[FOUNTAIN]Pragmatism rules over China historyMao Zedong said the power came from the barrel of a gun. The militaristic idea suited Chairman Mao, who built communist China through guerrilla warfare. The muzzle of communism is the party and the army. The Communist Party spreads the ideology like germs and the military removes opponents with violence. The ideology develops into agitation, and agitation evolves into hostility. Once triggered, hostility and violence would expand until the enemy is completely eradicated. So the power from the gun barrel is the power of elimination and severance.
Chairman Mao, the first generation revolutionary, exercised absolute rule during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. It was a period of ideology, agitation and hostility. At least several hundreds of thousands of people were murdered, forced to commit suicide or died in prison.
Deng Xiaoping, one of the victims of the Cultural Revolution and China’s second leader, also seized power with a gun. In the cutthroat showdown with the Gang of Four in 1976, Mr. Deng defeated the faithful successors of Mao’s ideology. At the time, Mr. Deng urged his followers to wage a desperate fight against the Gang of Four and decapitate them. He said that the party and the state would collapse if they did not fight.
There was no bloody housecleaning when Jiang Zemin, the third-generation leader, took the leadership of China from Mr. Deng from 1987 to 1989. However, students and intellectuals demanding liberty were challenging the power of the Communist Party at the time. The tension exploded in June 1989 in Tiananmen Square, where Mr. Deng ordered the military to massacre the protestors. It was the People’s Liberation Army that aimed the guns at the people.
It is surprising that leadership was smoothly handed down to Hu Jintao, the fourth leader. Chinese politics has overcome the politics of the gun barrel and elimination in 15 years. The tension between the Communist Party and the people has been alleviated and is under control.
The Chinese politics has matured thanks to the lessons the political leaders learned from history. The Cultural Revolution was a nightmare. The Tiananmen Square massacre is yet to be resolved. Sharing a dangerous past and threatening present, the Chinese leaders chose compromise over conflict.
by Chun Young-gi
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.