Chapter 25 Summary – Levels of Power

One Billion People (pg 615-623)

With government arguing over the changes that needed to be made economically, the PRC needed to look at the ever-growing population of China.  The last census to be done in China had occured in 1964. The census of 1982 proved what the PRC fears: the population of China had passed 1 billion.  The population of the PRC was stated to be 1,008,175,288, and the combined populations of the PRC, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao was stated to be 1,031,882,511.  The census also showed that a large portion of the population was 30 years old and younger, which showed how the population would continue to grow at a rapid rate.

Infant mortality rates had also decreased dramatically over the years, and the overall life expectancy had increased as well.  Due to the findings of the census, as well as the changes in life expectancy, the PRC decided that they needed to find a way to limit population growth.  In the 1960’s and 70’s, many families were still having up to 5 children, resulting the exponential growth rate of the population. Only famines and poor health conditions from the Great Leap Forward had kept the population from growing even further.

The PRC began to discuss the idea of limiting the amount of children born to a couple, with exceptions being made for ethnic minorities.  They also began to adjust the marriage laws, making the earliest age to get married 20 for women and 22 for men, hoping it would encourage couples to have children later in life.  The PRC then went further in enforcing their new One-Child policy by ordering IUD insertions in women after they gave birth to their first child. If the family had a second child, then either the husband or wife would have to undergo sterilization.  Families who only had one child would also receive special economic, educational, and housing benefits. Families with more than one child were fined, and withheld from rights to housing and education. Since it was still preferred to have a son rather than a daughter, desperate parents would go so far as to commit female infanticide.  With access to amniocentesis, some couples would find out the gender of the baby ahead of time, and have an abortion if it turned out to be female.

Other factors were also important as the PRC planned out ways to control the population growth.  The five main factors were “…availability of land suitable for agriculture, overall age profile of the population, the balance of urban and rural growth, characteristics of the labor force, and the levels of education in the population.” (pg 619)  In terms of land available for agriculture, there was very little available, putting a high stress in the PRC to develop proper agricultural plans. With regard to the age of the population, the census had clearly shown the youthfulness of the population.  In terms of urban versus rural growth, China was becoming more urban as the years progressed. They adjusted to this by continuing to send urban youths to work out in the more rural areas. In terms of characteristics of the labor force, it showed that the force typically started young and retired early.  As for literacy in the population, only 0.87% of the labor force had college degrees, and a vast amount of the population had not received greater than a high school education.


Governing China in the 1980s (pg 623-629)

In order to make sure no one person had all the control over government, PRC was run by a group ranging between 25 and 35 people.  While this group was not formally acknowledged, they had the most control over China. This group was broken up into four categories.

The first group consisted of a handful of party elders.  They were a group of extremely high prestige who could remember the early years of the CCP and its struggles.  The second category consisted of whoever identified as the leader of the party and the PRC. From 1978 onward, this position was held by Deng Xiaoping.  The third category consisted of people with expert knowledge in certain areas, including the economy, energy, military, propaganda, and internal security.  The fourth category consisted of the generalists, a group of people with a broad knowledge of politics.

These leaders of the PRC had to gain information through various networks in the government, and develop four institutions to evaluate and coordinate national policy.  These institutions were “…the State Planning Commission, the State Economic Commission, the State Science and Technology Commission, and the Ministry of Finance.” (pg 625)  These different commissions would draw up plans for national policy that would then need to be approved by the various party leaders, and then approved for funding by the Ministry of Finance.  These national policies then had to be discussed with the different provinces of China that were affected it.

Every province had its own government structure, and thus functioned differently from one another.  The break down of government and leadership would go all the way down to the cities, communes, townships, and schools that the citizens were a part of. Every man and woman was registered with the unit in which they worked, and every student was registered by household and by school affiliation.  Provinces would often try to gain favor of the central government, and thus gain more funding and focus on their needs. Regardless of provinces vying for favors, the PRC’s streamlined control over the lives of the citizens showed that they had gained control over China better than the Qing or the Guomindang had managed to.


The Problems of Prosperity, 1983-1984 (pg 629-633)

By 1982, the idea had come about that it might be allowed to criticize Mao Zedong and his methods of reform.  Many agreed that he was the leader China needed during the revolution, but had made mistakes in the past, most notably the Great Leap Forward.  By removing the strength in Mao’s and other past leaders names, the current leaders were able to focus on other things rather than keeping their status.

