Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Shelly Ross

Winds of change in China and Soviet Union

First Published: Unity, Vol. 10, No. 16, November 16, 1987.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In late October and early November, China and the Soviet Union both held major meetings which looked back at their history and looked forward to the future. Changes and reforms are taking place in both countries, which are drawing world attention.

China unites behind reforms

China began a period of economic experimentation and reform some eight years go. At the 13th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which ended November 1, the party decided to continue on this path. Reports at the congress indicated that China’s reforms have revitalized the country and enjoy broad popular support.

In addition, the congress carried out a smooth transition in the top leadership. A number of younger generation leaders replaced some veteran party members who had been leaders of the 1949 revolution. China’s Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang, 68, was elected general secretary of the CPC. Many of the other new leaders are in their 50s. Deng Xiaoping, 83, who has long been associated with China’s reform policies, retired from the Central Committee.

“Our goal is common prosperity,” Zhao told reporters after the meeting. During the congress, Zhao stated that China is in the “primary stage of socialism” and needs more policies which can speed up the country’s modernization. He said these would include less central economic planning, more use of the market forces such as “supply and demand,” and limited foreign investment.

Gorbachev’s new approach in Soviet Union

At events marking the 70th anniversary of the Russian Revolution earlier this month, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev showed his commitment to continuing the policies of glasnost (openness), and perestroika (restructuring of Soviet society). Since assuming the country’s leadership in 1985, Gorbachev has called for economic reforms, shaking up the government bureaucracy, and easing restrictions on political and cultural expression.

In several widely publicized speeches, Gorbachev also sounded a different note on Soviet history and other issues. On November 2, in a review of the country’s course since 1917, Gorbachev reopened discussion on Joseph Stalin’s historical role. He acknowledged Stalin’s contributions, but also talked about his “gross political errors and abuses” and “enormous and unforgiveable” crimes, mistakes which Gorbachev said are not inevitable in building socialism.

Gorbachev and other leaders also spoke of a basic change in Soviet relations with Eastern Europe Gorbachev said, “We have satisfied ourselves that unity does not mean identity and conformity. We have also become convinced of there being no ’model’ of socialism to be emulated by everyone.” Soviet leader Georgi Smirnov, head of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, indicated a possible reassessment of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, saying, “I think there is a need to think over the events of 1968, the intervention.”

Gorbachev faces many obstacles to fully implementing his reforms, but he seems committed to bringing them about.