PRC&rsquos 60th anniversary: recollections and reflections
By S. Khanal
As the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the People&rsquos Republic of China (PRC) is just around the corner, it may be appropriate to recollect pages from history and reflect before penning a few stray thoughts on that momentous event in contemporary Chinese history.
Although primarily a Chinese happening, it has come to represent a landmark event in contemporary international relations, shaping or influencing the course of events far and wide beyond China&rsquos national borders.
First of all, it ended a ruinous civil war that had raged, off and on, in China since 1927 between the pro-Western Kuomintang (KMT) government of Chiang Kai-shek and the Communist guerrilla movement sweeping across vast swathes of China, under the leadership of a dedicated and visionary leadership led, among others by Mao Zedong, who, in time, assumed the role of the Great Helmsman, or supreme leader of the Party.
With the formal establishment of the PRC on 1 October 1949, Mao became the most dominant Chinese leader and was to hold on to that exalted position, more or less, until has demise in 1976, a few months after that of one of this most well-known senior colleagues, Premier Zhou Enlai.
Though in the West, the new government of PRC was initially considered as an Asian counterpart of the Soviet satellite empire of Eastern Europe, those who had actually spent time with Mao&rsquos band of brothers in the caves of Yenan and Shensi during the war well understood that their organization was completely home-grown.
They knew, too, that its ideological affinity and material dependence on the Soviet Union was minimal. As a matter of fact, the political relations between the Chinese Communist Party, founded in 1921, and the Kremlin had long been marked by tension and strains.
Much later in the early 1970s, of course, grasping the essential force of geopolitics Mao initiated a breakthrough in relations with a hitherto enemy, the United States, in order to counter what, at that time, was China&rsquos greatest perceived threat, the Soviet Union.
Mao jettisoned doctrinaire ideological considerations and, decided, to clasp the hands of the Soviet Union&rsquos greatest adversary, the United States. Of course, the underlying theme was the preservation of China&rsquos sovereignty, won at such terrible costs decades earlier.
In quite another area and era, Deng Xiaoping, another CCP leader associated with the consolidation of a &ldquonew&rdquo China, would also display pragmatic flexibility in doing much the same through his visionary bold reform and opening-to-the-world policy. That, as most know today, paved the way for the remarkable development of a China which is referred today to, along with the United States, as constituting a &ldquoG-2&rdquo leading the world.
However, to return to the relationship between Moscow and Beijing before the Communists came to power, it may be recalled that attempts by Moscow and their protégés within the Chinese Communist party to bypass the peasantry and to focus, instead, on the labor classes in the urban areas to attain their objective of capturing political power from the KMT created strains in their relationship.
Thus, when urged by Russian advisers the Communist party attempted to incite a proletarian uprising in several cities they were easily suppressed by government forces because, as American historian William R Keylor believes, of their isolation from the genuine class struggle that was brewing in the Chinese countryside.
He recalls, &ldquoIn the same year a brilliant Communist organizer named Mao Zedong had independently concluded that the only hope for social revolution in his country lay in mobilizing its hundreds of millions of oppressed peasants against their exploitative landlords and the political and military elites who sustained them.&rdquo
Mao thus turned away from the Russian line and in 1928 started his guerrilla movement in southern China. Not long after that Japan was to seize northeast China in 1931 and in 1932 even attacked Shanghai. The Red Army&rsquos Long March began in 1934 and ended a year later in the northwest.
Following the Sian incident in 1936 when Chiang was arrested, the KMT generalissimo agreed to accept the United Front with the CCP even as Japan was preparing for a full-scale invasion and war. That happened in August 1937 when Tokyo launched the Sino-Japanese war by the invasion of Shanghai.
Following the failure of the America-led reconciliation mission in 1946, well after the formal surrender of Japan in the Second World War, the KMT-CCP civil war was reopened. Mao then launched the Northwest Campaign and which continued until June 1949.
On 1 October the PRC was formally declared with Mao, standing above the Tiananmen ramparts in Beijing, announcing to the world that &ldquoChina has stood up&rdquo &ndash after KMT forces under Chiang had retreated to Taiwan.
