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From WMUR found in Washington D.C. the future of another in a series of discussions of alternative futures. Your moderator is Joe coach of the world future society. Mr. Coates Good evening this is Joe codes for the world Futures Society presenting another in a series of discussions of alternative futures the subject for this evening's discussion is the future of the Chinese polity. Arnold Toynbee not so long ago said that our image of communist China haunts and provokes fear and hostility. What we see is the figure of an angry giant rearing up and glaring down at us with threatening gestures. This is how China looks even to Americans who would like to believe that Communist China is nonexistent to discuss the reality and the future of that image we have with us this evening. Doc Barnett and Angus Fraser. Doc Barnett was born in China one thousand twenty one educated at Yale Franklin and Marshall and in the Marine Corps. After a stint as a correspondent for The Chicago Daily News
he moved on eventually headed the State Department for an area studies at the Foreign Service Institute. From 1981 to 69 he was a professor of Government at Columbia University and headed their contemporary China Studies Program. Currently he's a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He's edited several books published numerous articles on China and Asia. Our other discussion this evening is Colonel Angus Fraser U.S. Marine Corps retired after 25 years of service in the Marine Corps in mainland China Taiwan and Korea. He has worked as a research analysis analyst at the international studies division at the Institute for Defense Analysis. Colonel Frazer specializes in Chinese political military affairs before structure and the role of the Army and the Chinese policy. Well Dr. Barnett What do you see as the future of the Chinese polity. You know I quote from 20 that you gave I think I think caught the flavor
of the image that does exist in the minds of many westerners. One might immediately point out that a comparable image exists in the Chinese that the Chinese have felt themselves of him then threatened. By Western outside powers I was there to be one of the one of the big problems in the period ahead is whether there can be some kind of mutual accommodation between China and the West whether the West will have different images of China learn to get along with China and whether the Chinese will have different images of the West. My view is that China is currently going through an extremely important process of change after this great outburst of revolutionary energy of the past 10 to 20 years. I would say that it's reached a transition period. It's waiting in a sense Molly the great revolutionary leader to go and in the process is undergoing great
change the culture revolution has been the most recent sort of evidence of it. And will undergo a great change in the future and I presume that's what we will discuss tonight the kind of change that we here had but Colonel Fraser you agree that the death of me will be the initiation of a transition. It seems almost platitudinous to say so but I think he is one of the charismatic first generation leaders of our time and most certainly life will never be the same in China after his passing. People talk about a disruptive power struggle. I think the Chinese are far too wise for this even during the trying days of the Cultural Revolution. One could think that none of the antagonists would go too far in fear of opening China to outside action are disrupting the total fabric of the country to the point where it would fall apart. I think that after Mao We will see a
loose alliance of perhaps competing leaders who operate by debate and consensus and who will in a little increments never openly violating our arguing with the thought of mobs that don't move China into a somewhat more realistic position with respect to the rest of the world. Well it sounds like he's going to become an Oriental pope. But before we go into the discussion of the factors driving for the future it might be useful to clarify. How the Chinese government is now organized so that Mao can enjoy such a critical and essential position not to burn it. That's not an easy question to answer. Well and I said what if they were having a very easy or relatively easy up until late 1965 and the Cultural Revolution started. Up until that time our general picture of China was of a fairly centralized regime was seemingly all low in retrospect now we have evidence that this was not entirely correct seemingly a
