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Legacy of Mao


Mira Sinha Bhattacharjea

CHINA: THE QUALITY OF LIFE
By Wilfred Burchett with Rewi Alley
Penguin Books,, 1987, 312, 0.90

VOLUME I NUMBER 4 October - December 1976

The authors of this book, Wilfred Burchett, an Australian, and Rewi Alley, a New Zealander, are no strangers to China. Burchett spent 19 years in S.E. Asia and China, and Rewi Alley first went to China in 1927. He stayed to witness, and to parti­cipate in the momentous events that encompassed war, civil war and finally the victory of the Chinese Communist Party, which gave Mao and his collea­gues the necessary moral authority to rule. Their central interest as Burchett writes, ‘has been to measure the changes that have occurred in recent years in China and to set them in perspective against what we knew of old China’. We tried to understand also how ordinary Chinese citizens conceive that much-bandied-about term: ‘quality of life’. Both, of course, are ‘sympathizers’, and pre­sent a ‘positive’ view of the changes that have taken place at the grass-roots level. Today, with the death of Mao, that colossus who dominated the Chinese scene for close on half a century, with the power struggles against the ‘gang of four’ that includes Mao’s wife, Chiang Ching, it is good to go back to what one might call the essen­tial China. This book makes concrete the legacy that Mao would probably have liked to leave be­hind, namely the vital reconstruction of the country­side and of the people. There is no doubt that despite leadership and ‘two-line’ struggles, policies undertaken and implemented in the first decade have laid the base for the continuing modernization of China. From the early years of land reform through progressive stages to the communes, the countryside and the millions who live there and are China’s real strength have undergone profound change. Together with structural re-organization has come the spread of education and ideas which have transformed the social base. Gone in the main is the traditional bondage of the landless and the crushing yoke of poverty. Gone too is the meaningless traditional system of marriage with its feasts, expensive dowries, the enslavement of the wife and the endless breeding of the ‘five sons and two daughters’. Today women work at all sorts of enter­prises in villages, towns and cities. Education links problems of production, of employment and of life with academic training. It returns the educated to their villages. Welfare and health services have fanned out to cover the majority of the Chinese multitude. All this ...


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