Part 1 – The Nehruvian Blunders – Part 1

Part 2 – The Nehruvian Blunders – Part 2

The war within –

An alternate narrative is offered by Bertil Lintner, on the 1962 war. He maintains that the Chinese offensive was not a reaction to India’s “forward policy” but a pre-meditated operation, ordered well before October 1962 by Chairman Mao Zedong to divert attention from the ongoing domestic power struggle and to teach India a lesson.

Lintner cites the considerable time required to build roads, forward-deploy 80,000 PLA troops and position logistics in mountainous terrain. Lintner also attributes the detailed knowledge of Indian terrain, shown by advancing PLA troops, to months of prior reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering by Tibetan-speaking PLA officers.

Ever since the end of its Civil War in 1949, China has been engaged in serial strife, domestic as well as external; invading neighbours, Korea, Tibet, Russia, Vietnam and India. The prelude to the Sino-Indian war saw Mao launch the tumultuous and destructive Great Leap Forward, which resulted in 25-30 million deaths by starvation and state violence. In the midst of ongoing domestic turmoil and devastation, Mao’s ruthless calculus perceived advantage in mounting a military campaign to deliver a sharp blow to India, both as a distraction from the ongoing power struggle, and to prove China’s superiority.

In the spring of 1949, Mao proclaimed that, while in the past the Chinese revolution had followed the unorthodox path of “encircling the cities from the countryside,” it would in the future take the orthodox road of the cities leading and guiding the countryside. In harmony with that view, he had agreed in 1950 with Vice Chairman Liu Shaoqi that collectivization would be possible only when China’s heavy industry had provided the necessary equipment for mechanization.

In a report of July 1955, Mao reversed that position, arguing that in China the social transformation could run ahead of the technical transformation. Deeply impressed by the achievements of certain cooperatives that claimed to have radically improved their material conditions without any outside assistance, he came to believe in the limitless capacity of the Chinese people, especially of the rural masses, to transform at will both nature and their own social relations when mobilized for revolutionary goals.

He denounced those in the leadership who did not share that vision as “old women with bound feet.” He made those criticisms before an ad hoc gathering of provincial and local party secretaries, thus creating a groundswell of enthusiasm for rapid collectivization such that all those in the leadership who had expressed doubts about Mao’s ideas were soon presented with a fait accompli. The tendency thus manifested to pursue his own ends outside the collective decision-making processes of the party was to continue and to be accentuated.

Even before Stalin’s successor, Nikita S. Khrushchev, had given his secret speech (February 1956) denouncing his predecessor’s crimes, Mao and his colleagues had been discussing measures for improving the morale of the intellectuals in order to secure their willing participation in building a new China. At the end of April, Mao proclaimed the policy of “letting a hundred flowers bloom”—that is, the freedom to express many diverse ideas—designed to prevent the development in China of a repressive political climate analogous to that in the Soviet Union under Stalin.

In the face of the disorders called forth by de-Stalinization in Poland and Hungary, Mao did not retreat but rather pressed boldly forward with that policy, against the advice of many of his senior colleagues, in the belief that the contradictions that still existed in Chinese society were mainly nonantagonistic. When the resulting “great blooming and contending” got out of hand and called into question the axiom of party rule, Mao savagely turned against the educated elite, which he felt had betrayed his confidence. Henceforth he would rely primarily on the creativity of the rank and file as the agent of modernization. As for the specialists, if they were not yet sufficiently “red,” he would remould them by sending them to work in the countryside.

(To be continued in the next article………..)

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