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China - Glossary Index
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook

      Glossary -- China

      barefoot doctor
      Especially during the Cultural Revolution (q.v.), a paramedical worker possessing minimal formal training who provided part-time medical service, primarily in rural areas. Promoted basic hygiene, preventive health care, and family planning and treated common illnesses. Acted as a primary health-care provider at the grass-roots level.
      big-character posters (dazibao)
      Posters, limited-circulation newspapers, excerpted press articles, pamphlets, and blackboard news using large-sized ideographs and mounted on walls as a popular form of communication. Used in China since imperial times but more commonly since literacy increased after the 1911 revolution. Used more frequently after 1949 to publicize party programs and as a means of protest. Became ubiquitous during the Cultural Revolution (q.v.); guaranteed as one of the "four big rights" in the 1975 state constitution.
      Person who holds any responsible position in either the party or the governmental apparatus throughout the nation. Term usually denotes a person in administrative work. It often denotes, in a more restricted sense, a person who has been fully indoctrinated in party ideology and methods and uses this training in his or her work.
      China Proper
      Used broadly to mean China within the Great Wall, with its eighteen historic provinces. Divisible into two major, sharply contrasting regions, north China and south China. The dependencies on the north and west--Manchuria (now usually referred to as northeast China), Mongolia, Xizang (Tibet), and Xinjiang or Chinese Turkestan--were known in the imperial era as Outer China.
      Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)
      A quasi-constitutional united front (q.v.) organization that provides an institutional framework for interaction between party and state leaders and representatives of mass groups and democratic parties (q.v.). Members include distinguished scholars, educators, and intellectuals, key representatives of religious and minority nationality groups, and leading members of political parties loyal to the Chinese Communist Party during the anti-Guomindang years. The first CPPCC convened in 1949, the second in 1954, the third in 1959, the fourth in 1964, the fifth in 1978, and the sixth in 1983, the seventh was scheduled for 1988. The CPPCC's 1949 Common Program served as the law of the land until superseded by the 1954 state constitution.
      class struggle
      In Marxist terms, the conflict waged by the masses of the workers and the oppressed under the leadership of the communist party against the privileged, oppressive, and property-owning ruling class. Until late 1978, class struggle was the official line of the Chinese Communist Party.
      Short form for Communist International or the Third International, which was founded in Moscow in 1919 to coordinate the world communist movement. Officially disbanded in 1943, the Comintern was revived as the Cominform (Communist Information Bureau) from 1947 to 1956.
      county (xian)
      Rural administrative unit below the provincial level.
      Cultural Revolution
      A slogan introduced by Mao Zedong in 1940, noted again by Liu Shaoqi in 1958, and used more frequently in connection with leftist attacks on the "cultural front" in late 1965 and early 1966. The expression was used to denote the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a political campaign officially inaugurated in August 1966 to rekindle revolutionary fervor of the masses outside formal party organizations. The Cultural Revolution decade (1966-76) can be divided into three periods: 1966-69, from the militant Red Guard (q.v.) phase to the Ninth National Party Congress; 1969- 71, the period of the zenith and demise of Lin Biao; and 1971-76, the period of Mao's declining health and the ascendancy of the Gang of Four (q.v.). At the August 1977 Eleventh National Party Congress, the Cultural Revolution was declared officially to have ended with the arrest in October 1976 of the Gang of Four.
      danwei (work unit)
      The basic-level organization through which party and government officials control social, political, and economic behavior of residents. The danwei typically controls the allocation of housing, grain, edible oil, and cotton rations; the issuance of permits to travel, to marry, and to bear or adopt children; and permission to enter the army, party, and university and to change employment.
      "Democracy Wall"
      A wall in the Xidan district in Beijing where, beginning in December 1978, in line with the party's policy of "seeking truth from facts," activists in the democracy movement recorded news and ideas, often in the form of big-character posters (q.v.). These activists were encouraged to criticize the Gang of Four and previous (failed) government policies, but the wall was closed in December 1979 when the leadership and the communist party system were being criticized along with past mistakes and leaders. The shutdown coincided with suppression of political dissent.
      democratic centralism
      A system through which the people influence the policies of the government and party members influence the policies of the party; while the government and party maintain centralized administrative power to carry out the policies demanded by their constituents. Within both representative and executive organizations, the minority must abide by the decisions of the majority, and lower bodies must obey the orders of the higher level organizations. The concept, derived from the organizing principles of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, was called for as early as 1928 by Mao Zedong.
      democratic parties
      Eight political parties that have been loyal to the communist government since 1949. They are China Association for Promoting Democracy, China Democratic League, China Democratic National Construction Association, China Zhi Gong Dang (Party for Public Interest), Chinese Peasants' and Workers' Democratic Party, Jiusan (September Third) Society, Guomindang Revolutionary Committee, and Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League.
