A Cataclysmic Change And A Lesson (Dr. Manzoor-ul-Haque)

Study the Seven Scenes given below and then Pause and Reflect over the present crisis.

First Scene When World War II ended, Chiang Kai-shek must have been content.

The Japanese Army, which he had resisted so stubbornly, but so unsuccessfully had just surrendered to him without a fight. The Western powers, with equal docility, had given up their hundred-year role of imperialist aggression, returned the treaty port concessions and recognized China as a fully sovereign state and Chiang as her rightful ruler. Among his own countrymen, Chiang’s position appeared even more secure. Under his command, he now had an army of four million men, thirty-nine divisions of which had been American trained and equipped; he had the largest air force any Asiatic mainland power had ever possessed and he held captive or had made innocuous nearly every warlord or politician who had ever opposed him. The only possible challenge to his power was a band of Communist guerrillas, whom eight years before, he had penned up in the barren loess and cave country of the northwest and all but liquidated.

Emerging from his wartime hide-out at Chungking, China’s dictator, Chiang Kai-shek, returned in triumph to his capital in Nanking, ready, willing and seemingly able once more to assume undisputed sway over 450, 000, 000 people. Outwardly, Chiang Kai-shek, appeared to have become the most powerful ruler in the last two centuries of Chinese history.

Second Scene Challenge to his power was a band of Communist guerrillas.

Less than four years later, the prospects of Chiang underwent a cataclysmic change. He fled from his capital and sought refuge in his ancestral home. The premier of his government unblushingly urged the United States to revive the unequal treaties and establish military and naval bases in China. And his wife came to this country to beg American officials to save the shattered fortunes, perhaps, in the long run, the very life of her husband.

In the meantime, these same despised Communist guerrillas conquered all of Manchuria and North China, captured the capital of Chinese nationalism at Nanking, and crossed their Rubicon on the Yangtze. And emerged as threatening force to overrun the whole country and to bring tumbling into ruins, not only the twenty-year reign of Chiang Kai-shek, not only the 1oo-year reign of Western imperialism in the Orient, but also a way of life that had existed almost unchanged in China for over two thousand years.

Third Scene Three general opinions prevailed about the outcome of the war.

Among foreign observers there were three general opinions about the outcome of the war between Chiang and his enemies of twenty years’ standing. A small group of Western military men believed that Chiang Kai-shek would overrun the communists within a year and force them to surrender or liquidate them. An even smaller group (considered very radical and leftish) believed, if there were no foreign intervention, that the war would go on for twenty, thirty and even fifty years. The opinion of by far the greatest majority, however, was that Chiang, though not being able to eliminate the Communists entirely, would nevertheless be able to drive them back in the hills, open up the railways and once more unite the country with no one to dispute his control.

But the causes of these tremendous events were either ill understood or deliberately blurred. And the main reason “the failure to look into the hearts of a number of very common people” remained dormant. Thus, we find such highly placed people as ex-Ambassador William C. Bullitt, Congressman Walter Judd, General Claire Chennault, Alfred Landon, and a strange group of lugubrious mourners at Chiang Kai-shek’s bier, putting the blame for this supposedly regrettable state of affairs on mistakes in Goerge Marshall’s policy, Russian machinations, Communist propaganda and God knows what else.

This brought China’s once proud dictator to his feet in near ruins and changed the correlation of forces in the Orient.

Fourth Scene Why it happened so.

This mighty event did not take place overnight. The fact that it ever occurred at all was due to one of the greatest tragedies of modern times – the collision between the capitalist West and the feudal East. The intermingling of these two civilizations resulted in the slow, but nevertheless cataclysmic process. Such a process proceeded not along any narrow Marxian path, but unrolled down a broad avenue of almost universal dissolution, with peasant, intellectual and ruler all being dispossessed from their environment.

The premises of the Chinese Revolution, were:

  1. A disintegrating society, so diseased that it had become incapable of solving the urgent problems of the nation or the living conditions of her people.
  2. A bitter hostility to the existing regime plus a revolutionary mood among huge masses of people who were so far gone in despair that they were willing to undergo supreme sacrifices and resort to the most extreme and even suicidal measures to save themselves.
  3. Irremedial contradictions within the ruling group which had lost all creative powers and confidence in its ability to get society out of its blind alley.
  4. A new group or party, which could utilize all, the above factors in order to gain control over society and put into practice its own program for saving that society.

