China has experienced changes in ruling regimes that both faced difficulties and sought to solve them. The rulers experienced some achievements as well as failures, since no ruler is perfect. Some of them rose to power through fighting, while some rose through the peaceful handover of power. This paper seeks to examine the four ruling generations from 1949 to 2012 and the problems that these rulers left behind.

Background of the Leaders

Mao Zedong, the Chinese leader (1949-1976), was born in 1893 in a family of the wealthy agriculturalist. His political ambitions influenced his contribution to the formation of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921 as well as the Red army that confronted the rival Nationalists. The two parties have forged an alliance with Japan in the World War II, which was terminated in 1949, and a civil war that led to the Mao’s rise to power emerged. Mao was replaced in 1979 by Deng Xiaoping, who ruled until 1992 when Jiang Zemin rose to power. Zemin was born in 1926 in Yangzhou Province and, after graduating from university, worked in Russia in the 1950s. He joined the Communist Party upon return, becoming a Minister of Electronic Industry in 1983. Jiang was replaced through a peaceful handing over by Hu Jintao, who ruled from 2002 to 2012. Hu Jintao was born in Jiangsu province from a poor background: however, he studied up to the university level and became an engineer in 1965. In 1980, he was discovered by his future benefactor Song Ping who assisted him when he assumed leadership positions in the Central Party. Afterwards, he served as the deputy president from 1998 until he received the presidency in 2002. All the above leaders like any other leader had both achievements and failures in the social, economic, and political spheres, thus none of them was considered impeccable. It is, therefore, worth noting that the leaders not only improved the Chinese status, but also left some areas unaddressed. Below is a comparison of the legacy left by the four leaders in different spheres.

Economic Spheres

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Mao Zedong’s Contribution

Mao initiated economic reforms that aimed at transforming China from an agricultural to an industrial society through the Great Leap Forward of 1958-1961. He promoted the development of steel furnaces in villages and urban areas, increasing the steel production as well as providing employment opportunities outside the agricultural sector. He also collectivized agricultural production by encouraging communal farming as opposed to the individual/private farming. However, his industrialization attempts caused the Great Chinese Famine that claimed many lives. The famine resulted from the shortage of labor needed in the agricultural sector in the harvesting seasons. Accordingly, most of the workers had gone to steel production and this led to rotting of grain in farms. It is also said that the urban population at the time had consumption rights over a given amount of grain compared to the rural populations, causing the starvation for the latter.

Deng Xiaoping’s Contribution

Xiaoping promoted economic development through an open door policy to encourage foreign investors to invest their technology and capital into the Chinese land. This impact reduced foreign borrowing as well as boosted the domestic production rising the foreign exchange earnings. He designated several coastal towns, such as Shenzhen and Shantou, as the Special Economic Zones for receiving foreign investments and transmitting them to the interior. He also liberalized trade in the areas: hence, increasing local as well as foreign investment. Furthermore, he liberalized trade and encouraged the formation of light industries, empowering the farmers.

Jiang Zemin’s Contribution

Jiang Zemin promoted economic growth through improved international relations, especially with Russia and the United States. He transformed China from a centralized socialist into a capitalist market economy under government control. He also funded the Special Economic Zones as well as the coastal cities to promote economic development. He appointed Zhu Rongji as the head of the economic sector, and inluenced the rise of Gross Domestic Product value. However, it was alleged that the appointment was inspired by nepotism, because Zhu was his supporter. He was also criticized for concentrating too much on economic growth, while disregarding its implications on the environment. In addition, his developmental approach is also said to have failed in bridging the gap between the rich and the poor.

Hu Jintao’s Contribution

Jintao reinstated state control over some economic sectors, and this witnessed the economic growth and development of China to regain a status of a world power. His regime led China through the global financial crisis, and the country emerged victorious. He improved the infrastructure, thus promoting the Chinese image. Moreover, among the key achievements are hosting the 2008 Olympic Games and the 2010 Shanghai Expo. He also coined the Scientific Development Concept to promote the economic development of China. Additionally, he eliminated state extravagance by discarding ceremonies such as the seeing off and welcoming the president from foreign missions. Furthermore, he pursued soft power relations that encouraged international trade as well as Chinese influence in the Latin America, Africa, and other developing regions.

Legal Reforms and Peace/Stability

Role of Mao Zedong

Mao’s regime modified the legislations concerning the land ownership to promote equality by transferring huge pieces of land owned by the wealthy in ranches to the landless poor. His government allocated land to the farmers, while the industrial sector remained under the state control. Private farming was replaced by collective farming that implied several households managing their farms collectively. However, the collectivization of agriculture was not fully successful, as it contributed to the Great Chinese Famine that claimed millions of lives. His regime also experienced lawlessness as militia massacred a lot of people, for instance, Xinuyang lost many people in 1960. During his regime, there was a massive destruction of property and numerous houses were demolished. The process of land reforms also led to the elimination of the previous landowners. Consequently, such regime was accused of human rights violation through the concentration camp system that imprisoning people for excessively long terms without proper court authorization or the right to appeal.