fairly unified leadership pursuing the stated policies of collectivization socialisation industrialization and so on and the Cultural Revolution though has been really remarkable phenomenon. In essence this is a great oversimplification but. Ma instead of becoming more conservative as he aged as many men do seem to become more utopian more concerned about somehow making a final try to preserve his utopian revolutionary values he saw these being undermined by the growth of a great bureaucratic state. He saw them undermined by the growth of technocrats in the society. He saw them undermined by leaders who were more prepared than he to sort of compromise with the realities of the society and what he did he with military support or at least the support of part of the military in effect turned on the party set. Lose the youth of the country and tore down a large part of the organizational structure
that he built. Now China is in the process now of trying to rebuild it so it's a country in which the distribution of power and authority is really quite uncertain because it's still being reconstructed it's still in a transitional state. I think you can say is that in the vacuum it was created by this tearing down of the old structure what was left as authority or two things it seems to me. Mao himself. But his authority will not be transferable to anybody else. And the military stepped into the vacuum and now is in effect running the country. But this too I think is a transitional thing the military is going to be very important for quite a long period of time but the military can't directly rule China and what's going on though is a slow process of reconstructing the bureaucracy the party bureaucracy the government bureaucracy. So it is but there's a very slow process and it is a changing period and one in which as Angus said you already
have much greater competition of forces and leadership I would say even now is a much more complex leadership than it was before. And when Mao goes it's going to be even more so. It is going to have to be some kind of a collectivist or a coalitional type of leadership dealing with a rather diffuse society. What are the principal components for as you can tell us. Who are the principal actors or the principal group interests making up this complex governing body. Well the conventional wisdom would describe three groups and his associates and the group around them. Now not clearly identified as members of that group perhaps competing in their fervor and competition for Molly's favor. Are the Cultural Revolution people like Mao's wife junking and a number of others. Finally then there is said to be thought to be a cluster of more practical minded or better oriented in the
government governing sense clustered around Geo and why the old bureaucrats some of the army leaders and the people who in the 20 year history of the Chinese People's Republic have been the ones who got things done. What's the role in this. Have you not given the appropriate emphasis of the technocrats the bureaucrats. Is there a new class coming up the sort that we had in Yugoslavia and in Russia. I think it was Mao's perception of just this phenomenon that that had a lot to do with launching the Cultural Revolution. And I would like to backtrack to something Doc said just a moment ago. The function of the youth in this whole operation has been very interesting knowledge complained of visitors in the past that the youth of China were soft. They lacked any revolutionary experience of any revolutionary zeal and I think one of the cleverest uses of resources we've seen is the way Mao used the youth against the bureaucrats while at the same time giving you their revolutionary experience which in
his mind they so badly needed. Now of course the payoff is some 20 to 30 million of them are now rusticating learning how to be farmers and promising to dedicate the rest of their life to agriculture. Let me pick up on what Angus has just been talking about. I group very much agree with that. The evidence we now have suggests that there was a very strong tendency in the society towards the development of to use shorthand technocrats people who are specialized people who are concerned with various sort of narrow elements of the tasks of the regime and that in the early 60s and the sort of critical period following the failures economically of the Great Leap leadership of this kind came to the fore and it was my perception as I said that this is the case and he tried to combat it. Now at the height of the Cultural Revolution these people were totally submerged and a very high proportion incidentally of the leadership of this country was purged during the culture.
What does that mean specifically to be submerged and purged. Well to be submerged means that the whole weight of the propaganda apparatus which got control of rather early in the Cultural Revolution was focused on trying to promote the values of of self sacrificing generalize and you don't mean these people who are put out of employment. Yes I do. That you do second part of your question and nobody really knows precisely how many people in the party as a whole were purged or the Russians of claim that over half of the entire Communist Party were Perris and I whether that's true or not I don't know. But if you look at the leadership well over half of the top leadership was pre purged as not incidentally in the Chinese context mean taken out and shot in the Russian sense purged means deprived of their jobs and sent down the work except for really indoctrinations. And so most of these people are probably somewhere tucked away in China but they're not in the jobs they had before. Now they
were therefore subjected to this kind of attack during the Cultural Revolution. But I would say that in the sort of complicated balance of forces post Cultural Revolution which we now see it appears to me if you look at the actions of the regime that you have ups and downs backing and filling and you'll get Maoist impulses come out low as my self in the group around them. Call for things like the promotion of barefoot doctors. At this this idea is just one I picked out of the hat this is to develop a lot of sore semi-trained people go out in the countryside and provide medical service. Certain rationality that incidentally but it fits in the mouse sort of approach to things. On the other hand you have it seems to me pressures in the other direction carabaos are pressures to sort of get things disciplined under control rebuild the party get things sort of back on organizational basis pressing for mass mobilization methods other people pressing for more rational systematic
routine EIS organizational methods. This is going back and forth it isn't you know it's unsettled at the moment. But with the demise of how do you both agree that they'll be the move toward order regularity and control. I think specific problems will be attacked with a little more vision and imagination a little more thought to their real consequences. But don't you know the Scripture has been written and it's a question of exegesis now and I think that the successors will rationalize whatever they do in accordance with the thought of matzah don't no matter how wildly it actually departs from thought. Well I'm sure that will in the discussion work back to this point. But since the future grows out of the present and the present out of the past and since China has that you are long past. Why don't we take a running start on the future and see if we can identify some of the basic historical factors that are going to determine the Chinese future. For example is there a traditional manifest destiny or expansionism in China which will be realized. Is there a
traditional political structure. Well warlord ism for example which will be realized in a new embodiment in the future. Dr. Burnet Well let me go back that far and say that I think that there are certain very powerful forces that have been growing and operating in China they've been growing for the last hundred years I would say. They've been determining the course of events in China the motivation of Chinese in that basic sense for a good many decades. One is about a vacation from modernization. The introduction of western science and technology for the development of industry for the improvement of Agriculture for raising of staff of livings and the growth of the economic base of this country and the power of this country. And now there's been a very strong nationalist drive. And this is grown in the 20th century. It is primary in all Chinese groups. Nationalist communist or anyone else and these are constants.
So I think I think it's absolutely questionable in my mind that post Mao you will have these continuing strong drives to build China into a national power to modernize it and to get economic growth underway in a significant fashion. The question is what are post ma leaders going to do in terms of the strategy of trying to achieve these goals. I feel very strongly that there will be a swing away although I think Angus is right it will probably be justified by selective quotation from AO. There will be a swing away from his sort of visionary approach Mao has believed or seem to believe that you could push this country forward towards these national economic modernization goals by demanding sort of ultimate idealism self-sacrifice on the part of people minimizing sort of rewards and
incentives and things of this guy. By mobilizing people by the kinds of methods he used during the Revolutionary War and avoiding bureaucratic routine Nies rationalized ways of going about it now. I don't think any other leader can even push hard in these directions after Mao goes I think. China sort of shot its bolt so to speak in this direction with the Cultural Revolution. And I think of it and the tendency is going to be to pursue these goals of modernization of national power but by what I personally at least would call more rational more realistic types of methods. I agree with that completely. I would like to go back again to something a word you used a couple of times. You speak of warlordism. I think one of the phenomena we're looking at today and which has tremendous importance for the near future say the next five to 10 years anyway is just exactly what the military people are doing. The Army had to be
introduced into the cultural revolution in a fashion that was rather unfamiliar to the Chinese they had to be inserted. To restore order when things were getting out of hand then over time as the bureaucracy was turned out as Doc has pointed out. We saw the army in various manifestations moving into control of leavers a power simply to keep the country going. No we're looking at a scene where the revolutionary committees which are really running affairs the pot party committees are being reconstituted very slowly and none have been reconstituted at the province or regional level. The army people are running things not as warlords no one is going to succeed in fighting the image of say the warlords of the 1920s is completely inaccurate. But what we do see. A group of very powerful regional and provincial leaders who have the ability now to
