Twenty-five years ago, on October 1, 1949, The People's Republic of China came into being.?
Twenty-five years ago, on October 1, 1949, The People's Republic of China came into being. It was fashioned out of two decades of civil war which had ripped the old China apart and its architect was the man whose vision was a totally new China. The man was Mao Tse-tung.
The new nations' first quarter-century of existence has seen Mao carry through one of the most enormous social experiments ever undertaken. More than 700 million people -- a fifth of the world's population -- have been re-aducated, drilled and processed into one gigantic unit with a single purpose -- to make China the greatest power on earth.
When it began in 1949, the People's Republic slammed the door on the rest of the world, with the exception of the Soviet Union. Moscow, naturally, welcomed the newest and biggest Communist state into its fold. With China as an ally, it felt secure and it rewarded the young Chinese nation with the aid and expertise it needed, in return for friendship.
And China needed everything Russia could give. It had practically no industry and had purposely destroyed its traditional administrative class in the euphoria of revolution. Soviet aid, from steel mills to bicycles, poured in and the foundations of Chinese industry was laid.
The measure of its progress from a peasant economy to an industrial state was demonstrated in 1964, when China exploded its first atomic bomb. In fifteen years, this nation had risen from the ashes of civil was to global stature. The effort had been prodigious and the dedication total.
And China was now ready to change course. Strong enough to cast off the Soviet Union, Mao found differences in policy between Peking and Moscow and challenged them. The old friend became the new enemy. Free from entanglements, the People's Republic went its own way.
Internally, Mao demonstrated equal confidence in his ability to control the state he had created. Publicly demonstrating his personal virility, he took his celebrated plunge into the Yangtse river in 1966, at the age of 73, and in the same year unleashed the Cultural Revolution.
Continual revolution, he had told the Chinese people, was the only road to progress. And he showed them what he meant when he flooded the street with ardent young Red Guards dedicated to upholding the thoughts of Chairman Mao and destroying his opponents.
For almost a year, China was convulsed by an internal power struggle. In an orgy of destruction, the life of the nation was paralysed and thousands of real or imagined enemies were killed, removed or discredited. And at the and of it, Chairman Mao was supreme.
The gigantic social experiment had succeeded. Every man, woman and child in the country was harnessed to the cause of making China strong and self-sufficient. All rank and privilege were officially abolished and work became the only honourable pursuit. Seven hundred million Chinese were became the only honourable pursuit. Seven hundred million Chinese were now workers, super-patriots and disciples of Chairman Mao Tse-tung.
When Mao spoke, the Chinese people listened, and the rest of the world took notice. But he astonished them all with his choice of dialogue in 1972. America, for so long the arch-enemy of Maoism, was welcomed to the People's Republic in the person of President Richard Nixon in the greatest turn-about in world politics since World War Two.
At the same time, the People's Republic of China took its place in the United Nations at the expense of chiang Kai-shek's Taiwan. At long last. At long last, China had come in out of the cold.
The People's Republic is now 25 years old and has come from nothing to a position as one of the three super-powers. What it has achieved it has achieved largely by its own astonishing effort. Whether or not others find its regime to their taste, none can rightly deny that the story of its first quarter-century has been of the most significant episodes in modern history.