(CHINA from MAO to DENG – continued)

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CHINA from MAO to DENG (9 of 11)

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With other changes since the rise of Deng had come a rise in crime. Economic crimes, such as embezzlement, were publicized – the punishment for which was often death. The Communist regime had not grown soft.

The Chinese people no longer had Mao the "great helmsman" to rely on. Gone were Mao's moralistic, altruistic guideposts. Indoctrination in China's schools had broken down. Some people in China were enjoying the new freedom and the rise in prosperity. From the left side of political opinion were people who were annoyed at the new orientation toward individual gain. Some people disliked the opening of commerce to foreign powers, some referring to what they called "Japan's second occupation." Some people found themselves on the sidelines, not benefiting from the uneven rise in prosperity. Those in the countryside who had found a place in the communes were unhappy about the end of the communes and having to sell their labor. Many of those youths who had been sent into the countryside at the end of the Cultural Revolution were feeling out of place and returning illegally to the cities. On the rightist side of political thought, some intellectuals had their doubts about Communist ideology and wanted more freedom of expression.  And there was a mix of Leftist and Rightist discontent and a desire for democracy in place of rule by the Communist Party.

There had been disturbances in 1983 and 1984. Frightened people had withdrawn money from banks, and foreigners had withheld investments. The disturbances were easily put down by the government. And Deng Xiaoping and others in the Party were adamant about preventing any return of disorder – disorder from the Left or from counter-revolutionaries.

In December 1984, the Party gave assurances to the Chinese Writers Association that freedom of expression existed and that there would be no anti-intellectual campaign such as that which followed Mao's 100 flowers campaign back in 1957. But, the wall of posters, called the Democracy Wall, that had arisen in Beijing in 1978-79 ceased to function after a leading dissident, Wei Jingsheng, was arrested for his outspoken support for democracy.

Deng lost the respect of those yearning for more democracy, and into the eighties many young people remained baffled – much like some intellectuals were baffled by World War I. Similar to the Dadaist movement that appeared after World War I, Chinese youths who thought of themselves as sophisticated grabbed onto the notion that all was meaningless, as expressed in new rock lyrics and poetry that appeared. Having lost their sense of purpose, they saw no hope in the complexities of the more individualistic society that had developed in China.


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