2012 is a year of the dragon, as were 2000, 1988 and the auspicious year 1976.
1976 was a year of turmoil and tremendous change in China. Both Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong died, leaving a power vacuum. After the Gang of Four was defeated, the innocuous Hua Guofeng was head of the government as Deng Xiaoping consolidated control.
1976 marked the end of the ’10 lost years’ – the Cultural Revolution and its disastrous aftermath. When reading memoirs of the youth of the time, there is a bitterness at the loss of opportunities. With schools closed down or heavily influenced by party infighting even those with unversity degrees were uneducated and lacked the skills necessary to succeeed.
Rightists and members of the Red Guard alike suffered from the campaigns; it is not surprising that Chinese society breathed a collective sigh of relief when Deng once again reintroduced some measure of capitalism into the system and moved away from the ‘revolutionary enthusiasm’ of the 1960s.
1976 proved to be a year of change but it also consolidated Communist Party control over China. The police state, authoritarianism and brutality remained but capitalism was now allowed.
Key class discussion questions can center around this:
After the 4 Modernizations was China still truly communist? If so, what is communism?
How is communism different from other forms of authoritarianism?
In a nation of millionaires can we still speak of a dictatorship of the proletariat?
This allows students to grapple with ideology and history, and linkages to ToK are easily made here.