Last year, Joe Biden’s comment that the Chinese “aren’t bad folks” and “not competition for us” created something of a stir, even among supporters of the Delaware Democrat. Some may be unaware that prominent Americans and Europeans have been overly kind to the Chinese communist regime for decades, as Paul Hollander chronicled in “Political Pilgrims: Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba,” from Oxford University Press in 1981.
For example, Robert Barnett, a former State Department official and director of the Asia Society’s Washington Center, opposed making human rights an issue in China. “Harsh necessity shapes China’s assessment of human rights,” Barnett contended, “We must respect China’s right to be different.” Bank mogul David Rockefeller cited China’s “real and pervasive dedication to Chairman Mao and Maoist principles,” which would make for “great economic and social progress.”
New Left icon Tom Hayden and peace activist Staughton Lynd found that “the sense of a different world was immediate” in China, with a “pulse of purposeful activity.” In similar style, China reminded journalist James Reston of life on the American frontier with “self-reliance, hard work, innovation and the spirit of cooperation.” For American political scientist Michael Oksenberg, Mao Zedong was both a philosopher and politician, combining “qualities which rarely coexist in one being with such intensity.”
For American journalist Edgar Snow, “Mao probably had a better knowledge of Western classics than any Western ruler had of Chinese literature.” As American China scholar Edward Friedman saw it, “Mao was almost invariably responding in a uniquely creative and profoundly ethical way to deep political crises.”
What was holding China together, Swedish author Jan Myrdal argued, “is the discussion of Mao Zedong’s thought.” The Rev. Hewlett Johnson, a prominent British clergyman, proclaimed that communist China was “freeing men from the bondage of the acquisitive instinct” and that the nation had achieved “a new life on a higher level of existence.”
Joshua Horn, a British physician who settled in China, found it “difficult to write about the Cultural Revolution without running into a plethora of superlatives.” This epoch was “an unprecedented movement to disinfect society” and “a vast demolition operation.”
American sociologist Anna Louise Strong, like the Rev. Johnson, was a former apologist of Stalin’s USSR who spent most of her life extolling the virtues of communism. As Mao Zedong’s special guest in Beijing during the last 12 years of her life, Strong published the “Letter from China,” worshipful accounts of Mao and his regime.
When “Political Pilgrims” author Paul Hollander appeared on William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line,” he called the episode “Why are our intellectuals so dumb?” In reality, they were all very smart, but as Saul Bellow said, “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.” They all had a deep need to believe that communist China was a better society than their own, so they ignored or denied the realities laid out in “The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression,” from Harvard University Press in 1999.
“Chinese Communism has many skeletons in the closet, and it is amazing how long they have escaped the world’s attention,” explains scholar Jean-Louis Margolin in the chapter, “China: A Long March into Night.” Margolin dives deep into Chinese history but finds that the slaughter perpetrated by Mao Zedong “far exceeds any national tradition of violence that we might find in China.”
Excluding civil war, “the regime must be held accountable for a huge number of deaths,” some 65 million overall, but Margolin helpfully breaks it down. Beijing is the second Rome of Marxism-Leninism but Chinese communist repression predated the Soviet Great Terror. In 1927–31, communist violence claimed 186,000 victims in Jiangxi. The years 1959–61 alone account for 20 to 40 million, with another 20 million captive in the prison system.
One prison camp commander buried alive or assassinated 1,320 in one year; and in November 1949, 5,000 prisoners who mutinied in a forest camp were buried alive. Some one million “counterrevolutionaries” were executed and as Margolin notes, “if the stock of enemies ran low, it could be increased by an expansion of incriminating traits or search for people who had fallen back into old ways.”
Mao and the system he created “were directly responsible for what was the most murderous famine of all time, anywhere in the world.” The Chinese used the methods of Soviet quack agronomist Trofim Lysenko and sowed seeds at ten times the normal density, so millions of plants died. The famine was also a political phenomenon because the highest death rates came in provinces where the leaders were Maoist fanatics.
Grain and silverware were confiscated, fires banned, detainees tortured, and children killed. In Tibet it was even worse. The Chinese communists shot, crucified, burned alive, drowned, drawn and quartered and beheaded Tibetans. By Margolin’s count, violent deaths in Tibet were proportionally greater than in China.
According to “The Black Book of Communism,” the death count at Tiananmen Square was in the range of 1,000 with many others imprisoned. Since 1989, the Chinese regime has never released a full account of the violence. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) announced a death toll of about 300, most of them soldiers. However, human-rights groups and witnesses say thousands of people died. Unnamed sources within the CCP say at least 10,000 people were killed, according to a declassified British diplomatic cable and declassified White House documents.
With the Tiananmen massacre, and much of the regime’s record already known, American politicians, including then Senator Joe Biden, still pushed for China’s membership in the World Trade Organization. The United States also granted China most favored nation trading status, with no free elections or democratic reforms, and no accounting for the 65 million murdered by the communist regime.
If this was not the worst decision in modern times, it’s hard to know what might be. Yet, the Republicans and Democrats responsible for granting special favors to the Chinese regime have never come to terms with the consequences of their actions.
“Because the regime has never really disavowed its founder,” Margolin explains, “it is still prepared to return to some of his original methods in difficult moments.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.