Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Why the U.S. Imperialists Are Watching the China Trial

First Published: Revolutionary Worker, Vol. 2, No. 35, January 9, 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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As we go to press, there has been no word of the sentencing of Chiang Ching (Jiang Qing) and Chang Chun-chiao (Zhang Chunqiao). The Chinese revisionists must be trying frantically to pick up and put back together the pieces of the facade of unshakable authority and legality that was shattered to bits by these two revolutionaries during the course of their month and a half long trial. In the last session on December 29, the prosecution demanded the death sentence for Chiang Ching who had to be dragged out of the courtroom after denouncing the revisionists and their sham trial. Before being forcibly removed, Chiang Ching challenged her sniveling and pitiful accusers: “I dare you to sentence me to death in front of a million people in Tienamen Square!” A few days earlier the prosecution demanded, “Severe punishment” (i.e. death) for Chang Chun-chiao, who ignored the whole farce and sat firm and impassive as he has done for the whole trial.

The two most likely possibilities for the final sentences for Chiang Ching and Chang Chun-chiao: immediate execution or the death sentence with a waiting period of 2 years before execution. Various revisionist mummies and widows of revisionist ghosts have been clamouring for immediate execution, claiming that this is “the will of the people.” This is of course the will of these hardened reactionaries, but an indication that this is hardly a “mass demand” is that demonstrations in Peking to demand the death of the two that were rumored to be in the planning during the last few weeks of the trial never came off. Deng and other top revisionists are considering the possibility of a waiting period, but not out of any softness of the heart. What they are weighing are the political choices of either executing the two now, thus delivering a harsh warning to their followers but also drawing further attention to and admiration for their revolutionary stand, or delaying the execution, hoping to defuse the highly charged situation.

Deng and Co. are also weighing the “international reaction” to the sentence. Of course what they mean by international reaction is the kingly opinions of those to whom they are capitulating and selling out China–the imperialists of the world, particularly the U.S. imperialists.

And the U.S. bourgeoisie is indeed looking with some real concern at the way this trial has been turning out. And their concerns have nothing at all to do with the “humanitarian” and democratic desires for “justice” and a “fair trial” in which their mouthings have sometimes been disguised. They are worried about their imperialist stake–both against the revolutionaries of the world and also their Soviet imperialist arch-rivals.

The trial has received extensive coverage and much recent “commentary” in the U.S. media. This in itself is a sure sign that the revolutionaries of the world, most especially including Chiang Ching and Chang Chun-chiao, are not alone in their understanding that this trial and the revolutionary stand being taken by these two, is of great significance on a world scale as we enter a period of crisis, war and revolutionary opportunity.

Of course, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie look to the trial for completely different reasons. Chiang Ching and Chang Chun-chiao’s actions have given great inspiration to and helped deepen the understanding of the international proletariat; as for the U.S. bourgeoisie, they’re looking with quite a lot of apprehension at the way the trial is turning out. Their concern stems from their perception, even through their distorted eyes, of the tremendous revolutionary effect that the two in China are having on people internationally. The infighting among the Chinese ruling clique, brought to a high pitch by the trial and the conscious action of Chiang Ching disturbing the pot, also greatly perturbed the U.S. rulers, who are trying to solidify and secure their war bloc in anticipation of the coming showdown.

U.S. press accounts and editorial comments have been a curious mixture of vile slanders against Chiang Ching and Chang Chun-chiao coupled with an almost begrudging respect for their actions, although fundamentally the U.S. rulers, and the bourgeoisie worldwide, despise and fear everything represented by Chiang Ching and Chang Chun-chiao, and of course Mao.

An editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle on Dec. 31st said Chiang Ching “Simply walks away with all honors of playing the role of the defiant defendant,” and that “Possibly no female anywhere in the world since Joan of Arc has put on a greater courtroom performance than this remarkable, it sinister, lady.” The China correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review writes in an article on Jan. 2 that “Chiang Ching has awakened the grudging admiration of many people in the outside world, and not a few in China.” Of course then this same articles goes on to express the imperialists’ hatred for this revolutionary (which goes along with their “grudging” respect) with remarks like, “Chiang Ching chose to build her case–if that is (he right word for the muddled succession of invective, abuse of witnesses and even the reading aloud of her own poetry to which she treated the court–on her professed loyalty to Mao and his approval of her deeds.”

