Flood control and social transformation in revolutionary China – “Teaching water to climb mountains”

6  September 2010. A World to Win News Service.  Following are excerpts from an article that appeared in issue 13 (1989) of A World to Win  magazine. It was originally published in the Revolutionary Worker (now called Revolution), voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, 10 June 1985.

Great Struggle Against Crooked Valleys and Rivers, 1974

For hundreds of years, floods and droughts had been the “twin scourges” of China. A major flood or drought hit large parts of the land at a pace of almost once a year, destroying crops or making it impossible to plant and thus leading to terrible famines that took the lives of hundreds of thousands at a time.

With the defeat of the U.S.-backed Koumintang (KMT) reactionaries in October 1949, the revolutionary regime led by Mao and the Communist Party of China faced an immensely difficult situation. U.S. imperialism and its reactionary allies surrounded and blockaded New China in an attempt to smother it to death. The land and the people had been ravaged by the decades of Japanese imperialist invasion and occupation and the rampages of the KMT army, which compounded the devastation from flood, drought and famine.

As a 1974 Peking Review article titled “Harnessing China’s Rivers” recalled, “What did the Koumintang reactionaries leave behind 25 years ago when New China was born? With all the waterways, dykes and embankments long out of repair, the peasants were completely at the mercy of nature. Flood and drought were common occurrences, wreaking havoc alternately or concurrently and taking a heavy toll on millions of people, with tens of millions more rendered homeless. Such being the plight of old China, certain imperialist prophets gleefully awaited the collapse of New China in the grip of these twin disasters which all past governments had failed to cope with.”

For the infant revolutionary

regime, the task of taming the great rivers – the Yangtze, the Yellow, the Huai (flowing in the central coastal plains between the Yangtze and the Yellow), and others – was a crucial aspect of transforming China from a dependent neocolony into an independent socialist country. Without protection from floods and new irrigation systems to fight droughts and open up new farmland, the peasantry – making up the overwhelming majority of the population – would continue to suffer. The worker-peasant alliance would be adversely affected and the ability of China to withstand the attacks of the imperialists and contribute to world revolution would be weakened.

In 1951 and ’52, Mao declared that the Huai River and the Yellow River “must be harnessed”. These calls were made amidst, and were very much a part of, the fierce two-line struggles within the Communist Party itself over China’s direction after liberation. Continue reading “Flood control and social transformation in revolutionary China – “Teaching water to climb mountains””