withhold our condition the sort of support that they give to the center and who in return for their support extract certain concessions and certain freedoms in their own area. Now this brings us up to the really serious question is China governable you're talking about a country of 700 million people with. Land area just not too much larger than that of the United States three point seventy five million square miles. Communications are still rudimentary. Local interests and group interests tend to preoccupy most of the people away from the center of government. And I think what we're looking at first is a problem of restoring some sort of cohesive programming and control of programs and plans from the center. I agree with this and let me elaborate just a bit on this warlord thing one thing that's important to point out to realize is that the
regional provincial military leaders at the present time are very different from the warlords because their goals are not primarily local power. They're exercising local power because they have to in some respects and because they do have local interests. But I think they're motivated by a very strong nationalism by a very important identifiable national goals in a way that the old warlords were not. This basic problem that anchors have been talking about of the distribution of power and how what is governable from the center in a country like this. I would say that when the communist first really set up their regime in the mid 50s when they had consolidated and set up a formal structure they tried an impossible degree of central control. They tried for a brief period of time to run everything from the Senate. Now there are a lot of things impelling Chinese and particularly Chinese communist don't want to do this. There's a long tradition of trying to have central control in China and the communist desire to plan the society and plan the economy also argued
in favor of central control. But by the late 70s in other words after a very brief period of time they found they just could not control everything from the center and they began to decentralized. I am can vets that one thing if one looks. Future compares it with the past that you are for the long run. You will have vacillation fluctuations in central centralization vs. decentralization. But I think for the long haul there is going to be more power down at the regional provincial and local levels than there has been in the past because this country is so huge it simply cannot be run in detail from the setting. I think we're seeing the beginnings of some very very pragmatic activity for example small industries supplying to power equipment for agriculture are quite deliberately being moved away from large clusters and from the big industrial centers in each province now supposed to be working on its own complex for the production of agricultural equipment. This is simply
one recognition of the fact that too many things cannot be gathered and controlled from the center. And this may be an indication of where we are moving in the future and of the growing influence of the group. We talk about as the possible successors of Mao. This is going to be a tough and continuing problem because they're built in a way almost unsolvable dilemmas here. Post my leadership is going to water every new industrialization it is going to want to have planning it's going to want to. A quote communist unquote economy of some sort. It is going to want to mobilize or so I says to the extent it can. And yet it's got to somehow work out a system where there's a lot of original initiative a lot of original control a lot of original planning is a very difficult thing to do. I know it's happened in varying degrees in other communist societies and economies but this is going to be a problem that they're going to wrestle with for a long time. Do you see this drive toward economic development to any substantial
degree flowing out of military concerns or fears of foreign intervention. Or will the economic development be largely directed at internal development. This too I would say is going to be a source of continuing debate there's no doubt that defense has been a primary motivation from the start and yet it's not the sole motivation by any sense and what is this in some sense a misperception on the Chinese part in much the same way that we have traditionally mis perceived the Chinese I think in the sense of military preparedness Joe the people who over the years have have held someone popular rather professional military views must be feeling some gratification because the Russian menace. As viewed by by the Chinese is very very real and they are acutely aware of their physical inferiority and what this means is it probably a greater share of the
available resources for a period of time will go into better preparing to deal with with a massive order. Is there a competing interest group in the population perhaps. We entertain the view that the Chinese used to see the Boid masses of people with the pimple of control at the top. We really haven't talked about the groups within the Chinese population. Is there a consumer interest is there a peasant interest. Is there a small shopkeeper interest which in some sense exerts a potentially powerful influential group in the future influential tendency in the future. I would say if you start looking at interest groups and China does have something that in the broadest sense one can call interest group if you start with the bureaucracy itself which is a huge apparatus in China. And it's clear that over the years you have developed very real sort of interest groups and getting back to what we're talking about allocation of resources for defense industries let's say versus other economic purposes that quite clearly clashes
