269. Telegram From the Consul in Hong Kong (Dillon) to the Department of State1
2361. 1. Chou En-lai’s 30,000 word speech June 262 opening 1957 session National People’s Congress is policy statement of major importance. Regime’s record since 1949 and its fundamental principles and policies reviewed in five sections entitled socialist revolution, socialist construction, people’s livelihood, basic state system, and national and international unity. One striking feature, in marked contrast previous Chou reports, is overwhelming concentration on domestic problems and policies. Only minute fraction devoted to international, including bloc, affairs.
2. Speech constitutes regime’s official exposition of counter-offensive against subversive criticism which has been developing since second week June. Various criticisms striking at fundamentals of regime rejected in firm, uncompromising manner. Two lines taken: (a) insistence that achievements of regime are main thing and its mistakes and shortcomings secondary; (b) strong reaffirmation validity and permanence basic features of Communist rule. Key section is fourth, in which Chou makes clear no attempt undermine people’s democratic dictatorship under CCP leadership will be tolerated. Any movement in direction Western-style democracy and two or multiparty political system categorically rejected. Dominant position of CCP reaffirmed at length, with Chou terming essential “firm, strong core of leadership by Communist Party in all government institutions, schools, enterprises, and popular organizations” and in effect rebuffing demands for clear division of function between party and government. “Blooming flowers, contending schools” policy given only passing, lip-service mention. Chou reendorsed united front concept, stipulating however that “Communist Party is guiding force and core of united front and common goal of struggle for people of entire country”. Fourth section concluded with statement regime welcomed criticism its work, but must be constructive, i.e. posited on acceptance of socialism.[Page 568]
3. Tone of speech generally harsh, more so in original Chinese. “Rightist” critics said not acting good faith, accused of slandering regime and trying wrench state power from Communist Party and shift country from socialist to capitalist path. “Some individuals or groups who now part of people may become enemy of people if persist anti-socialist position,” Chou warned, in concluding section. This accompanied however, by heavy stress on desirability internal unity and by expression hope that “rightists, helped by outside prodding and profiting by own experiences and increased awareness will repent and accept opportunities of remoulding themselves”. If small number refuses seize this opportunity and persist in reactionary stand, “they will cut themselves away from people”. Not clear how this policy to be translated into action, but while earlier rectification campaign language of “gentle breeze, mild rain” absent, Chou’s words suggest regime desires avoid large-scale purge. Of possible significance that Lung Yun, one of leading targets of recent attacks, retains position on NPC presidium.
4. Noteworthy feature of speech is strikingly defensive tone throughout. Can fairly be described as essentially exhaustive refutation of charges of abuses, failures, and basic defects to which regime exposed past few months. As examples, Chou cited and sought move but [rebut?] criticism that first five-year plan “bungled”, planned purchasing and marketing “been pretty mess”, living standards lower than under Kuomintang, high officials are “exploiters”, proletarian dictatorship root of bureaucratism, sectarianism and subjectivism. Great pains taken by Chou to refute these criticisms is significant in indicating how strong and widespread recent upwelling of popular dissatisfaction and protest been.
5. In discussing democratic centralism in fourth section Chou admitted central authorities “taken too much into their own hands” in past two years, resulting in rigidity of administration. Following examination of government structure, regime now decided “make suitable readjustments expanding powers local authorities.” Bearing in mind intention carry out some decentralization government operations also mentioned at NPC session last June, meaningfulness and importance this statement should not be exaggerated.
6. Bloc affairs and Sino-Soviet relationship received only cursory and incidental coverage. In section on socialist construction five year plan achievements called “inseparable from assistance given us by people and government Soviet Union.” Dealing with international unity in last section, Chou argued Hungarian incident had been “deep, useful lesson” to all Bloc countries and resulted in strengthening, not weakening, its unity. Standard line on consolidating unity of socialist camp headed by Soviet Union and based on principles proletarian internationalism and equality among nations reiterated.[Page 569]
7. Treatment of international scene very brief and contains no significant departure from or addition to standard line as expounded, for example, in Chou’s March 5 speech to CPPCC. In keeping with general strategy trying isolate United States from allies, argument advanced “in almost all countries dominated by United States there is louder and more insistent demand for putting end to United States control, for adoption of policy of peace and neutrality, and in opposition to aggressive military blocs.” In this connection claim made people on Taiwan launched large-scale movement against United States; new propaganda angle injected with argument this occurred immediately following stationing Matador unit on island. “Liberation of Taiwan” by peaceful or other means not mentioned at all.
8. Economic aspects of speech covered in Congentel 2353, June 28.3
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/6–2957. Confidential. Repeated for information to Taipei, Moscow, Tokyo, and Singapore. Transmitted in two sections.↩
- Text of this speech is printed in Bowie and Fairbank, Communist China, 1955–1959, pp. 300–329.↩
In telegram 2353 from Hong Kong, Dillon summarized the economic aspects of Chou’s June 26 speech as follows:
“Chou En-lai June 26 delivered keynote address to National Peoples’ Congress. From economic standpoint, speech reaffirmed seriousness over-extension last year and decision to attempt lower rate growth 1957, ease imbalances and rebuild reserves. Speech defensive in tone; contended achievements 1956 far outweighed admitted shortcomings. Also reflected current cautious re-thinking prospects long-range improvement living standards.” (Department of State, Central Files, 893.00/6–2857)↩