Sarah Mack and Ashley Cowie explore Scotland's past.

The People's History Show - Netflix

Type: Documentary

Languages: English

Status: Running

Runtime: 30 minutes

Premier: 2015-11-23

The People's History Show - History of the People's Republic of China (1976–89) - Netflix

In September 1976, after Mao Zedong's death, the People's Republic of China was left with no central authority figure, either symbolically or administratively. The Gang of Four was dismantled, but Hua Guofeng continued to persist on Mao-era policies. After a bloodless power struggle, Deng Xiaoping came to the helm to reform the Chinese economy and government institutions in their entirety. Deng, however, was conservative with regard to wide-ranging political reform, and along with the combination of unforeseen problems that resulted from the economic reform policies, the country underwent another political crisis with the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

The People's History Show - Hua Guofeng and the return of Deng Xiaoping (1976–1978) - Netflix

Mao Zedong died on September 9, 1976. At the time of his death, China was in a political and economic quagmire. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and subsequent factional fighting had left the country much poorer, weaker, and isolated than it had been in 1965. Scores of capable party officials, bureaucrats, intellectuals, and professionals were languishing in prison or laboring in factories, mines, and fields. Many schools had been closed, and an entire generation of young people were unable to obtain an education. Regardless of official propaganda, most Chinese people took Mao's death very calmly. They mourned him, but not in the more emotional way they had mourned the late Premier Zhou Enlai. Meanwhile, Mao's designated successor Hua Guofeng had assumed the post of party chairman. Hua was unaware that the Gang of Four were plotting his downfall until Defense Minister Ye Jianying and several generals warned him about this, saying that he'd better do something before it was too late. Hua was a bit surprised, but he agreed, and in October the Gang were arrested. None of them put up any resistance, although one of Jiang Qing's housekeepers reportedly spat at her as she was being taken away. The demise and arrest of the Gang of Four prompted nationwide celebrations, including parades in the streets of Beijing and other major cities. The Gang of Four symbolized everything that went wrong during the ten years of chaos of the Cultural Revolution, and their demise, the general populace had expected, would mark the beginning of a new era. In late 1976 and early 1977, the state propaganda machine was working overtime to promote Hua Guofeng. He was billed as being Mao's personally appointed successor and as having saved China from the Gang of Four. Hua tried to fill his mentor's shoes by, among other things, sporting an identical haircut. He stated that “in order to honor Chairman Mao, we should govern in accordance with his wishes.” and proclaimed the “Two Whatevers”, meaning that “Whatever Chairman Mao said, we will say, and whatever Chairman Mao did, we will do.” Throughout 1977–78, policy efforts centered around economic recovery. Schools began to reopen, and the more extreme aspects of Mao's personality cult were toned down. It was now being said that he was a great leader and thinker, but not an infallible god and that the revolution had been the work of many people and not just him. The Cultural Revolution was said to have been a well-meaning idea that got out of control, and Hua declared that a second CR might be necessary in a few years. Beginning in April 1978, newspapers stopped printing Mao's quotations in bold text. Nuclear weapons testing, missile, and space launches continued apace. Hua's reliance on Maoist orthodoxy led him to continue a cult of personality surrounding his own image alongside Mao's, equating his presence to that of Mao, but pinpointing the focus at a nominally separate era. To provide for distinct identity, Hua attempted his own change of the Chinese written language by further simplifying characters. A small number of these Hua-era simplifications continue to be in use informally, as there was no formal sanction of their legitimacy after Hua left office. In early 1977, the National Anthem was changed to reflect pure communist ideology rather than revolutionary drive, inserting lyrics exclusively dealing with Mao Zedong Thought and building an ideal socialist nation, as opposed to the wartime patriotism reflected by the original lyrics. Hua's unimaginative policies received relatively little support, and he was regarded as an unremarkable leader, lacking political support within the Politburo. At the time Deng Xiaoping was still living in seclusion because of “political mistakes,” and the issue of his return to politics was yet again put on the table. Deng had insisted on supporting all of Hua's policies in one of the letters the two men exchanged, to which Hua responded that Deng had “made mistakes, and rightfully must continue to receive criticism.” The arrest of the Gang of Four, Hua said, did not justify that Deng's “revisionist” ideas should resurface. During a Politburo meeting in March 1977, many members voiced support for Deng's return, to no avail. In a letter to Hua dated April 10, Deng Xiaoping wrote, “I am fully behind Chairman Hua's policies and agenda for the country.” This letter would be openly discussed in the Politburo, and in July 1977, Deng Xiaoping was restored in his former posts. In August, the 11th Party Congress was held, which again rehabilitated Deng and confirmed his election as the new Committee Vice-Chairman, and the Central Military Commission's Vice-Chairman, Deng guaranteed the elevation of his supporters, Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang and Wan Li. In February 1978, a new constitution was adopted. This was the third one used by the PRC, after the original 1954 document (which was not followed to any meaningful extent after 1957) and the short-lived 1975 “Gang of Four” constitution. The new one was patterned after the 1954 constitution and attempted to restore some rule of law and mechanisms for economic planning. In regards to the latter, Hua Guofeng wanted a return to the Soviet-style economics of the mid-1950s. He drew up a ten-year plan which emphasized heavy industry, energy, and capital construction. In regards to foreign policy, Hua made his first trip abroad in May 1978. This was a visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, where he was given a warm reception and joined DPRK leader Kim Il-sung in calling for the United States to withdraw its troops from the Republic of Korea. In September, Deng Xiaoping also visited the North Korean capital Pyongyang. He was unimpressed with Kim Il-sung's extensive personality cult, having seen enough of this sort of thing in China with Mao and also took umbrage at being expected to lay a wreath in front of the giant gold-plated statue of Kim in Pyongyang. Deng reportedly expressed his displeasure at how the aid money given to North Korea by China over the years was being spent on statues and monuments honoring Kim. He suggested that they might be better served using that aid to improve their people's living standards. The North Koreans appeared to have gotten the message, for the gold plating was quietly scraped off the Kim statue in Pyongyang afterwards. Trying to crawl out of its international isolation, China mended fences with Yugoslavian leader Josip Tito, who visited Beijing in May 1977 after having been long denounced as a revisionist traitor. In October 1978, Deng Xiaoping visited Japan and concluded a peace treaty with that country's prime minister Takeo Fukuda, officially ending the state of war that had existed between the two countries since the 1930s. While Japan and China had in fact opened diplomatic relations in 1972, the peace treaty took nearly six years to negotiate, one major sticking point being Chinese insistence on Tokyo including a clause that denounced Soviet “hegemony” in Asia. There was little sign of improved relations with the Soviet Union, and Deng Xiaoping declared the 1950 Sino-Soviet friendship treaty to be null and void. Relations with Vietnam suddenly turned hostile in 1979. These two countries had once been allies, but in 1972 Mao Zedong told Vietnamese premier Pham Van Dong that they should stop expecting Chinese aid and that the old historical feud between the two countries would erupt again. China also gave its support to the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime that took power in Cambodia during 1975, provoking the hostility of the Soviet-backed Vietnamese government. In January 1979, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and drove the Khmer Rouge from power. During his U.S. visit, Deng Xiaoping remarked that Vietnam would have to “be taught a lesson”. In February, a full-scale Chinese attack was launched on the Vietnamese border. Although China withdrew after three weeks and declared its objectives met, the war had not gone well and demonstrated the country's weakness. The PLA lost over 20,000 men due to weapons and equipment that were outdated, poorly made, and in short supply (a side effect of the disruption caused by the Cultural Revolution), maps that were decades old, the continued use of human-wave tactics from the Korean War, and the fact that the army had no system of ranks. Even worse was the fact that the Chinese had not even engaged Vietnam's regular army (which was in Cambodia), but instead fought militia and home guard units. On the other hand, it was a political victory since the Soviet Union had failed to come to its ally's aid and contented itself with verbal protests. In reference to Moscow's inaction, Deng Xiaoping reiterated Mao Zedong's saying that “You can't know how the tiger will react until you poke its backside.” China finally fully established diplomatic relations with the United States at the beginning of 1979. This had been planned since President Nixon's visit in February 1972, but was delayed by the Watergate scandal and the US withdrawal from Vietnam. The US agreed to recognize the PRC as China's sole government. Diplomatic relations with Taiwan were terminated, but unofficial and commercial ties remained. Deng Xiaoping visited the U.S. in February and met with President Carter. Meanwhile, Hua Guofeng headed to Europe in May. He first stopped in France, reportedly because it was the first western nation to recognize the PRC, and made a fierce attack on Soviet expansionism and hegemony. Later in Germany, he displayed more restraint and decided against making what would have been a highly provocative visit to the Berlin Wall. China's establishment of diplomatic ties with the United States brought about a mixed reaction from the communist world similar to Richard Nixon's 1972 visit. While the Soviets could not condemn this, they were deeply worried about Sino-US collusion against them. Romanian leader Nicolae Ceaușescu hailed it as “an outstanding event for world peace and detente”. North Korea also congratulated “our brotherly neighbor for ending long-hostile relations and establishing diplomatic ties with the US” while Cuba and Albania openly denounced Beijing as traitors to the cause of world socialism (Albanian relations with China had been deteriorating since 1972 and the announcement of economic reforms by the new leadership caused the tiny country to sever all contact completely).

The People's History Show - References - Netflix