between people of variety of economic ministries are not defense related and those who have a lot of resources for defense and this is going to continue. If you're talking about interest groups elsewhere in the society you have to be a little bit more cautious because in our sense there are two interest groups that has not been possible in the past for people to organize and push for their own interests. Nevertheless in an interesting way I am inclined to think that one thing that's happened in the Cultural Revolution is that this centralized mass organization structure that the regime had for labor labor unions for workers present associations and things of this kind the country youth organization this broke down and these organizations not really been reconstructed. And in the confusion almost chaos at times of the Cultural Revolution you did have groups springing up and competing with each other all over the country. Now one question mark I would have. Is whether these will take on or may take on overtime some of the characteristics are sort of locally
rooted interest groups I don't think this is certain but it's possible. What would you say. I would agree with that. The groups that sprang up during the Cultural Revolution tended to base their association on ideological considerations and there were many many rather rather severe fights between two groups each of which contended that it was the custom of the thought of Mao and the other just didn't know how to handle this sort of thing. But as don't points up now that they have gotten together and all that they see the advantages of working together they will be able to focus their interests on other matters. But what sort of interest groups they will constitute is pretty hard to predict at this point. And to that lady I don't think certainly I would and I doubt Fagus would either like to leave the impression China is on the verge of being a highly pluralistic society in a political sense. It's a terribly complicated society that has always been highly organized. Many local organizations on the other hand the relationship of the state
to social organization has always been one which the state has had predominate. Now I don't think that's going to suddenly change. I think this is an old pattern is likely to persist. Well could we look at what is perhaps. Chestnut in all discussions of the future you may have some particular importance in Chile and the interplay of population and food. What pattern do you see for the future and what influence especially influence you see. Dr. Burnat I shouldn't preface every comment I make by that's a tough question. Well yeah. The facts as little we know them are roughly as follows that the population is somewhere let's say between seven and a hundred million estimate some go as high as close to 800 million in this country at last report and their figures on this sort of saying have a birth rate over 2 percent. This is it poses a very fundamental problem. I would say that over a period of
time. It was rational or relatively rational policy China can keep ahead of its population and general economic growth and agriculture to China has yet for example to really take advantage of these new so-called miracle rice and wheat grain SEPIC they began. They've just been announcing that they have their own sort of strains equivalent to the new Mexican wheat in the Philippine rice and these have been produced with the aid of the thought of don't like it was. Now when I look up there's a there's that little Whitney you follow everything everything with the thought of most of that. But in the long run I think as I started to say I think for a short run they can keep ahead the long run the future of this country depends very much on a basic sense of whether they can bring down their net population growth are you talking now in terms of when you say the long running talking 25 years 50 years. You know I would say 25 I'd say they have about 20 years in which to do something significant about this problem.
They're trying to they have adopted population control policies but it's not easy primarily raw agrarian population to carry out these could could we perhaps over me either of you a brief word on the future role of women in China. Well briefly I think women in China have been going throughout the last 50 years but particularly says a Kavis period a basic change in their old society they're merging into for example productive roles and other roles and to an extent they have not before and I think this is one thing that certainly going to continue over the next several decades. Colonel for it you can are I concur completely there are much more active in there they're participating in the sorts of things that they've they've never been involved in before and there's some rather formidable looking lady militia. Is this likely to lead to a turn down in population just because they'll have some distractions outside the home. I think the turndown population has already taken place because of distractions outside home activities and methods of living that very effectively
encourage later marriages in smaller families. Well thank you Dr. Barnett. Thank you Colonel Fraser for this excellent discussion of the factors driving toward the future Chinese polity. This has been another in a series of discussions presented by the world future society. The objectives of the society are to encourage the serious investigation and the reason awareness of the future. Those of you who are interested in learning more about our activities are invited to write for a free copy of our journal The Futurist. You may write to me Joe coats in care of this station or to the world future society. Post Office Box 1 9 2 8 5. Post Office Box 1 9 2 8 5 Twentieth Street Station Washington DC 2 0 0 3 6. Thank you and good night. This is the national educational radio network.
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The future of
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The Future of the Chinese Polity
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Chicago: “The future of; 20; The Future of the Chinese Polity,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024,
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