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Foreign Cultures 63 10.5.

2005

How did the CCP control such a large, complex, contentious society?

Elements that led to a relatively successful level of control


(Note: there are pluses and minuses to these methods of control)
Initial party popularity
Considering the turmoil of the early 20th century (Western imperialism, inflation,
etc.), the party brought economic stability, reforms, a response to the Western
world – this led to initial pride and relief due to the CCP; people were willing to
cooperate with the government
Socialist transformation in the mid-1950s
By the late 1950s, the institutions required for individuals to gain social,
economic, political status were controlled by the CCP; individuals were
dependent on the bureaucratic authorities who answered to the party; political
dissent was not an option (could not opt out of the system)
Dossier system
Young people in schools were tracked in personal dossiers (grades, progress,
political leanings, ‘dangerous’ tendencies); secret documents; provided a detailed
record of one’s past
Extending ‘political rituals’ to the larger population
Criticism and self-criticism were extended to everyone (versus in USSR where
these rituals were limited to party circles); the need to regularly state one’s
support for the latest party doctrine – peer criticism if that support was perceived
as insincere
Campaigns
Large-scale (Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution) to small-scale (rooting out
corruption, etc); meant stopping the regular routine, reorganizing the CCP’s
priorities to tackle a single issue; work-teams sent into the population; organizing
people for ‘class struggle’; designed to foster the sense that party officials were
always monitoring the population; de-emphasis on the use of laws, public
regulation

Benefits
By creating a highly mobile, ideological population, there were natural curbs on crime,
prostitution
Ability to embark on large-scale public works projects
Able to get large parts of the population involved in state projects for the benefit of
everyone

Consequences
If the party has undesirable goals, people are still compelled to go along with them
People felt marginalized if they had doubts
Great Leap Forward
Many of the economic initiatives did not make sense; led to an economic disaster
with 30 million excess deaths; economic setback for years
Cultural Revolution
Large numbers of excess death; disruption in peoples’ lives; economic damage
Foreign Cultures 63 10.5.2005

Ability to mobilize the system was one of its greatest defects, in that there was no way to
stop it if the goals were misguided
Susceptibility to corruption; individuals could not effectively resist corrupt officials
Interpersonal tensions would arise, but because of the bureaucratic and fixed nature of
work, employers were often antagonistic with each other for a long period of
time, but they could only vent their anger during the campaigns.
“Cult of personality” surrounding Mao; Communist system leant itself to these things;
modern development made possible by the degree of control over the population,
plus a political systems based on loyalty to the chairman.
No orderly way of promoting people through the political system; people never retired –
they either hung on, were killed, or died.