With the establishment of the PRC, Tibet, for long a playground for imperial powers ranging from Britain to Czarist Russia was brought back into the fold of the Chinese nation. For Nepal this was to be of seminal importance as it effectively made China Nepal&rsquos neighbour to the north, not long after the British withdrew from South Asia and India began to play the same domineering role that imperial Britain had done in the region.
In fact, if it hadn&rsquot been for the rise of China and presence on the northern frontiers of Nepal at that time, it is very difficult to assert that Nepal would have been able to withstand the pressures from an India that, following the departure of the British, began to incorporate one princely state after another.
The latest in that series of events was Sikkim where India orchestrated an anti-ruler movement that eventually led to its amalgamation with the Union of India in 1975. If Nepal had not already established cordial relations with China by that time, it is not difficult to imagine what Nepal&rsquos fate would have been, soon after that.
In other words, if the PRC was not established to provide the base for a strong, unified China, Nepal would have found it impossible to survive as an independent state. In this context, one may also recall the memorable statement by Foreign Minister Marshal Chen Yi that any aggression on Nepal would be firmly repulsed with China&rsquos assistance.
In any case, since the founding of the PRC was followed, not long afterwards, by the establishment of diplomatic relations and a residential embassy in Katmandu, Nepal began to benefit in myriad and tangible ways.
Apart from the strategic significance of China being, once more, Nepal&rsquos immediate neighbour, China began a massive assistance programme in Nepal, including the construction of the Kathmandu-Kodari (Arniko) Highway that not only opened up a surface link between Nepal and Tibet/China but which, in turn, led to a plethora of vital infrastructure projects that, to a great extent, laid the foundation of a modern, and increasingly self-reliant Nepal.
A quick recap may be useful of some of such ventures: The Prithivi Highway, the Ring Road, the Kathmandu-Bhaktapur Highway, the initiation of Trolley Buses, the Bansbari Shoe and Leather Factory, the Harisidhi Brick and Tile Factory, the Sunkosi Hydel Project, the Narayanghat-Gorkha Road, and Hetauda Textiles.
Much more recently, an agreement was signed to implement the Chinese-assisted Syabrubesi-Rasuwa road project. This, upon completion, is expected to restore the linkage that central Nepal had through the historical trade passage to Kerung in Tibet&rsquos Shigatse prefecture.
Talking about greater connectivity between Nepal and Tibet/China brings to mind the immense economic benefits to Nepal from that, especially for people living the northern belt near the Nepal-China border.
Nepal-China cooperation today in fact covers such a vast canvas that it is impossible to enumerate all their constituent elements in this brief essay. However, even in passing what can and needs to be said is that there is virtually no area of public or public endeavour that has not benefited from Nepal&rsquos connection with Tibet/China &ndash and indirectly with the establishment of the PRC 60 years ago.
In recent years, this on-going process has received a further boost as thousands of Nepalese businessmen, officials, students and visitors have seen for themselves and been inspired by the spectacular progress that China has achieved in 60 short years that the PRC was founded.
This was due to the selfless contributions and supreme sacrifices of Chinese revolutionaries infused with patriotism, zeal and dedicated to throwing off the shackles of poverty, backwardness, and even feelings of inferiority vis-à-vis the West.
It would be remiss if, before concluding these brief reflections on China-Nepal relations, on the happy occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, no mention were to be made of the fact that despite the vast differences in size, population, development and in their respective polities, the relationship is a model of how nations can, and must coexist, harmoniously.
China though undoubtedly big, never behaves like a Big Brother. Though now an affluent nation, she never treats or looks down upon Nepal as a poor cousin. She helps generously when and where she can, and makes no big deal about it, or extract propaganda mileage from the same.
The reason is that the bilateral relationship is rooted on the principles of panschsheel one
cardinal element of which are that nations&rsquo relations should be based on the doctrine of sovereign equality.
Today, as all Nepalese salute the PRC on its magnificent achievements, they sincerely express the hope that Nepal&rsquos great northern neighbour &ndash who never interferes in Nepal&rsquos internal matters like so many other big or rich countries do &ndash will continue further and ever faster on their spectacular upward rise.
Long live Nepal-China friendship! Long live the marvelous achievements recorded by China in the past 60 years! May there be even more sparkling successes in the years ahead.