Are leaders of revolutions more ideological than their successors? Does this ideological view make revolutionary leaders less open to changes not of their own making? In China, Mao Zedong created and maintained an ideology for the nation based on his own political views and led a massive upheaval of Chinese society based on ideology. Deng Xiaoping, who succeeded Mao as leader of China, moderated much of the ideological tone in politics and began to institute a regulated party apparatus and economy. In Cuba, Fidel Castro’s views continue to form the basis of the ideology of the island.
The hypothesis of this study is that first-generation revolutionary leaders, men who led their nations’ revolutions and became heads of state, are averse to changing the political and economic systems they create and lead. Second-generation leaders, those who succeed the revolutionary leader as head of state, who have revolutionary backgrounds similar to the original leaders, may allow changes but will still embrace the core ideology and values of the revolution within the structure of the existing system. To evaluate the hypothesis, I will consider the first and second- generation leaders of China and the current leadership of Cuba: Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in China and Fidel Castro in Cuba. To provide context for recent events in both Cuba and China, I will conclude with a brief examination of China’s current leadership under Jiang Zemin and a discussion of Cuba’s current economic and political situations.
Marx provided a useful framework for an evaluation of the actions of leaders in his work, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte:
Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past.
The past creates the circumstances for men to make their own history. In social science, this process is known as resocialization.
All individuals, regardless of the political system in which they are raised, undergo socialization into the ways of that system. Each political system has its own way of doing business and pursuing its goals. People gradually learn that process beginning early in life; they observe adults and receive education in the norms of the particular political system (Hyman 1959, 19). In some cases, an individual may reject the system, perhaps because he perceives it is corrupt or because it does not address poverty, exploitation, or some other priority. In these instances, the individual may seek alternatives that better address what he perceives are the inadequacies of the present system. “Resocialization” is this rejection of the existing structure and acceptance of a new one.
An individual’s quest for alternative political courses may lead to a minor change such as running for political office or changing party affiliation. Depending on the response to those efforts, however, the individual may decide that minor changes to the existing system will not address the problems he sees. If, for instance, he is imprisoned for speaking against the present order, he may determine that more radical steps are necessary and seek to fundamentally change the political system to better reflect his views of national priorities. Under the right set of circumstances—the confluence of problems in the existing system, presence of a radical opposition, and support for the opposition—a revolution is born. As Mehran Kamrava explains,
The social and cultural context in which revolutions take place…facilitate not only the spread of revolutionary sentiments throughout society but also furnish the necessary links and bonds between revolutionary activists on the one hand and popular classes on the other (Kamrava 1990, 79).
Mao Zedong’s political socialization took place during a time of significant change in China. His youthful experiences with weak political institutions stand in contrast to the strong, authoritarian system he put in place after the communist victory in 1949. This experience was molded by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) cooperative efforts with the Guomindang (GMD) during Japan’s occupation of China but also by the GMD’s betrayal of the CCP.
Considering the history of their relationship with Chiang and the GMD as well as China’s domination by a foreign power, Mao and the CCP unsurprisingly viewed radical change as the only possible solution for China. As early as 1919, Mao viewed revolution as the proper path for realization of China’s potential (Wu 1988, 38). This opinion probably was solidified during the republican period when political reform and coalition building had proven ineffective and deadly for the communists. As the civil war continued, the GMD was successful in forcing the CCP to retreat in what would become known as the Long March. About 100,000 troops were reported to have begun the March in 1934; only 20,000 survived (Bertsch, Clark & Wood 1991, 266). Mao’s resocialization and radicalization laid the foundation for his political decisions during his leadership.
Castro came to formal communism only after he had risen to power, but his experiences during the Cuban revolution left him with indelible marks similar to those of Mao: a conviction that the existing economic and political system must be discarded in favor of one that better addressed the needs of his fellow countrymen.
Castro’s experiences as the head of a rebel movement were marked by two failed attacks, one on the Moncada Barracks in 1953, and the other, his disastrous return to Cuba from Mexico in 1956. What is striking about these failures is that Castro was able to use them as propaganda for his cause. Rather than gaining a reputation as a bumbling would-be rebel, Castro’s mystique only grew after each event. Castro’s personal charisma clearly was an active element in the beginning as well as in and the outcome of the revolution. As K.S. Karol explains,
Fidel succeeded, not because he was a ‘Bolivar who has read Lenin,’…but because he was one of the veterans of Cayo Confites, one who had shared all the political experiences of his generation. He knew how to transcend the limits of these experiences, how to place himself one step—but only one step—in front of his countrymen, who could thus follow him without too much difficulty (Karol 1971, 177).
Castro was exposed to Marxism during his university years, but it was not the transforming experience that it had been for Mao. Rather, another element has been much more formative in his approach to politics: nationalism (Thomas 1998, 818). Castro’s themes of ending exploitation of Cuba by imperialist foreign governments and improving the conditions of life for the majority of Cubans resonated with people in Cuba and thus united diverse groups opposing Batista (O’Connor 1970, 52; Bertsch, Clark & Wood 1991, 273).
Like Mao, Deng had come from a middle class background and had completed his early education in the traditional Chinese system. But Deng’s resocialization and radicalization as a Marxist was very different from Mao’s.
Resocialization begins with the recognition of inadequacies in the existing political system and the search for alternatives. Deng’s personal resocialization began while he was studying in France, when he learned of socialism and Marxism. He had a second resocialization during Mao’s tenure, though this time Deng sought alternatives within the system, rather than a total rejection of it. Several reasons account for Deng’s approach. Having been ousted from his party positions more than once due to disputes with Mao and his supporters, Deng knew the excesses of Stalinism. At the same time, the existing political system offered him a base of power and the apparatus to maintain it. Thus, Deng diverged from Mao in establishing his legitimacy as the leader of China. Gardner notes,
…While personal rule has been customary, there is no constitutional or ideological justification for it, hence no principle by which personal rule can be made legitimate. In the absence of such a principle, the authority of a personal rule in a communist state cannot be transferred to another person by a regulated succession (Gardner 1982, 4).
In other words, Deng had to build alliances and support on his own, since he had neither Mao’s endorsement to be China’s leader nor a mechanism through which such an endorsement could have guaranteed his control. He did, however, have extensive experience in a variety of party positions and the backing of other leaders, all of which contributed to his personal legitimacy as the next leader of China,
By virtue of his experience as past party secretary-general, finance minister, economic planner, a regional supreme leader in Southwest China, a party leader within the armed forces, a vice premier (acting during Zhao’s absence, and, most important of all, the author of the blueprint for the four modernizations, [Deng] finds in the party or government no one who can claim to be his equal in policy leadership and in party politics (Chang 1988, 65).
Deng’s resocialization, therefore, had an outcome different from that of Mao and Castro. Mao viewed his personal rule of China as essential to achieving the goals of his agenda for the country; Castro had a similar view for Cuba. Deng’s experiences during Mao’s tenure contributed to a different style of governance: one in which the leader’s legitimacy was based on his achievements and his party’s, rather than his personality. By changing his role from manifestation of the party to leader of the party, Deng altered how challenges to the system were viewed.
Revolutions and Resocialization
In situations where revolutions are victorious, the new regime must find ways to implement an entirely new political system with different goals and institutions, while maintaining its hold on power.
Communist revolutions have a particularly difficult task in implementing their goals, because their call to arms is the liberation of the masses, both politically and economically. The new regime must put in place a system of political resocialization to build a society of enlightened masses from a population raised in a different political system with different political goals (Bertsch, Clark & Wood 1991, 315). The regime therefore is made up of individuals who followed the path to resocialization described above and they, in turn, create the resocialization of the rest of the country. Revolutionary leaders thus go from being resocialized to being the resocializer. As Gabriel Almond explains,
The attitudes that communist movements encounter in countries where they take power are viewed as false consciousness—whether they be nationalism, religious beliefs, liberal-pluralistic views, ethnic subcultural propensities, or attitudes toward economic interests. These attitudes are viewed as the consequences of preexisting class structure and the underlying mode of production, as transmitted by associated agents of indoctrination. Communist movements either eliminate or seek to undermine the legitimacy of these preexisting structures and processes and replace them with a quite new and thoroughly penetrative set (Almond 1983, 128).
