How poor was China under Mao

China

China is a country in Asia. And it is the country with the most inhabitants in the whole world: around 1.44 billion people live there, around 17 times as many as here in Germany. But China is not the largest country - Russia, Canada and the USA are even bigger. China is also called the 'Middle Kingdom' because people used to think that they lived in the middle of the world. The people in China speak Chinese, their capital is Beijing - which means 'Beijing' in Chinese.

From the empire to the people's republic

Until about 85 years ago, China was ruled by an emperor. Then in 1949 the then head of government Mao Zedong made China a people's republic, i.e. a communist country. This means that all people in China should be the same - regardless of their race or profession. Nobody was allowed to own anything of their own - everything should belong to everyone. Mao Zedong initially ensured that no Chinese in the country went hungry and that everyone had a job - ideally as simple farmers and workers.

Artists, writers or professors, for example, didn't like Mao's government at all - they too should work with their hands for China. Mao destroyed many books and works of art because he thought they were superfluous and because he was afraid that someone would write something bad about him and his government. Those who criticized the government were arrested and severely punished.

Great famine

Mao wanted China to become a powerful country again and, for example, boosted steel production. Because he did not have enough workers, he also sent the peasants to the steel mills. And so nobody could take care of the fields anymore. There were no harvests and people had nothing to eat: many millions of people died in one of the greatest famines. That was just one of Mao Zedong's plans that harmed his country. Even so, he stayed in power for almost 30 years - until he died in 1976.

The change

Even today, China is a communist country, ruled by the Chinese Communist Party. The party occupies all important positions in the country and makes all fundamental decisions, as it did under Mao. About thirty years ago, however, the politician Deng Xiaoping decided on important innovations. The goal was to modernize China and make the country “rich and strong”. That is why the Chinese have since been allowed to earn money for themselves, for example, to open shops and companies, and to buy apartments. Many people in China are doing better today than they were in the past thanks to the opening up of the country.

China and human rights

Although the country has become much freer, the Communist Party controls the people of China in almost all walks of life. For example, Chinese newspapers are still given precise instructions on what they can and cannot report on. Today there is still the death penalty for over 70 offenses. People who criticize the Chinese government or talk about the country's maladministration can be sent to jail. Various organizations have therefore accused China of failing to keep their promise to respect human rights. China has officially recognized the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Conflict over Tibet

In 2008 the Olympic Games will take place in China. There were some demonstrations and riots at the torch relay before the games started because China has been in conflict with the Tibet region for a long time. There are always arguments and fights about who belongs to Tibet and who should rule it. The Chinese government believes that Tibet belongs to China. Some residents of Tibet want to be free and independent.

Because of the Olympic Games in 2008, the whole world is looking to China and therefore also to the conflict with Tibet. There are different opinions as to whether it is right for the Olympics to take place in China. Some call for an Olympic boycott. This means that athletes should boycott the games, not participate in them.

Status: 03/22/2010, 2:50 pm