November 30th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Can we put the 'care' back into aged care?

EDITORIAL Bushfires: One step forwards, one step backwards

ENVIRONMENTALISM Activists and courts give sharks the last laugh

CANBERRA OBSERVED ALP's self-examination will entice no one back

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell's appeal to go to the High Court

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Deaths after Fukushima due to excessive caution

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Geopolitics, oligarchs and the Moldova miracle

ENVIRONMENT Into the unknown: Should we prepare for climate change or climate variability?

LAW AND SOCIETY Crime and punishment: Are we de-civilising?

WATER POLICY Drought relief still leaves too much water going to waste

ASIAN AFFAIRS Destination Oz: Flood of Hong Kong emigres may restart

HUMOUR MacStuttles, me ol' China

MUSIC Subliminal workhorse: An art takes the backseat

CINEMA Dr Sleep: Kubrick 'shined' from his rest

BOOK REVIEW Science and religion, with mutual respect

BOOK REVIEW A borrowed term for a socialist recipe



FOREIGN AFFAIRS Hong Kong voters reject Beijing and its proxies

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News Weekly, November 30, 2019

Mao’s legacy

Bill James (News Weekly, November 2, 2019), in his reply to my letter (News Weekly, October 19, 2019) tells us that “life expectancy in China rose from 35-40 years in 1949 to 65.5 years in 1980”. He also tells us that “facts remain facts”.

I agree. However, there are facts other than statistics, and, besides, how factual are Chinese statistics of the period 1949–80 and any studies based on them?

If we accept that life expectancy in 1949 was 35-40, it seems counter-intuitive to believe that by 1980 it was 65.5, in view of the utter chaos, the violence and the murderousness of the times.

One thing we do know from history is that chaos produces impoverishment. We have plenty of evidence of the chaos of Mao’s rule, and the consequences of that, on the record.

According to Simon Leys, in Quadrant’s China issue of November 1978, Deng Xiaoping, in a speech on March 18, 1978, “bluntly acknowledged the backwardness and basic failure of the People’s Republic’s economy: ‘Several hundred million people are still mobilised full time in the exclusive task of producing food … We have still not really solved the grain problem.’

“In proportion to population, food production in the People’s Republic has not yet overtaken the record of the best Kuomintang years of more than 40 years ago! The economic takeoff has not yet been achieved: China is still in a marginal situation, not yet secure from potential starvation, always vulnerable to the menace of successive bad harvests or other natural catastrophes.”

Let’s also consider eyewitness reports. Claudie and Jacques Broyelle, fervent Maoists, who, in the same edition of Quadrant mentioned previously, spoke about how Szechuan Province “sank into utter destitution” as a result of the chaos of the “Cultural Revolution” which took the form of a “ferocious, full-scale civil war”. “To speak of ‘food shortages’ is to use a euphemism.”

Furthermore, while things were hard for the population of Beijing – everything was rationed there, as in the rest of China – when you left Beijing, things were far worse, even shocking many Red Guards.

Then there is the experience of my brother, a trade commissioner in the Australian Embassy in 1975–76, and who spoke the language. Here are some of his comments:

“Farmers had no draught animals. They did the pulling by hand. They’d killed them all for food in 1959. How’s that compatible with good health in the rural 80 per cent of the population?

“The evidence of my eyes was that communism brought untold poverty to all Chinese. Everybody I knew, including right at the top, in the ’70s right up until the liberalisation of agriculture in 1979, was suffering from greater or lesser malnutrition.”

To conclude, in his article in the China Issue of Quadrant, Donald Zagoria talked about the “austere values” of the first generation of the leaders of the Chinese Revolution. They were “asceticism, collectivism, levelling egalitarianism and puritanism, a package that has been aptly called ‘pauperistic Communism’”. The historical record tells us this is what Maoism produced in spades: pauperism.

Chris Rule,
Gilmore, ACT


Abbott’s loyalty

Unlike Paul Collits (“Tony Abbott faithful to the broad Liberal church”, News Weekly, November 16, 2019), I can only applaud Tony Abbott for promoting liberal-conservative unity within the Liberal Party. Nor will I dismiss Australia’s greatest living conservative, John Howard, as a “pragmatist with conservative trappings”.

Unity between conservatives and liberals has delivered victory, protecting both retiree incomes and a sensible moral order at the 2019 election. I will always resist purist ideologues who lose sight of the need to defeat the green-left at the ballot box.

It is to the credit of the broad-church Liberal Party that Jim Molan and Sarah Henderson have won Senate vacancies.

Jeremy Buxton,
West Perth, WA

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TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm