China's Political Journey: Reflections on Reform, Revolution, and Resilience

July 19, 2023
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Table of contents

  1. China's Political Reform: History and Effects
  2. Conclusion
  3. References

China's political reform differs from the Western scholars' understanding of political system reform, as it does not entail changing the fundamental political framework. Instead, it focuses on enhancing government governance and management systems. The Chinese path not only exhibits remarkable diversity, unique to the East, but it also represents the culmination of global democratic and socialist achievements. China's rise is intrinsically linked to peace and stability, commanding respect worldwide. This ancient and proud civilization, vast in size and population, has forged its strength independently. The Chinese system has solidified its legitimacy through historical precedents, blazing its own trail, distinct from capitalist nations.

China's Political Reform: History and Effects

"What constitutes a revolutionary foundation? It is that which instills the same spirit as the martyrs of the revolution..." (Coursepack, 102). From the ancient Qing Dynasty to the end of 1921, the Communist Party of China was founded. Subsequently, in 1949, the People's Republic of China came into existence. However, to some extent, the party's revolution did not entirely cater to the aspirations of the masses. The era witnessed an excessive reverence for Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution, but with the reform and opening up, this hero worship gradually waned. Nevertheless, in recent times, Mao Zedong has been resurrected as a symbol of political appeal, with liberal and leftist factions clashing over his legacy.

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Proponents of Mao Zedong argue that he brought stability and unity to contemporary China. Conversely, his opponents emphasize the great disaster and suffering he inflicted on Chinese society and the nation. Mao Zedong's transgression lies in obstructing China's progress towards democratic constitutionalism, steering the nation towards a path of class struggle and one-party rule. The Great Leap Forward under his leadership resulted in a severe famine, betraying the democratic and constitutional promises made by the Communist Party before its ascension to power. Economically, Mao initially promised the development of a free capitalist economy, only to reverse course shortly after the regime was established, leading to dire consequences. The resultant economic catastrophe was the Great Famine of the Great Leap Forward. Politically, from the anti-rightist campaigns to the Cultural Revolution, these disasters plunged the entire Chinese population into unprecedented catastrophe.

The emphasis on mass mobilization within the Chinese Communist Party triggered the Great Leap Forward. "In the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, it is imperative to hold aloft the great red banner of Mao and put proletarian politics into command. The movement for the creative study and application of Chairman Mao's works should be carried forward among the masses of workers, peasants, soldiers, cadres, and intellectuals. And Mao Zedong Thought should guide action in the Cultural Revolution." (Coursepack, 125). This power struggle within the party was essentially a class struggle, with the proletariat being the main driving force. Mao Zedong skillfully used public opinion to convince people of the righteousness of his actions, gaining support and inciting social discontent among the masses, which served as the catalyst for the revolution. The Cultural Revolution left behind confusion and humiliation in Chinese history, exposing the ugliest and most selfish extremes of human nature, wreaking disastrous consequences on Chinese society. The strategy of eliminating capitalism was not in the people's best interests and even had repercussions on the state.

The Chinese Communist Party has always professed socialism as its ideal and goal. Mao Zedong's primary focus was on new socialist ideas rather than providing a democratic social environment for the people. "Mao offered the theory of a development 'leap' in explicit opposition to the process of slow, steady development advocated by the Soviet economic crowd (and by economists of any persuasion). It is postulated that if people worked with a high enough sense of purpose, all existing barriers to productivity could be shattered, achieving a leap in social wealth and well-being in a short period. This pursuit could be accomplished with an activated mass. 'Bourgeois thinkers' within the Party, as well as the government bureaucrats in the localities, were the main obstacles to this endeavor. Mao swept away these obstacles with one sentence, uttered as he toured newly formed people's communes in the summer of 1985." (Mao Zedong and China in the Twentieth Century World, 102). Responding to Mao Zedong's call, the Red Guards initiated a massive campaign to dismantle old thoughts, culture, customs, and habits, leading to the destruction of numerous Chinese cultural relics and the persecution of the people, resulting in severe social unrest. Hence, to a significant extent, the party's revolution did not fully cater to the people's needs. In China, the Cultural Revolution is often referred to as the "decade of turmoil." The lives of many ordinary people were upended as Mao Zedong plunged China into turmoil, dismantling communist party institutions.


In conclusion, China's political reform and the complexities surrounding its historical revolutions have shaped a nation of unique character and immense influence. While some aspects of its past are revered for bringing stability and unity, others are viewed with regret for the disasters and suffering they caused. The path taken by the Chinese people, led by the Communist Party, is a testament to their resilience and determination to forge a distinct identity on the world stage. As the nation continues to rise and assert its growing strength, it is essential to learn from both the successes and mistakes of its past, moving forward with wisdom and foresight to build a better and more harmonious future.


  1. MacFarquhar, R., & Schoenhals, M. (2006). "Mao's Last Revolution." Belknap Press.
  2. Sun, Y. (2017). "The Chinese Reassessment of Socialism, 1976-1992." Springer.
  3. MacFarquhar, R. (1983). "The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, Vol. 1: Contradictions Among the People, 1956-1957." Columbia University Press.
  4. Teiwes, F. C., & Sun, W. (1991). "China's Road to Disaster: Mao, Central Politicians, and Provincial Leaders in the Unfolding of the Great Leap Forward, 1955-1959." Contemporary China Institute, Australian National University.
  5. Johnson, C. (2010). "Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962." Walker & Company.
  6. Vogel, E. F. (2011). "Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China." Belknap Press.
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