The political resocialization of the masses also serves a more basic purpose. By creating an entirely new education system with the regime’s policies at the core of the lesson plans, the new government creates propaganda departments in every school, workplace and military base, reaching every individual in the country, regardless of age. Hannah Arendt summarized this objective: “Totalitarian regimes, so long as they are in power, and the totalitarian leaders, so long as they are alive, command and rest upon mass support up to the end” (Arendt 1973, 306).1
Role of Political System
Once they had achieved power, Mao and Castro set about creating political systems to implement their visions for their countries. Each man chose a similar structure to realize his vision: an authoritarian system with himself as the dominant leader.
The choice of an authoritarian system may have been inherent to the circumstances. Skocpol suggests, “the logic of state-building through which social revolutions are successfully accomplished promotes both authoritarianism and popular mobilization” (Skocpol 1988, 149). Samuel Farber goes a bit further and suggests that the choice of governing systems by both Mao and Castro was both political and ideological,
…Nothing in the political upbringing of [China or Cuba’s] revolutionary leaderships made them the least inclined to, or interested in, even attempting to establish pluralistic socialist democracies. Instead, they made conscious political and ideological choices favoring undemocratic political arrangements. Furthermore, these institutional arrangements were normally regarded as good in themselves and not as lesser evils imposed on their respective countries by the economic and other objective difficulties encountered at the time of, and subsequent to, the overthrow of the old order (Farber 1990, 3).
The choice of a political system to manage their newly liberated nations clearly was linked to the experiences of both men before and during their respective revolutions. Both Mao and Castro viewed authoritarian rule as necessary to achieve the goals of the revolutions. Such a system would enable the will of the victors to be more rapidly implemented in China and Cuba, all the while building a society of new socialist men (Bertsch, Clark & Wood 1991, 317). The selection of the authoritarian model, however, laid the groundwork for the leaders’ future resistance to alterations of the political system.
Since Mao and Castro were the undisputed leaders of their countries, both men were in reality the embodiment of their regimes. Therefore, challenges to the policies and procedures of the governments of China and Cuba were challenges to the personal authority of Mao and Castro. And because their control of their regimes was almost total, both men were capable of stopping those challenges and reasserting their power. As Fewsmith describes,
…A major reason why reform encounters problems in Leninist systems is precisely the requisites of being a ‘ruling’ party (adhering to legal-rational norms and regularizing relations with society) clash with the charismatic impersonalism of Leninist systems (Fewsmith 2001, 92).
The relationship between leaders and their decisions goes back to Marx’s assertion that man and his history are permanently entwined. The link can be summed up simply: political actors “replicate the patterns of behavior they have learned in the course of their own careers” (Fewsmith 2001, 87). The connection of the socialization of a leader and the choices he makes also has been called the “operational code.” This code comprises the political views of leaders like Mao and Castro based on a set of general beliefs about issues of history and politics. Those beliefs shape the decisions a leader makes about strategy and tactics and are formulated with an eye to past political experience.
The paths of Mao and Castro diverged in the means they pursued to achieve that goal, but the results were the same. The combination of their radicalized political resocializations and their singular leadership of authoritarian systems made Mao and Castro resistant to challenges to their authority. Either element individually could have made them resistant to change, but combined together, resocialization and authoritarianism ensured this resistance.
By contrast, the types of reform that Deng was willing to explore remained within the structure of Marxism-Leninism, though Deng defined that structure more loosely than had his predecessor. Deng recognized that reform placed the communist leadership in a precarious situation. Movement away from the communist or socialist model could discredit the CCP’s government as a whole and weaken party control of China (Fewsmith 2001, 68). Any alterations, therefore, had to reinforce the legitimacy of the party as the foundation of the state.
A fundamental difference between Mao and Deng was their view of proposals to alter the power structure of the party. As paramount leader, Mao was able to dominate the party system on most occasions. Although he had been wary of the growing bureaucracy of the party, a concern that was manifested in the launching of the Cultural Revolution, Mao used his singular dominance of that system to continue to push his agenda. Deng, on the other hand, worked from within the party rather than attempting to replicate Mao’s cult and personal dominance (Fewsmith 2001, 71).
Because he remained concerned about maintaining the party’s control, Deng did not discard all elements of Mao’s leadership. He maintained the authoritarian governing model that Mao had established but removed the Stalinist elements that had run amuck. Ideology was removed as the primary criterion for judging the Party’s effectiveness and a new one emerged: economic performance (Fewsmith 2001, 94). Deng and his supporters included economic modernization among their primary objectives and began an aggressive plan to achieve that goal.
In addition to his economic agenda, Deng also instituted a formal governing structure for the Party that moved it away from a single, solitary political leader, further addressing the problems that Mao’s Stalinist tenure had created (Lo 1999, 78). Consequently, Deng’s changes moved China from the rule of man toward the rule of law, though it remained fundamentally authoritarian. Under Deng’s changes, China moved toward what has been called “socialist democracy.” The one-party structure remained in place and regular acknowledgements of the importance of Marxism-Leninism and the preeminence of the party continued (Lo 1999, 78).
China’s political system under Deng, therefore, was more inclined to tolerate dissent than the Stalinist model pursued by Mao. Deng, however, did not lose sight of the need for a strong central authority to maintain support for and dominance of the CCP. Deng’s more-open approach to China’s governance also affected his approach to other types of reform.
REVOLUTIONARY LEADERS AND CHANGE
The differences in leadership styles between revolutionary leaders and their successors can best be seen by examining the responses of Mao, Castro and Deng to challenges during their tenures.
Mao: The Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution
Mao’s leadership of China began with an ambitious effort to modernize China’s economy. After some small and relatively effective changes to the system, Mao pursued a more dramatic and rapid transformation of the Chinese economy. The Great Leap Forward, launched in 1958, sought to modernize and industrialize China in 10 to 15 years. Mao’s plan built on the previous Five Year Plans, which had been moderately successful. To increase production, Mao proposed moral incentives and mass mobilization, techniques that had been used by the party in Yan’an after the Long March. Collective work projects on irrigation and farming had appeared successful during the Five Year Plans, so even larger cooperatives were included in the Great Leap’s agenda. Improving rural productivity would increase industrial production, moving China forward (Spence 1990, 578).
The first year of the Great Leap Forward was blessed with a good harvest, and the initial results appeared to validate Mao’s approach. However, lingering memories of the outcome of a previous political campaign against Mao’s perceived detractors skewed the reporting of actual production numbers. Party cadres inflated their results out of fear of being labeled “rightists.” Other problems were simply not reported (Spence 1990, 580). The unrealistic goals for production, ever more ambitious due to the illusion of progress created by cooked results, rearranged the priorities of the nation from feeding its people and modernizing its economy to meeting production goals.
Those working in the field knew of the failures; Mao either did not know that his plans were failing or chose to ignore the failures. A prominent party member attempted to end the Great Leap by suggesting to Mao privately that the policies were not working; he was removed from his position for insubordination (Smith 1987, 126). The Great Leap continued for another year, a year in which production levels continued to fall and famine took the lives of an estimated 20 million people.
Mao was not entirely opposed to changes to his agenda. When the dramatic failure of the Great Leap became undeniable, he eventually did back down. At the same time criticisms of Mao’s policies were treated as criticism of Mao himself. By virtue of the system he created, Mao had the power to ensure that critics were punished and he used it.
The Cultural Revolution provides and equally compelling example of Mao’s resistance to changes in his own policies. Mao’s quest for constant revolution made him suspicious of the bureaucratic consolidation of the party’s power. The party bureaucracy was the antithesis of revolution. Institutionalization of the party was not, in Mao’s view, compatible with Mao Zedong Thought. Mao’s singular leadership of both the party and the people of China, a position reaffirmed by the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, meant that no one could question his judgment on this matter.
Scholars have argued that Mao was well aware that the extreme leftists that led many of the Cultural Revolution’s excesses pushed the limits but felt that they were a “lesser evil” than the Party bureaucracy he was trying to overhaul (Gittings 1989, 53). Regardless of his goals, however, Mao’s actions in launching the Cultural Revolution, combined with his previous reactions to challenges to his position, show a clear pattern of aversion to reform.
Mao’s resocialization and his influence on the political structure were independent factors that made him less likely to allow change to the system that guaranteed his position as unrivaled leader of China. When combined, these factors resulted in strong responses against challenges and challengers.
Castro: Market Reforms and Dollarization
While the differences in population between China and Cuba make the scale of retaliation against enemies difficult to equate, Castro has had similar extremes to Mao in his responses to challenges. Despite his late epiphany as a Communist, Castro’s abhorrence for what he perceives as the excesses of capitalism is noteworthy. Market reforms in Cuba have been followed by crackdowns on capitalist activities and political reform has yet to see the light of day.
Like Mao, Castro’s attempts to push the Cuban economy forward have not hit their mark. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Castro allowed experimentation with market reform. The liberalization was in response to the failed policies of the previous decade that had set ambitious, but impossible goals for sugar production and which created shortages in other commodities.
The peasant markets that had been created manifested both the good and bad aspects of capitalism. Farmers were able to provide commodities directly to consumers, addressing the shortages that had become common. At the same time, price speculation and price gouging appeared (Black 1988, 373).
Castro’s reaction to the problems that surfaced was to end the liberalizations. He condemned as “shameful” the peasant markets and accused the working class of developing a “mercenary mentality.” The reforms had exposed the government’s inadequacies and undermined its position with the people. In 1986, the Third Party Congress formally ended the period with a “rectification” campaign designed to bring the party firmly back in control of the island (Black 1988, 373).
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 dramatically impacted Cuba’s economy, which contracted by over a third in 1992-93 (Peters 1998). One tool that Castro was willing to use to improve the country’s economy was to legalize the use of dollars in the domestic economy in 1993. The increased remittances from the United States, a nation that Castro continues to view as the enemy, have become a major element of restructuring the Cuban economy. The availability of U.S. dollars has increased demands for domestic products and services, creating the type of domestic growth necessary to sustain the economy (Baxter 1998, 20).
Although dollars remain legal, Cubans remain wary that the government will crack down on dollar-based transactions. Castro has spoken publicly about the criminal consequences of a dollarized economy, such as prostitution, crime and drug trading (Hammond 1999, 24). Further, in August 2001, the Cuban government announced that U.S. coins would no longer be valid currency on the island (Schweimier 2001, 4). While ending the use of U.S. coins is a minor economic change, public statements and actions of this nature remind Cubans that Castro may still pull the plug on their experiment with capitalism if it presents a real challenge to his authority.
Deng: Economic Reform and Tiananmen
Although Deng resisted fundamental ideological changes to the political and economic structure of China’s system, he accepted some modifications, most importantly and broadly on the economic front. He nevertheless cracked down when he felt the authority of the party was under attack, though not nearly as strongly as Mao had.
Deng unquestionably pursued an aggressive campaign of economic reform. Deng viewed the key to China’s modernization as requiring shifts away from ideology to emphasize economic performance. Even before his position was consolidated, Deng advocated proposals for improving the economy (Gardner 1982, 90). By 1978, however, economic reform became not only advisable but also necessary. China had become economically stagnant; political stability under such circumstances had become, at best, tenuous (Fewsmith 2001, 64). Thus, Deng’s task was not only to find a political path that could maintain communist control but also to find an economic path that could reinforce the legitimacy of CCP rule.
Even before his position as leader had been determined, Deng advocated change. He concentrated his reform efforts on the “Four Modernizations,” which focused on agriculture, industry, defense, and science and technology. Those reforms were to be pursued under the guidance of the party, which maintained its monopoly of defining “revolution” even after Mao’s passing. As the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee stated, “Socialist modernization is therefore a profound and extensive revolution” (Spence 1990, 657).
While the party endorsed Deng’s modernization plans, one should keep in mind that the internal debate on this course of action was very different than it had been under Mao. Implementation of Deng’s priorities was not guaranteed, and Deng was not in a position to punish those who opposed him. At the same time, Deng maintained a balance within the party with himself at the head but with input and support of others in the party (Fewsmith 2001, 50). The changes to the party’s policies that Deng had supported removed the unquestioned power and judgment of the leader that Mao had enjoyed. Deng’s tenure was distinguished from Mao’s in this instance in its acceptance of challenges to Deng’s authority. Dissent within the party did not guarantee retribution.
The Tiananmen protests of 1989 began as the celebration of an anniversary—the seventieth anniversary of the May Fourth movement, which the CCP considered a key element of its origins. Calls for political reform had begun again and were discussed in the National People’s Congress (Spence 1990, 738). Then, Hu Yaobang, the former CCP General Secretary, who had fallen from grace in the years immediately before, died in April. Hu had advocated political reform but had been dismissed from his party posts in 1987 for allowing student protests to spread. Students at Beijing’s universities viewed Hu’s death as an opportunity to pressure the government for further economic and political reform. Sit-ins and rallies began in Beijing and soon spread to other cities (Spence 1990, 739).
By late April, Deng and the party began to display their dissatisfaction with the students. A strongly worded editorial in People’s Daily, believed to represent Deng’s views, condemned the protests and implied that continuation would result in arrest and trial. The warnings, however, only steeled the resolve of students. By May 17, crowds in Tiananmen Square reached over one million and included students, workers, and other reform supporters (Spence 1990, 741).
Deng had not taken a firm stand within the party on how to respond to the protests, but in early June, he agreed that strong action had to be taken. When the Party leadership wanted to take action, Deng sided with the hard-liners who advocated crushing the protests (Fewsmith 2001, 69). On June 3, army units dispersed the protesters with tanks and automatic weapons.
As had been the case with the Democracy Wall, Deng did not initially stop the Tiananmen protests. He waited almost two months before deciding that they must be ended after crowds had grown large enough to potentially threaten the party’s hold on power. In this case, Deng went much further in stemming the criticism than he had in response to Democracy Wall. He used strong authoritarian means to maintain the party’s power. Thus, while Deng differed from Mao in most of his leadership decisions, his response to the Tiananmen protests was reminiscent of Mao.
RECENT EVENTS IN CUBA AND CHINA
While Castro is the last man standing among communist revolutionary leaders in power, his actions in 2001-2002 have provided further evidence of how revolutionary leaders and their successors differ. Castro has successfully advocated a constitutional amendment making socialism “irrevocable” for Cuba. Jiang Zemin, China’s second leader since Mao, has pursued further economic liberalization and has opened party membership to capitalists.
Irrevocable Socialism and Economic Difficulties
Former President Jimmy Carter brought the Varela Project to the attention of many Cubans in his remarks to the Cuban people in May 2002. Eleven thousand signatures were ultimately collected in support of a referendum to allow free speech and elections, amnesty for political prisoners and the right to own and operate private businesses. The signatures were submitted to the Cuban National Assembly in May 2002 in accordance with the Cuban constitution’s provision to allow public calls for referendum (Fritsch 2002, A2). Castro and other members of his government denounced the petition as the work of operatives of the United States and have yet to consider the petition. Instead, in a special session of the Assembly, the legislature passed a referendum, signed by 99.25 percent of eligible Cuban voters, making socialism “irrevocable” for the island (Deutsche Presse Agentur 6/24/02).
Many have cited Castro’s effort on this front as a response to the Varela Project. His actions are not surprising when considered in the larger context of both his previous responses to challenges and, more importantly, the economic difficulties facing Cuba. Within days of the massive rallies led by Castro to proclaim Cuba’s continued confidence in socialism came an announcement by the nation’s sugar minister that half of Cuba’s sugar mills would be closed permanently. While the displaced workers—an estimated 200,000—will reportedly be given alternative employment opportunities, it is difficult to imagine how the Cuban economy can create that many jobs at a time when it is struggling to meet many of its international financial commitments (Grogg 2002).
It is also not surprising that Castro proclaimed three days of holiday for ordinary Cubans to be able to watch the special parliamentary session considering the socialism petition. Cuba has been facing energy shortfalls due to the loss in April of a preferential arrangement with Venezuela that had supplied it with more than 50,000 barrels of oil a day (de Cordoba 2002). In early June, some foreign companies in joint ventures with the Cuban government reported they expected temporary closings of industrial plants due to fuel shortages (Boadle 6/10/02). Consequently, the holiday furthered Castro’s political agenda without calling undue attention to the energy crisis.
Castro’s recent responses to economic hardship and calls for reform have been characterized by a restatement or strengthening of the party line. These actions reinforce Castro’s position as the sole leader of the nation, remind the people of Cuba that he is unwilling to entertain challenges, and allow him to place the blame for a failing economy back on his favorite scapegoat, the U.S. economic embargo of the island.
China’s WTO Membership And Expanded Party Membership
China’s membership in the World Trade Organization finally came to fruition in December of 2001. Implementation of many of the agreement’s provisions had already begun in advance of the accession, including the initial steps to streamline and improve competitiveness of the country’s multitude of stateowned enterprises.
Jiang Zemin and the CCP’s party leadership are very much aware of the potential threat that a difficult transition to WTO membership might mean for their positions. Some analysts have speculated that unemployment from the streamlining of state-owned enterprises could cause 50 million workers to lose their jobs; another 78 million jobs could be lost in the agriculture sector as China’s farmers begin to compete with foreign products (Wade 2001; Economist 6/15/02). The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has suggested that unemployment rates could surge from an official estimated rate of 3.6 percent to over 15 percent (Economist 6/15/02, 13). Social unrest is a real possibility as China implements these changes.
In preparation of such possibilities, however, Jiang’s government has begun to create a social safety net that would provide unemployment benefits along with job training and relocation for workers displaced by changes to the economy (BBC 3/17/02). China has come a long way from the “Iron Ricebowl” that Mao promised—lifetime work and security for every worker in China—but the current leadership is wagering that these changes will prevent widespread unrest due to the economic changes that are planned for the country.
It is, of course, necessary to keep in mind that Jiang is not acting out of benevolence. Party rules dictate that he and most of the current leadership must retire this fall and make way for a new crop of leaders. Jiang Zemin, like Deng Xiaoping before him, is interested in maintaining his influence even in his “retirement,” as well as securing his own place in history. The third succession in China’s leadership since the founding of the People’s Republic of China is expected to go smoothly. Recent reports indicate that Jiang may move up the People’s Congress by a month, a suggestion that the docket of new leaders has been accepted by a majority of the party’s leaders (Kynge 2002).
In retirement, Jiang seeks to maintain his role as head of China’s Central Military Commission, a position that Deng also maintained after he stepped down as China’s premier (Hutzler 2002). Jiang has also proposed his own set of ideological principles that he has pushed in an effort secure his place in history alongside Mao and Deng. In a speech to China’s Party Congress last year, Jiang outlined his “Three Represents,” his vision of how the party will maintain its position by responding to the needs of the Chinese people. Party officials have begun urging publicity and ideological departments to publicize the Three Represents to further their implementation. The People’s Daily, China’s primary paper and voice of the party, recently stated that Jiang’s theory, “is the same strain as Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory” [BBC 6/13/02]. Jiang has also opened party membership to “capitalists,” and some foreign companies have begun to allow the Party to set up organizations within their Chinese factories, all moves to broaden the appeal of the CCP (Economist 6/1/02, 40).
Like his predecessors, however, Jiang is not soft on challenges to his authority. During his watch, an internal report known in the West as the “Tiananmen Papers” became public and exposed many of the party’s warts in its decision to crack down on demonstrators in 1989 and portrayed Jiang’s ascension as an orchestrated coup. News reports have indicated that retaliation against suspected leakers has already been taken (Washington Post 2002). Similarly, while Jiang’s government has taken steps to provide assistance to unemployed workers, demonstrations against the party are still not tolerated for long. Small protests have been reported in some areas of China, but the government has quelled them quickly by rounding up the leaders and offering others financial incentives to stem future protests (Economist 6/15/ 02, 13).
China’s movement away from extreme responses to economic and political challenges continues. Jiang has responded to such situations in a more moderate fashion than Deng, and certainly more so than Mao had done.
The evidence presented in this paper suggests that the role of resocialization in the development of leadership style and structure is different for revolutionary leaders than it is for their successors. Revolutionary leaders maintain and dominate the systems they create. These political systems are characterized by a single strong leader who embodies both the ideals of the revolution and the new government. In the cases of China and Cuba, I have found that the combination of these elements contributes to resistance to change and reform because such changes are viewed as challenges to the leader and therefore to the regime.
Successors are more open to changes of the existing political and economic systems, though they do so within the structure of the revolution’s fundamental goals. They nevertheless will still act to curtail such actions when the legitimacy of the ruling party is threatened.
As leaders of the revolutions of China and Cuba, Mao and Castro had very different revolutionary experiences. They nevertheless used similar means to achieve their goals. Both men relied upon the strategic use of history to distinguish their regimes from preceding governments. Both men found authoritarian political structures, bordering on Stalinist, to be effective in achieving their goals and maintaining their power. The combination of these factors made both Mao and Castro averse to political and economic changes that moved their countries away from their personal control.
Deng Xiaoping experienced China’s revolution and the PRC’s formative years under the system developed by Mao. Although he used history to distinguish his leadership from that of Mao and to identify his goals for the future of China, his distinctions were unique in that they were made in the context of the communist movement overall. He moderated the authoritarian model and the party structure but tried to maintain the overall legitimacy of the system. Deng was more willing to change China’s economic and political systems but was not willing to do so blindly. Deng halted reforms of the political system when he determined the legitimacy of the CCP to be under attack.
Castro continues to follow a well-established pattern in his responses to economic and political challenges. Periods of economic or political difficulty—periods when Castro’s personal authority is being challenged—are responded to with ideological rhetoric and a tightening of control.
China’s leadership, however, has continued to evolve beyond the harsh responses that were common during Mao’s tenure. Jiang Zemin has continued Deng’s evolution away from extremist responses. His government has sought to balance economic changes with financial assistance and training. He has also begun to open party membership to capitalists, who have been barred for years from joining.
Political socialization remains at the core of these differences. Castro continues to fall back on his authoritarian habits to maintain control of Cuba. Jiang alternatively relies on political moderation as a means to maintain order and control.
1. The terms “authoritarian” and “totalitarian” have frequently been used interchangeably to mean a political system that concentrates power in the hands of an autocratic state. “Totalitarian,” however, has a Cold War tone that implies an evaluation of the system’s benevolence. Therefore, for this study, the term “authoritarian” will be used to describe the political systems created in China and Cuba because it more accurately characterizes the nature of the two systems.