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During the twentieth century, Communism was prospering in many countries of the world, particularly in the USSR and in Eastern Asia. The influence of Communism on the rest of the countries was significant. Although the ideology itself is not bad, the attempts of people to successfully implement it in the twentieth century in most countries failed. Therefore, although currently there are several socialist states in the world, Communism has almost completely lost its influence among people (Ngo and Mujtaba 2).
Communism in China
The Communist Party of China was established in 1921. In 1927, it was under Mao Zedong’s control. After World War II, the civil war between the communists and the nationalists continued in China. In 1949, Mao Zedong had mobilized millions of peasants in the north achieved victory over the nationalists who then fled to Taiwan and established the Republic of China while Mao Zedong’s China became the People’s Republic of China (Snow 248).
After coming to power in 1949, Mao began reforming the country by introducing his interpretation of the Soviet Five-Year Plan. The plan proved to be successful in increasing overall productivity, particularly in steel production. Mao also followed the example of the Soviet principles of development through the heavy industry with surpluses obtained from the work of peasants. In the 1950s, Mao separated from traditional Marxism-Leninism and introduced Maoism, the Chinese version of Communism (Snow 255).
At the end of the 1950s, the relationships between China and the Soviet Union were spoiled due to Mao’s indignation at the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s De-Stalinization campaign and his position as a peacemaker between capitalists and communists. Thus, the Maoists maintaining a strong communist position proclaimed the Cultural Revolution and implemented the so-called Great Leap Forward which was developed to help make China a heavily industrialized country. However, partially due to the Soviet Union’s termination of support to China, the Great Leap Forward became the Great Leap Backward resulting in the rapid decrease in agricultural production due to the unreasonably high quotas and the increase of corruption at the local level. As a result of this policy, approximately thirty million peasants died from starvation (Snow 259).
Thus, having been deprived of the Soviet Union’s military support, Mao decided to build his military. Despite the successful reforms, Mao was not satisfied, as he felt that China was deviating from the pure communist path. In 1966, he began the Cultural Revolution aiming to purge China of all the traces of Western culture and to eliminate the increasing elite class. As a result of this revolution, the curriculum of universities was mostly focused on Communist Studies, intellectuals and professors were dispatched to collective farms to receive “cultural retraining”, dissidents were captured and killed (Snow 267). Thus, Mao’s Cultural Revolution was another disaster for the nation.
In 1976, after Mao’s death, Deng Xiaoping changed the economic and educational policies of Mao. He implemented many features peculiar to free-market capitalism and thereby made China one of the fastest-growing economies in those times. Besides, Deng introduced the “Four Modernizations” that comprise industry, agriculture, military, and science and technology. In general, Deng is considered a Chinese leader who opened China to the outside world and conducted a successful industrialization policy (Snow 273).
Nowadays, although China remains an authoritarian republic, it has become less preserved and deviated from the path of pure Communism. However, certain communist features such as censorship remained in effect (Snow 279).
Communism in Laos
Communism in Laos appeared with the overthrowing of the King of Laos thereby eliminating monarchy in the country and proclaiming the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos in 1975. Surprisingly, the new government, Pathet Lao, instead of executing their former king, Savang Vatthana and Prime Minister Souvanna, sent them to the re-education camps and, consequently, made them the special advisers to the Politburo. Remarkably, the first actions of Pathet Lao were not to develop a new society and economy but to eliminate the insipid culture and behavior. Hairstyles and clothes, singing and dancing, and family and food traditions became the focus of the new government’s investigation (Baird 746).
Approximately 40,000 rebels who did not manage to flee the country were sent to the re-education camps to live in harsh conditions in Laotian jungles. Interestingly, the government named these camps Samanaya, a word that originated from the Western world “seminar”. Scholars who were averse to being re-educated were involved in slave labor and subjected to continual political propaganda for anywhere from several months to fifteen years. The purpose of these camps was to break the spirit of the old regime members and imbue them with fear towards the new regime. However, the existence of the re-education camps system was not long (Baird 746). The camps began to lose their power and influence in 1978, and by 1986, all the prisoners were released.