The New York Times in a January 5 editorial revealed even more of this imperialist hatred for the revolutionaries, even while it gave the ruling Chinese revisionists some tactical advice, “Shooting one dog is not likely to eliminate rabid dissent.” While one thing that this editorial reveals is a “rabid” hatred for socialism and Chiang Ching in particular, it also reveals the U.S. bourgeoisie’s fears that the trial has not strengthened Deng’s rule but has intensified the contradictions, and raises questions about the stability of Deng’s rule. This editorial, titled “China’s Trial, And Error,” says, “The question has to be asked whether the execution of Chiang Ching would signal confidence on the part of Deng’s regime, or insecurity.”

Imperialists Advise “Don’t Rock Boat”

The Far Eastern Economic Review article cited earlier went even further, “Deng’s rightist policies for economic and social recovery look increasingly shaky.” Clearly the Western imperialists are worried about the effect that the trial and the heightened criticisms of Mao is having on the stability of the revisionist leadership. Many of the imperialist commentaries have spoken of Deng’s “imprudent” actions, particularly against Hua Guofeng and other sections of the bureaucracy, and have counseled “moderation.” In the Confucian terms of the new mandarins now ruling China, the U.S. imperialists are generally advising “restrain oneself, restore the rites.” In other words, “Don’t rock the boat. Our interests are at stake.”

As the RW has analyzed, Deng’s using the trial and attacks on Mao to ice out Hua Guofeng does not mean that now the revisionists are entering a period of greater “unity and stability.’’ In fact, there will be even more anarchy as the force of capitalism is further unleashed. As China scholar Kenneth Lieberthal analyzed in the McNeil-Lehrer Report on PBS, “The trial in part is signalling to people throughout China that there will be a harsher line taken toward the ’leftists,’ if you will, and that now they are going to be purged instead of brought in or curried to or enticed to join the crowd, and those who have not yet joined up are going to be cut out. I think that the logical response from them will be to dig in their heels and try to delay the purge and ward off its effects.” By “leftists” he’s not referring to the close supporters of the Four, most of whom have already been purged, but those in lower and mid-level leadership, numbering in the millions that are intermediate elements or form a social base for Hua. These are people who did not oppose the revisionist coup, but are now looked upon as lagging behind in carrying out Deng’s policies.

Of course this does not mean that Deng and his clique are literally on the verge of collapse. As Lieberthal points out again, “The trial in part indicates both Deng’s strength at the top of the system, his ability to stage this, but also his insecurity to sustain the momentum over the very broad reform program that he has been supporting.” In the long run, the revisionist rule in China is built on a foundation of sand and is bound to collapse. But in the short run, Deng very well may be able to crack the whip and tighten the ranks.

Soviet Rivals

This inner-instability in turn is going to have an effect on stability in China as a member of the U.S. war bloc. An article by William Safire in the New York Times several weeks ago points out, “Surely Americans want to encourage China to take the limited modified capitalist road chosen by Deng rather than the path of communism urged by the radical Maoists. Because Deng and his followers Hu (Yaobang–Hua’s replacement–RW) have introduced a modicum of free enterprise and decentralization–even at the risk of alienating the Chinese Army–should we not hail the downfall of Hua, who represents the last high-level link to the old radicalism? No. America’s strategic interest in China is centered on her internal stability, her inclination to oppose expansionism by Soviet clients in Asia and the Soviet embrace of India, and the slow growth of her military strength, so that China remains a threat to, but does not provoke a war with, her superpower neighbor.” Although the U.S. bourgeoisie will do everything possible to prop up China’s “inclination to oppose expansionism by Soviet clients in Asia” in the service of the U.S. war bloc, they are also coldly calculating the possibility of China switching sides. As the New York Times article last August pointed out, “It is not too fanciful to think that with another turn of its wheel, the final Soviet hostility of today could be reversed tomorrow–as it has been in the past – if pragmatic necessity demanded.”