Deng Xiaoping’s Role

During his regime, Xiaoping decentralized the Chinese economy, although still upholding the socialist values. He promoted law and order to provide a good environment for trade, unlike the Mao’s regime`s lawlessness. He formulated laws and guidelines to direct foreign investment, and relations, which were meant for their protection, such as: Equity Joint Venture, Foreign Capital Enterprise Law, and the Chinese Corporate Ventures Law. However, the legal reforms were not quite successful, as his era tolerated elongated the same unjust imprisonment terms. Additionally, Xiaoping disregarded the issue of human rights by using excessive force in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, leading to a large number of deaths.

Jiang Zemin’s Role

Zemin contributed to the restoration of order in China by crushing the Falun Gong movement that had millions of members and was a threat to the national security. Even though his bid to uphold stability was rational, the barbaric means that entailed abuse of human rights had exceeded the necessity of order. He engaged in the imprisonment of several thousands of people and forceful re-education of the practitioners through labor. The effects of the crackdown were disastrous, taking numerous lives between 2000 and 2008.

Hu Jintao’s role

Jintao embraced peace and stability, adopting the use of conservative policies to eliminate social unrest, ethnic-based protests and people who posed a threat to the national security. He sought a reserved and a gentle leadership style based on consensus and dialogue, as well as politics relying on technocracy. As a consequence, this way of leadership propelled China to great heights and left the guiding trail for the future leaders. The resulting stability led to increased trade and investment that helped the country develop resilience during the global financial crisis.

Cultural Revolution

Mao Zedong’s Regime

Mao transformed the Chinese from individualistic to a collectivist society through the repossession of the huge pieces of land owned by the nobles to the farmers. He also introduced and encouraged the steel industry that saw the increased industrialization and the consequent advancement of steel production. However, industrialization diminished labor in the agricultural sector, while collective farming led to the poor grain reservation that contributed to the Great Chinese Famine.

Deng Xiaoping’s Regime

Xiaoping contributed to the Cultural Revolution through the encouragement of foreign investment through the open door policy as well as the establishment of the Special Economic Zones to facilitate the transfer of capital and investment from the coast to the interior. He also developed the infrastructure such as roads and ports to promote trade. Additionally, he decentralized the economy to encourage technological transfer. His focus on exports helped him encourage the establishment of light industries as well as trade liberalization. He reversed the collectivization of agriculture and encouraged household responsibility by dividing the communal land among farmers, thus empowering the peasants. In addition, he encouraged the growth of cash crops and the establishment of private business.

Jiang Zemin’s Regime

Zemin promoted Cultural Revolution by changing the Chinese centralized socialist into a capitalist market economy regulated by the government. He introduced the theory of the “Three Represents” that was to guide the country towards the economic production, cultural development, and political consensus. The theory called for the introduction of capitalist business, the shift from protecting the poor to the focus of the majority, and the rise of the entrepreneurial class.

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Hu Jintao’s Regime

Jintao contributed to the Cultural Revolution by promoting equality in the socioeconomic spheres through the Scientific Development Concept aimed at creating a harmonious socialist society free from social strife and conflicts. In addition, he strengthened the spirit of the Republic by identifying some evils and encouraging people as well as leaders to avoid them. These vices included doing harm to the country, betraying the people, perpetuating ignorance, indolence, exploiting others, lawlessness, and luxurious lives.

Corruption and Wastage of Public Funds

Upon his rise to power, Xi Jinping acknowledged the challenge of corruption and his need, therefore, to formulate rules to curb the vice as well as the wastage of public funds during the official activities. He targeted those perpetuating the malicious acts from the smallest to the highest office. In detail, early in his first term, he embarked on prosecuting some officials such as the former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission as well as the security chief of the Politburo Standing Committee and the chief aide to the former president Hu Jintao. The campaign was the biggest in the history of the contemporary China, thus proving the intensity of the matter.

Legal Reforms

The legal system requires adjustment to facilitate the rule of law in China. The judicial processes are perceived as ineffective in the delivery of justice, and the major causes are; corruption, lack of oversight, and the interference of the local government. These issues require increased constitutional role in the judicial system and processes in order to restore justice and a good image both in the eyes of the public and the international actors.

China has undergone several transitions of power, both violent and peaceful. The respective leaders have contributed both positively and negatively to the economic sector, Cultural Revolution, legal reforms. Among the key achievements are industrialization and collectivization of agriculture in the Mao era that boosted steel production as well as triggered a devastating famine. Xiaoping also improved the economy through an open door policy to promote foreign change, but his legal reforms failed, especially his reaction to the Tiananmen protests. Jiang Zemin’s regime boosted the GDP, but he was accused of promoting nepotism by appointing his allies more beneficial jobs. Additionally, he could not bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. Hu Jintao is hailed for promoting economic development and restoring China in a status of world power. He, however, did not solve the menace of corruption, influencing negatively his successor’s regime.

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