The PRC’s goals of the 1980’s was to develop and strengthen China economically.  They started in a more cautious way than had been done in the past. The government cut back on investments, canceled foreign contracts, and trimmed the domestic budget.  At this time, there began an increase in Western influence in China, with much of Western art and film being introduced to the population, and many Westerners were visiting the country regularly.  The PRC went against this by condemning the West, claiming their influence as “spiritual pollution.”

There was also rapid change in government positions.  The number of provincial leaders dropped dramatically, and higher positions of power were often given to those with a college education.  Replacing communes, municipalities, townships, and villages were formed as local hierarchical systems that would help show proper economic and social leadership.

Another goal of economic reform was to modernize farming.  This happened through three main models. The first being labor-contract systems.  Through this, groups of families, individual households, or individual laborers made contracts with their local village to do specific farmwork.  The second was the output-contract system. Through this, households grew a specific crop in a specific area, and could keep any surplus they grew.  The third was the net-output delivery system. With this, a contract taken by a household would require the family to meet state quotas and provide the surplus for the collective, while having free range over what they could grow.

The PRC also focused on industry and the economy.  One major shift was to have the factory directors and managers alone take responsibility for running their plants, which was very different from the more collectivized method used before.  The also encouraged giving workers bonuses for exemplary work.

With the rapid changes, corruption also grew rapidly.  Much of the corruption was focused on outside deals with Westerners, including those from Hong Kong.  There were also several cases of embezzlement.


Rebuilding the Law (pg 633-638)

With these changes in government as well as social law, and the clear issues of corruption that resulted, it became clear to the PRC that the law had become too complex to be handled by the government alone.  This meant that China had to train lawyers, and thus, reopen law schools. Before this, private practice of law had been banned, and many of those who were well versed in law had been ostracized during the several anti-rightist movements.  Though there were a few law schools that remained open, they held few students, the majority of which studied politics rather than law.

When law schools reopened, the PRC filled them not only with college students, but also with army officers who could then be assigned to a court system of public security office.  Theses judicial workers were similar to the barefoot doctors of the communes, and acted as government workers with basic knowledge of legal systems. Many of the teachers of these law schools were survivors of the anti-rightist movements, many of whom had trained in Europe, Japan, the US, or the USSR.  While all of the schools gave courses in constitutional law, legal theory, civil law, and criminal law, some schools had specialized courses. “Peking University and the East China Institute in Shanghai offered courses in international and economic law.” (pg 635) In Shanghai, students had to take courses in environmental law.  In Nanjing, students had to take courses in marriage law. These specializations would end up helping with many of the new legal issues forming within China.

Specialized areas of law were becoming increasingly important as Chinese law and policy became more complex.  Industrial taxation was a key point, as workers who received bonuses would be taxed on the bonus. Other taxations became issues in both urban and rural areas.  Another complex issue was that of marriage. Despite the laws and regulation around marriage, women were still being sold into marriage, both as child brides, and widows being forced to marry once more by the family.  There were often fights over the “betrothal gifts” expected from families, as dowries were no longer allowed. There were also domestic issues that needed to be settled among couples. Courts had to stop cases of battery and assault on the wife, as that was the only way the husband would listen.  Divorce was also a common issue, with 70% of divorce petitioners being women. Due to the one-child policy, divorcing couples would often have brutal court battles over their child.

Another growing field was that of international law and relations, which showed the most importance during the negotiations of Hong Kong between China and Britain.  Back during the time of the Qing Dynasty, Britain had forced the Qing to hand over Hong Kong and a few other territories as part of the Treaty of Nanjing. The contract stated that Hong Kong would be a territory of Britain for 99 years, and that was due to end in 1997.  When asked if China would renew the contract, they declined, stating that Hong Kong would become part of China again. Since Hong Kong had acted as a capitalist center for a very long period of time, the PRC new that a transition period was needed to bring the territory back in.  They decided that for 50 years after 1997, Hong Kong would function under two governments, the PRC, and their own democratic system. This system would allow for the continuation of capitalist trade during that time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *