« | Home | »

‘Great Changes after the Liberation’

Tags: | |

In 1950 the Chinese Communist Party published a comic called ‘Great Changes after the Liberation’. Its aim was to ‘awaken people’s disgust toward imperialists and counter-revolutionaries’ by contrasting the inequalities of pre-Liberation China with the promises of the new regime. The comic was recently posted on Sina Weibo and generated a lot of online discussion before it was removed. Though some of its predictions have come true, such as the rise of the renminbi against the dollar and the need for foreigners to obey the law, plenty of people pointed out the similarities between China now and before 1949.

The comic contrasts a pre-Liberation official surrounded by money and alcohol, indifferent to a citizen’s needs, with a selfless, cheerful cadre. The Communist Party runs frequent anti-corruption campaigns, often involving the dismissal and imprisonment of provincial officials, but corruption is endemic throughout Chinese society. The Bo Xilai case has strengthened perceptions that often ‘the cat and the rat are asleep together’ (māo shǔ tóng mián).

The comic’s promises of low living costs (even the vegetables are happy about it) and universal housing were arguably fulfilled until the economic reforms of the 1980s. Before then most people were part of a danwei (‘work unit’) that took care of their housing and welfare needs. The reforms led to the closure of many non-competitive state-owned enterprises, and an increasingly free (and uncertain) labour market. Now many poor and middle-class people without a state job are complaining about price rises and increasing rents.

These are problems that the government freely admits to (they are present in official statistics). In late 2011 the government announced an initiative to provide affordable public housing, but there are already doubts about the scheme, partly due to corruption.

Modern China doesn’t live up to the comic’s promises in other respects, too, such as gender equality and prison conditions. But the pictures are perhaps less interesting as an ironic tool for bashing the present regime than as a record of what was hoped for, or even thought possible, 62 years ago.

Comments

  1. NM says:

    Were the promises of low living costs and universal housing really fulfilled during the pre-Reform period? My impression was that they weren’t really — that the full socialist benefits package (housing, schooling, health care, pensions) was only ever available to permanent employees of urban danwei, and that even this package only really came together fully towards the end of the “high socialist” period, the late 70s. I.e., were not at all times very large parts of the population excluded from this — the rural population obviously, but also within the cities those on temporary contracts of some kind, or those who were members of less wealthy danwei (those who belonged to small local SOEs rather than big, central-state “key point” SOEs; or who belonged only to collectives, not SOEs)?


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • AndrewL on To Ultima Thule and Beyond: It would be better to say that "elements heavier than iron are only formed by supernovae". Elements lighter than iron can be formed by burning (fusin...
    • KevinWhitston on What is Corbyn thinking?: Here is a contribution that I hope does address your arguments. Corbyn might get brownie points for consistency in his Euroscepticism, but nothing els...
    • sgt101 on To Ultima Thule and Beyond: Mostly stars fuse hydrogen into helium to create energy (I think it's called PP fusion) once the star has a helium core things start to go wrong and a...
    • RegPresley on What is Corbyn thinking?: It's an interesting argument that Brexit is a marginal issue because the underlying problems- inequality etc. - can be solved either from within or wi...
    • Peter Leary on What is Corbyn thinking?: Aside from a fairly transparent effort to use Brexit as a ‘wedge issue’ to oust Corbyn, there is no good reason for any real Remainer to get worke...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

Advertisement
Advertisement