Fifth Scene There was a wide gulf.

Between need and possibility, however, there was a wide gulf. For a hundred years the necessity to transform Chinese society by revolution has been imperative. But that revolution never was completed for the simple reason that foreign imperialism was entirely too strong to permit the Chinese people to take control over their own destinies. The Second World War which brought about the defeat of Japan, most dangerous and most powerful of the imperialist countries in the Far East, plus the weakening of western European imperialism, was what made the Chinese Revolution possible and also what changed it in a new direction.

Here again, however, there was also a wide gulf between the possibility of revolution and the success of revolution. It is perfectly clear that without the defeat of Japan, without the weakening of Western capitalism and without those changes which took pace inside of China during the Japanese invasion, the Chinese Communists would never have been able to conquer state power.

Sixth Scene Psychological Elements Were The Dominant Force.

Without wishing to give psychological elements any more weightage than they deserve, it is nevertheless impossible to avoid the conclusion that China’s dictator was defeated because of the swift and intense changes which took place in the feelings of a decisive portion of the Chinese people between 1945 and 1949.

The change in mass consciousness did not take place in any serene and academic atmosphere, but in one highly charged with emotion. It was emotion that played the principal role in China’s civil was. That this emotion was produced by previously existing external conditions. But it was only when the passions of the Chinese people burst their old confining fetters and in turn reacted on the objective conditions of Chinese society that the Communists and their allies were able to ride to power.

It was passion and principally passion that overwhelmed Chiang Kai-shek. The radiant hopes and murderous hates that the Chinese peasantry poured into the sphere of war and revolution released a flood of emotional energy that exploded with the force of an atomic bomb within Chinese society, nearly dissolving it. The extent and depths of these passions could be felt and seen and heard in the trampling rush of peasant feet

  • toward the landlord’s manor;
  • in the dying gasp of a village noble whose body, as well as whose land, was divided by club-swinging peasants;
  • in the flash of a pig knife plunged into the heart of a clan leader whose ancestral tablets the farmers might normally have worshiped;
  • in the shriek of a girl whose mother led Chiang Kai-shek’s secret service to chop off her daughter’s head and pull out her intestines;
  • in the religious groans of village witches who called down gods to their incense tables and chanted n sepulchral tones: “Chiang Kai-shek comes!”
  • in the snick of scissors wielded by women cutting off the flesh of a village oppressor; in the lamentations of village brides beaten by their husbands
  • and in their murderous cries of vengeance as they organized themselves into Women’s Associations and beat, scratched any tore the flesh of their hated lords and masters;
  • everywhere on the good Chinese earth, across the plains, the mountains and the fields, these passions rose up as a new and unconquerable force.

Seventh Scene The Demand of the Quraan was Different.

There was almost no precedent to follow, no chart by which to steer. Where Chiang Kai-shek had been successful previously in maintaining his rule over the Chinese people, it had been because the despair and the hate of the masses had not been sufficient to stir them out of their traditional apathy. When new conditions arose and the peasantry rose angrily with them, it was necessary that Chiang Kai-shek try to understand both the conditions and the emotions of the peasantry. He failed in both respects; in fact he did not even try to understand the hearts of his own people. That is part of the inner history of Chiang Kai-shek’s defeat and it is also part of the history of American policy in China. Neither the American government, the American press, nor the American people, nor many of their representatives in the Far East, in the embassies, nor the military establishments and the business offices sought to look beyond their own narrow national or personal interests toward the heart of the admittedly ignorant, but terribly emotional, bitter men and women of China.

To all such people, one could justly address the words Mohammed(pbuh) used to denounce the Meccan merchants:

But ye honor not the orphan
Nor urge ye one another to feed the poor.(89:17-18)

But! No such words were addressed to the Chinese Communists. And such are the words that are transforming the world today.

Would that we could learn a lesson from this revolution today and act accordingly and decide accordingly in the context of the grim scenario we are in today.

History is replete with such stories of the rise and growth and the ultimate decline and fall of several human civilizations. Ancient Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Rome, India and even some parts of the New World are now graveyards of glorious old civilizations. These stand as living testimony to the story of man’s tragic failure. They induce a thoughtful mood in sensitive spectators and caution them to pause for a while and reflect over this warning of the Quraan:


Mind! Be ye not like the old woman who laboured hard to spin her yarn and then pulled it to pieces(16:92)


And this has become even more imperative today than it was yesterday!

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