Thus, Laos’ experiment to adopt Communism failed. During the ten years of Pathet Lao governance, the country was far from making any economic reforms. The people in the country were still living in poverty, and the ideology of Communism did not manage to convince enough people to support the Party (Baird 747).
Nowadays, although Laos is still governed by people who were educated by such communist countries as the Soviet Union, China, and Vietnam, any changes in the direction of Communism are unlikely. Currently, the government of Laos is inspired by its neighbors and their success and is also determined to implement the Western government model (Baird 748).
Communism in Vietnam
The Vietnamese Communist Party was founded by a Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh in 1930. After World War II, France wanted to restore control over Vietnam, while Vietnam was already an independent communist state. Thus, the result of this contradiction was the Vietnam War. At the beginning of the war, Vietnam was divided into North Vietnam with the capital in Hanoi supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist states and South Vietnam with the capital in Saigon supported by France and the USA (Hearden 54). At first, the French wanted to reclaim its former colonies, but after their defeat in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, they realized that they would not be able to restore the control over Vietnam, and this war received negative feedback in their homeland. Thus, at the Geneva Conference, France signed a ceasefire agreement with North Vietnam and granted them, Laos, and Cambodia independence (Hearden 57).
In their turn, the USA continued the Vietnam War, as they considered North Vietnam a communist threat and did not want them to spread. Eventually, after the persistently growing indignation among the population in the USA concerning America’s participation in the Vietnam War, the U.S. government decided to terminate its support to South Vietnam and left the country in 1975. Thus, being deprived of the USA’s support, South Vietnam lost the war, and in 1976 the reunification of North and South Vietnam took place. The country was officially renamed the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, with its capital in Hanoi, and adopted a Stalinist dictatorship of the proletariat system. Those who belonged to the South Vietnamese government were dispatched to re-education camps, which, were hard labor prison camps (Hearden 62).
In the first years of the post-war period, the Vietnamese Communist Party initiated the collectivization of agriculture and the development of the heavy industry. All farms, factories, and private properties in the country became state-controlled. The production of food was collectivized, and fishermen and farmers had to sell their products to the government at significantly low prices, otherwise, they could not purchase fishing equipment and farming supplies. As a result of such sharp changes in the country, the problem of severe food shortage arose, and the areas that had before been rich in rice were threatened with famine (Hearden 65).
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The censorship in Vietnam was strict and controlled every aspect of the Vietnamese people’s lives. Most pre-1976 works in literature, art, music, and cinematography were banned. Negative comments towards the government, the Party, Uncle Ho, or Communism might result in the harassment by the police, expulsion from work or school, or even incarceration. However, Communism did not manage to eliminate the black market and corruption. As a result of these strict living conditions, nearly 3 million Vietnamese secretly escaped the country by fleeing to the neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and even Australia (Hearden 74).
During the 1980s, every year, Vietnam received approximately $3 billion in military and economic aid from the Soviet Union and traded mostly with the USSR and other communist states. Although nowadays, Vietnam is still committed to Socialism, after the complete dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the influence of Communism throughout the country considerably decreased (Hearden 76).
Khmer Rouge Rule of Cambodia
The Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), or more widely known as the Khmer Rouge, gained control over Cambodia in 1975. In several days after seizing power, the Khmer Rouge compelled two million Cambodians from Phnom Penh and other cities to go to the countryside and perform agricultural work. They established their 1976 “Four-Year Plan” which presupposed that Cambodians had to produce nearly three tons of rice per hectare (Greene 580). They also implemented their radical communist policy based on Maoism and Marxism-Leninism.
They abolished private property, free markets, foreign culture, religious practices, and even their own traditional Khmer culture. Leisure activities were considerably limited and consisted of only Communism-based entertainments. All people in the country including the CPK leaders had to wear their revolutionary clothes, black costumes. It was forbidden for people to gather in groups and speak with each other, as they could be accused of conspiracy against the CPK. People were not allowed to demonstrate affection, as according to Khmer Rouge’s philosophy, “pure” Cambodians had to respect and obey only Angkar Padevat, that is to be “mothers and fathers” for everyone (Greene 583).
