Since the eighteenth century Western accounts of China have oscillated between excessive admiration and excessive horror. That oscillation has continued up to the present in characterisation of the Communist Party and the régime it created. In the mid-1920s, Chinese Communists were regarded as extreme revolutionaries. Then during the Second World War, when that Party moderated its policies, Communists were seen as patriotic agrarian reformers. The Cold War thinking of the 1950s saw the new Chinese régime as ‘totalitarian’ in Soviet mode and when the Chinese Communist Party broke with the Soviet Party in the 1960s as even more sinister. The Cultural Revolution of the mid-1960s confirmed all the worst fears of cold-warriors whilst offering inspiration for a while to Western radicals. Then the opening-up of China in the early 1970s began to produce amongst some scholars a very favourable view of the ‘Chinese road to socialism’ and Mao Zedong’s model of economic development. While many economists were sceptical, China was proclaimed a developmental success. Then after 1978, when the Chinese Communist Party changed tack and rejected many of Mao’s policies in favour of market socialism, the World Bank revised downwards its estimate of China’s gross domestic product and the favourable assessment of Mao’s strategy began to evaporate. The mood changed later to one of extreme optimism for China’s economic reform and gave rise to hopes for a future democratic agenda.
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.