomintang failed to develop anything much during their period of rule. How they failed to confront Global Imperialism, and then were very slow to resist Japan’s expansion into Chinese territory.
  • An interesting account of the first years after 1949, by a Christian missionary who stayed in China when most Westerners left or were expelled.
  • How Edgar Snow was well aware of the crisis after the Great Leap Forward, but noted the unusual weather and did not class it as a famine.
  • How Chinese life expectancy increased greatly under Mao, despite the Three Bad Years following the Great Leap Forward.
  • How the Cultural Revolution coincided with 1960s radicalism in the West and with the attempt at remoulding European Leninism in Czechoslovakia. How a very different future might have emerged.
  • How there was a Maoist element in the 1989 Tiananmen protests. And how the protesters came close to achieving the same sort of peaceful overthrow of Leninism as actually happened in Middle-Europe later on in 1989.

People who know how to work a system mostly have no idea of how that system works.  They just follow a ‘sense of the normal’, which mostly works out OK.

From modern astronomy, we know that ‘normal’ on Earth is exceptional in terms of the whole universe.  Most places would be a dark and endless night, if you could somehow safely visit them in a spacesuit that would save you from the vacuum.  A few would be full of glaring light, sometimes enough to kill you.  In any case, most of it is unhelpful to life.  (But do not say hostile, since there is no motivation.)

History tells us how unfamiliar human social values used to be.  Slavery was the norm everywhere before the 19th century, and the US South seceded because they felt the Federal Government was no longer supportive of slavery, which they intended to keep for ever.  France only gave women the vote after World War Two.  The decriminalisation of homosexuality only started in the 1960s.  Economic orthodoxy in the West was enthusiastic for a state-dominated Mixed Economy from the 1940s to the 1970s, swung well away from it for the next three decades and is now swinging back again.

The Kuomintang didn’t do anything much to develop capitalism.  There was a gigantic landlord class that had become wholly parasitic.  It had once has a function, in that it produced the scholar-gentry who ran the state.  It now did nothing useful, and was assuredly not interested in agricultural improvements.  So what resulted was a feeble parody of a modern state under the warlords, and something not much better under Chiang.

Chiang also had to be held at gunpoint before he’d agree to stand up to Japan, which had taken slice after slice of Chinese territory after discovering that Chiang was not willing to seriously fight them.