The Khmer Rouge stated that only “pure” Cambodians had the right to build their society. Those whom they considered as “non-pure”, they accused of being traitors and sent them to prisons, where they were tortured, interrogated, and executed. The whole country was a large detention center where many intellectuals, soldiers, minority people, and ordinary commoners died every day. Overall, almost 3 million people died in the Khmer Rouge’s genocide and repressions (Greene 584).
At the end of 1977, conflicts broke between the Khmer Rouge and Vietnam. In 1979, Vietnamese troops managed to capture Phnom Penh, and the Khmer Rouge leaders escaped to Thailand and then to China. Thus, Vietnam destroyed the Khmer Regime in Cambodia and helped create a new government which was called the People’s Republic of Kampuchea. In 1999, the Khmer Rouge movement after spending twenty years in exile ceased to exist. Nowadays, Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy that was restored in the country in 1993 (Greene 587).
Communism in the Philippines
The Communist movement in the Philippines appeared in 1930 when the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was created. After World War II, a group of Filipino insurgents known as the Hukbalahap (the Huks) who continued fighting against Japanese formed an offensive opposition against the government of the Philippines. In 1947, the Communist Party of Philippines decided to support the rebellion and involve more peasants in it. In 1948, Elpidio Quirino, the president of the Philippines, started negotiations with Taruc that were unsuccessful (Parlade 17).
However, in 1953, the Huk rebellion was suppressed. Thus, in 1954, the Communist Party was again outlawed by the Philippino government. Eventually, in 1968, Amado Guerrero (the real name was Jose Maria Sison) established a new Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA). The CPP fought against the official government of the Philippines during the time of the dictatorship of the Marcos. In 1972, the CPP was defeated, and Sison was exiled. In the same year, after the Filipino government declared Martial Law, the number of people who wanted to join the CPP and the NPA considerably decreased (Parlade 22).
Since the mid-1970s, no more attempts on the side of the CPP to overthrow the Filipino government have been made. Thus, the Philippines being on the edge of the Communist revolution have never experienced the Communist regime. Nowadays, the Philippines are a republic and use the constitution that they introduced in 1987 (Parlade 25).
Comparison of Communist Asian Countries
Although Communism was adopted by many Asian countries, it was differently implemented in each country. In China and Vietnam, for instance, Communism had a great influence. In China, it reached its peak in the period of Mao Zedong who even created his own branch of Communism called Maoism, whereas, in Vietnam, the best time for Communism was after the reunification of North and South Vietnam. In Laos, Communist regime existed only for ten years and was less strict despite the re-education system. In Cambodia, the implementation of Communism under the rule of the Khmer Rouge, had the most severe consequences resulted in the deaths of almost three million people. In several other countries including the Philippines, Communism failed to be implemented (Derous 1739).
Currently, although in general, the idea of “pure” Communism became a utopia, some people still believe in its realization, and as long as they believe, the idea will not cease to exist. Certainly, there is a possibility that “pure” Communism will ever be implemented, but, now, considering the present state of the world’s affairs, it is unlikely to be realized.
Nowadays, although there are still several countries that have a socialist government structure, their methods and policies are less strict, in comparison with those that were at the outset of Communism. Additionally, now, after numerous attempts to implement “pure” Communism, people became more skeptical about it and realized that even if it is not a utopia, currently, it is not practicable.
Baird, Ian G. “1975: Rescaling Our Understanding of the Fortieth Anniversary of the Establishment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.” Geopolitics, vol. 20, no. 4, 2015, pp. 745-748.
Derous, Marjolein. “Why Communism Did Not Collapse. Understanding Regime Resilience in Asia and Europe.” Taylor & Francis, vol. 66, no. 10, 2014, pp. 1738-1739.
Greene, Roberta R. “Resilience and Healing Among Cambodian Survivors of the Khmer Rouge Regime.” Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work, vol. 12, no. 6, 2015, pp. 579-587.
Hearden, Patrick J. Tragedy of Vietnam. Routledge, 2016.
Ngo, T. P., and Bahaudin Mujtaba. “The Influence of Communism on Ethical Decision Making.” Journal of Knowledge Management, Economics and Information Technology, vol. 1, no. 1, 2014, pp. 1-16.
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Snow, Edgar. Red Star over China: The Classic Account of the Birth of Chinese Communism. Atlantic Books, 2017.