China's leader, Chairman Hua Guofeng, ended a three-week tour of Europe on Tuesday (6 November).?
China's leader, Chairman Hua Guofeng, ended a three-week tour of Europe on Tuesday (6 November). His visits to France, West Germany, Britain and Italy were aimed at strengthening China's political, military and economic tics with that part of the world. It was a tour that formed part of what is seen as Peking's growing participation in world affairs, a contrast to the isolationist days under Mao Tse-tung, and a reflection of a change that is apparently taking place inside China itself.
SYNOPSIS: Chairman Hua has been leader for three years, since Mao's death in 1976. It has been a period of re-assessment of national aims and policies. Hua and China's other leaders have set in motion the rebuilding of an economy that was severely dislocated by the Cultural Revolution of the late 'sixties and early 'seventies. The internal disorders of those years set China back decades and isolated its people from the outside world.
Despite the setbacks of the Cultural Revolution, China's achievements in 30 years of independence have been great. Almost one thousand million people have adequate shelter, food, clothing and medical care. The real problems though, lie elsewhere.
The Revolution brought the downfall of many intellectuals, scientists and industrialists. Now, their former status has largely been restored; it's seen as part of China's move to correct one of its most serious deficiencies -- the establishment of efficient managers and innovators. Leading scientists, like Chang Kuang Hou, are now encouraged to produce theoretical work, formerly held in disrepute.
China's education system suffered badly during the revolution years. Schools and universities were closed down for much of the time. The result .. almost a whole generation that grew up with little or no formal education. Gradually, the system is being restored. The assertion of political ideology has been replaced by the need for trained graduates.
In the 1950's, with help from the Soviet Union, China laid the basic framework of its industry. Advances have been made since then, but because of political upheavals, development slowed considerably, so that China is now having to look to the West for rapid technological advances. The need for foreign expertise is clear, but just where it will go, and how it will be paid for, is still undecided. Observers say China is not willing to be dependent on foreign aid to the extend it was no moscow in the 'fifties.
Another change that has taken place during the three years of Chairman Hua's leadership concerns the arts. Many works of literature, modern and ancient, Chinese and foreign, that were once banned are now in bookshops again.
Performing arts are also back in favour; part of a liberalisation of the arts that is seen by some observers to be designed at providing a stimulus to people, many of whom have experienced years of cultural restrictions.
The liberal mood is being further extended, though cautiously to the practising of religion. Selected places of worship are being re-opened and renovated; Chinese religious leaders are being encouraged to resume their activities again, though at a subdued level.
But at the same as the recent freedom, there have also come the first court trials of human rights campaigners. One, Wei Jingsheng, editor of an unofficial magazine, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment last month (October). Though criticism is being allowed, there is some doubt among observers as to whether China's authorities will allow it to extend to questioning the basic beliefs, such as communism and socialism. China is changing, but in its own way.