Safire, as well as some other bourgeois commentators, tries to cloud the situation by attributing Deng’s moves against Hua to “vengeance”–a way at getting back at Hua for having spoken out publicly against him in the past. This is pure nonsense. First of all, Hua played an important role for the revisionists, with his ability to give the new revisionist regime a semblance of continuity from Mao’s era and fool many people for a certain period of time. Although Deng indeed may have disdain for this “oatmeal man” of a revisionist, much more to the point is that Deng has no choice but to get rid of him.

In order to lay the necessary groundwork for further “readjusting” (a favorite word these days among the revisionists when referring to economic policy) their economy in the capitalist groove, the revisionists must escalate attacks against Mao. This means also those like Hua, who with his false claim of being “Mao’s true successor” served a useful role for the revisionists in covering up the capitalist restoration, and are now excess baggage that must be discarded.

Hua in fact is increasingly becoming the fall guy for the economic problems that the revisionists are now facing, since it is becoming somewhat ridiculous to keep on blaming everything on the Four, four years after the coup. An editorial in the New Year’s Day edition of the official People’s Daily said there’s a serious underlying crisis in the economy because, “In the first two years after the fall of the ’Gang of Four,’ we did not take into account well enough the serious results created by the 10 years of destruction, and did not clean up the ’left’ ideological errors in leading the economic work, instead going after quick results. We also put forward some unreachable, unrealistic slogans and goals, and large scale of basic constructions which had already surpassed the capabilities of national wealth.” The first two years after the fall of the “Gang of Four” has by now become a code phrase for attacks on Hua. The glaring problems in the present Chinese economy–the first ever budget deficit, inflation, big cutbacks in capital construction, slumping production, etc.–they’re all blamed on the so-called “left” line carried out by Hua during the first two years. In fact it is ridiculous to blame Hua, because the grandiose plans to build a modern country on a capitalist basis “by the year 2040” was the general program at that time of all the revisionists, Deng first among them.

Taiwan Connection

Also very much related to U.S. imperialist concerns about shoring up its interests in China against the Soviets was the recent visit of two prominent Republicans, Senator Ted Stevens and Anna Chennault, leader of the pro-KMT “China Lobby,” to Peking. (The Kuomintang is the reactionary force ruling Taiwan.) Although Stevens denied repeatedly that he had come to China in any kind of official capacity, he made the object of the trip very clear, “I hope (the Soviet Union) understands my first trip as the Chairman of Defense Appropriations Subcommittee is to China. It is not accidental, not at all, that I came here.” The U.S. has already agreed to sell “non-lethal” military equipment, such as radar, vehicles, etc. to China, but not weaponry. Stevens said that he would “certainly not rule out” arms sales in the view of the “Soviet aggressiveness in Afghanistan, Vietnam and in Poland.”

Chennault, a Peking born widow of Lt. General Claire Lee Chennault, one of-the most prominent U.S. backers of the KMT regime, has been a vocal opponent of normalization of relations between China and the U.S. Her trip to Peking represents an effort by Reagan, who himself has long been associated with the “China Lobby,” and the U.S. bourgeoisie as a whole, to bring the Taiwan forces into line with the reality of China’s membership in the U.S. war bloc. It also represents the U.S. rulers twisting the arm of the Chinese revisionists, who are being forced to-welcome this long time KMT supporter and even now an opponent to the way in which the U.S. established relations with China and cut off ties with Taiwan. As Chennault said while in Peking, “My way of looking at the world in the ’60s was different from the ’50s, and in the ’70s it was different from the ’60s, and now we are coming into the ’80s. We have to reassess our position, broaden our base, be humble enough to learn and have the courage to change our position.”

Yes, it is the ’80s, and the two superpowers are rushing headlong toward world war. The U.S. is trying to shore-up its alliances in this area, just as they are doing all over the world, in preparation for the showdown. The revisionists and the KMT, after all, have much more in common than differences, so why not “reassess” and “be humble” enough to change positions?

It is in this kind of context, as the world enters this period of war and revolution, dangers as well as opportunities, that Chiang Ching and Chang Chun-chiao are making their historic stand in the Peking courtroom. They’re not only defending the red flag of Marxism-Leninism and Mao’s revolutionary line but also making a call to the revolutionaries worldwide to pick up this flag, heighten preparations to make full use of their opportunities ahead and push forward the cause of the international proletariat. The U.S. imperialists are basing all their actions on the fact that “now we are coming into the ’80s.” So why shouldn’t we?!