274. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson) to the Secretary of State1

SUBJECT

  • Recantation by “Rightists” in Communist China

Some of the leaders of minority political parties in Communist China who had been encouraged by Mao Tse-tung’s “hundred flowers” policy to voice criticisms of the regime and who had been denounced for their pains in the simultaneously conducted “rectification” [Page 578]campaign have now recanted publicly. This follows the recent publication of Mao’s speech of February 272 in which he made it clear that the “hundred flowers” policy was intended to strengthen the “leading position” of Marxism ideologically and in which he listed six criteria by which word and actions could be judged to be “fragrant flowers” or “poisonous weeds”.

The meetings of the National People’s Congress were utilized as a forum in which to expose and attack the offending critics of the regime, and before the Congress closed on July 15 several persons accused of “rightist” activity publicly recanted. Most prominent of these were: Chang Po-chun, Minister of Communications; Lo Lung-chi, Minister of Timber Industry; and Lung Yun, Vice Chairman of the National Defense Council (it was Lung who criticized Soviet “aid” policies). Several others have been denounced, including Chang Nai-chi, Minister of Food Industry, and Tseng Chao-lun, Vice Minister of Education.

Meanwhile, Moscow, which had hitherto refrained from expressing a definite opinion on these events in Communist China, has put itself on record as lauding Mao’s campaign against the “rightists” in a “Pravda” editorial of July 16. While avoiding specific mention of Mao’s doctrine of “contradictions among the people” or his “hundred flowers” policy, the editorial describes the February 27 speech in which these are presented as a “tremendous event in the political life of China” and as developing tenets of “great significance for Marxist-Leninist theory in general”. The carefully worded editorial appears intended to demonstrate maximum identity of view between Moscow and Peiping without specifically endorsing any of Mao’s theses as being applicable outside of China.

Whether the “rightist” critics will be removed from office or otherwise punished is not clear. A “People’s Daily” editorial of July 16 expresses dissatisfaction with the sincerity of some of the confessions but points out that if the offenders truly admit their mistakes and not repeat their misdeeds they may still be rehabilitated. But this same editorial foreshadows possible intensification of the campaign with the observation that a long time and further effort will be required before “complete victory” against the “rightists” is won. The “hundred flowers” appear to be withering rapidly, but it is too early to tell whether they will be forcibly uprooted.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.001/7–1857. Drafted in CA by Bennett.
  2. See Documents 238 and 264.