Looking Back: China, then and now

In 1962, a professor of history at Oakland University gave a World Report lecture on Chinese industrialization. In his lecture, he predicted four things. The first was that China would not likely be “overwhelmed” from within. The second, Beijing would not be overwhelmed from within. The third was that the Chinese would not start a war, and the fourth was that communist China would be successful in their economic development.

One hypothesis that Dr. Charles O. Hucker had was that one of the biggest threats to China would be the U.S. In addition, The Republic of China (more commonly known as Taiwan) and the Soviet Union posed threats as well. However, he hypothesized that the U.S. and the Soviet Union would not have the motivation to pick a fight with China, and he believed that Taiwan would not have the means to instigate a fight.

This year, after President-elect Donald Trump tweeted about accepting a phone call from the president of Taiwan, many suspect he will be giving up the “One China” policy. A state-run newspaper in China reported that Beijing would “take revenge” if this were the case.

Another proposed belief is that there will be a “trade war” between the U.S. and China over comments Trump has made about the trade policies currently in place between the two countries. According to a CNBC article, he promised to make these reforms concerning Chinese trade on day one of his presidency.

Despite beliefs that differing opinions between politicians would be the downfall of Beijing, Hucker believed that these disagreements between leaders actually made the regime stronger, rather than weaker. Furthermore, he hypothesized that China would not start a war because it did not have the economic means to do so.

Hucker outlined major things China would have to accomplish to obstain the means to instigate a conflict and have economic prosperity.

The first was the problem of having resources. Because China was still industrializing at the time, the economic capital needed to come from within the country, not from outside trade, as Hucker said it was “unlikely” for China to receive such foreign aid.

Second, Hucker said there was a population crisis in China. He guessed that the Chinese population could reach one billion people by 1980.

He wasn’t far off. The actual population of China in 1980 was almost 974 million people. He said the biggest challenge that China would face would be trying to feed all of these people, citing the examine of a famine between 1959 and 1961, during which up to 30 million people died of hunger in China.

He also hypothesized that the “traditional” lives that many Chinese people lived would be changed by the communist party’s efforts to change from a village setting to a more urban one focused on economy.

However, today, China’s one-child policy, initiated in the 1970s, is harming the nation’s economy. According to a 2015 PBS article, by 2035, almost 20 percent of the population will be over the age of 65, meaning there will be significantly fewer people in the workforce.

Ironically, Mao Zedong, former chairman of the Communist Party of China, encouraged population growth leading up to the famine in order to generate more laborers for economic prosperity.

“It is not enough that the masses merely accept the regime, but rather it is necessary that they support it enthusiastically in order to provide the necessary man hours,” Hucker said at the end of his lecture.

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