by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Soviet Union lasted 74 years. Communist China is only two years short of that mark. The PRC got going in 1949. But the Chinese Communist Party, founded in 1921, is turning a hundred. The CCP has wreaked more horror on human beings than almost any other organization in history.
The Economist has published a superb analysis, headed “China’s Communist Party at 100: the secret of its longevity.” What has kept the party in power? “Ruthlessness, ideological agility and economic growth,” says the magazine.
Those three elements are very important, with the first being the most important, probably. The CCP has never suffered from a lack of ruthlessness.
Did Mikhail Gorbachev? His Communist critics think so. He lost the USSR by his unwillingness, or inability, to be ruthless. He tried a little suppression — a little killing, in fact — in the Baltics. But he drew back. In a sense, he let the people go (as Pharaoh did, until he changed his mind).
In the summer of 1999, I discussed this issue with Condoleezza Rice, who had been a Soviet-affairs specialist in the administration of the first Bush. She would, of course, become national security adviser and secretary of state in the time of the next Bush.
Many people “underestimate Gorbachev’s role” in the conclusion of the Cold War, she said. “The Soviet Union might have been weak internally, but when people say, ‘Well, he had no options’ — oh, he had options! He had 390,000 troops in Germany. He could have provoked a tremendous crisis over the Berlin Wall.”
Yes, he spilled some blood in the Baltics, but, “for some reason, he always pulled up short of using maximum force,” Rice said, “and we should all be very grateful for that.”
In 1989, young Chinese people were inspired by events in the Soviet bloc, and in the USSR itself. If it is happening there, why can’t it happen here? The Chinese government massacred them in Tiananmen Square.