      Term usually juxtaposed with "red" (q.v.). Denotes special knowledge or skills, or both, relating to economic management, science, and technology. Cadres are required to be both red and expert, the emphasis on one or the other depending on the current political milieu.
      fiscal year (FY)
      January 1 to December 31.
      Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence
      Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty; mutual nonaggression; mutual noninterference in each other's internal affairs; equality and mutual benefit; and peaceful coexistence. Originated with a 1954 agreement between Zhou Enlai and India's Jawaharlal Nehru.
      four cardinal principles
      Socialism; dictatorship of the proletariat; supporting the party leadership; and Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. In vogue in China since 1979.
      Four Modernizations
      The core of a development strategy aimed at turning the country into a relatively advanced industrialized nation by the year 2000. The modernizations are those of agriculture, industry, science and technology, and national defense. The concept was embodied first in the Third Five-Year Plan (1966-70), launched in earnest by Zhou Enlai at the Fourth National People's Congress (1975), and adopted as the official party line at the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee (December 1978).
      Gang of Four
      Term used by the post-Mao leadership to denote the four leading radical figures--Jiang Qing (Mao's fourth wife), Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen--who played a dominant political role during the Cultural Revolution (q.v.) decade (1966-76) until Mao's death in September 1976 and their arrest several weeks later. Their "antiparty" deeds are often linked with Lin Biao, an early leader of the Cultural Revolution, who also has been discredited.
      Great Leap Forward
      A drive to increase industrial and agricultural production following the suspension of Soviet aid and the desire to catch up with the advanced nations of the world. The campaign was conceived by Mao Zedong in late 1957, adopted by the National People's Congress (q.v.)in 1958; it continued through 1960. Emphasis was placed on accelerated collectivization of agriculture, national self-sufficiency, and labor-intensive methods. The campaign resulted in widespread waste of resources and was partially responsible for famine in 1960 and 1961.
      Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
      See Cultural Revolution.
      gross national product (GNP)
      The total value of final goods and services produced in the economy. The "estimated GNP" figures used in the text are estimates by United States government analysts of Chinese GNP according to the U.S. definition, which includes personal consumption, gross investment, all government expenditures, and net exports. Through mid-1987, Chinese calculations of national income excluded government and personal services, passenger transportation, and depreciation investment.
      Also Han Chinese. Term used to designate the ethnic majority, which constitutes 93 percent of the population. The fifty-five minority nationalities make up the remainder.
      Hundred Flowers Campaign
      Also Double Hundred Campaign. Party-sponsored initiative to permit greater intellectual and artistic freedom. Introduced first into drama and other arts in the spring of 1956 under the official slogan "Let a hundred flowers bloom, let the hundred schools of thought contend." With Mao's encouragement in January 1957, the campaign was extended to intellectual expression and, by early May 1957, was being interpreted as permission for intellectuals to criticize political institutions of the regime. The effect was the large-scale exposure and purge of intellectuals critical of party and government policies.
      "iron rice bowl"
      A Chinese idiom referring to the system of guaranteed lifetime employment in state enterprises, in which the tenure and level of wages are not related to job performance.
      Long March
      The 12,500-kilometer-long trek made by the Red Army in the face of the Guomindang's "annihilation campaigns." Began in October 1934 in Jiangxi Province and ended in October 1935 in Shaanxi Province. Some 100,000 persons left the communist base area in Jiangxi but only about 28,000 arrived in Yan'an, Chinese Communist Party headquarters for the next decade. It was during the Long March that Mao Zedong gained his preeminent role in the party.
      Mao Zedong Thought
      Sayings and writings of Mao that served as a major source of national ideology until his death in 1976 and since then have undergone a cautious but critical reappraisal. By 1980 the meaning of the term had expanded to include the collective thoughts of all key party leaders.
      "mass line"
      Term for party policy aimed at broadening and cultivating contacts with the masses of the people and to accentuate the leadership role of the Chinese Communist Party.
      mass movement
      Derived from the concept of "mass line" (q.v.). Party- directed campaign designed to mobilize the masses in support or execution of major policies. Such movements were characteristic of the 1950s through the 1970s and were controlled and coordinated by permanent mass organizations.
      National People's Congress
      Highest organ of the state, elected in accordance with the principles of democratic centralism (q.v.). As of 1987, six congresses had been held, the first (1954), second (1959), third (1965), fourth (1975), fifth (1978), and sixth (1982), the seventh was scheduled for 1988; annual sessions were held most years except during the Cultural Revolution (q.v.). The Standing Committee is the permanent organ of the National People's Congress and functions between annual sessions.
      Term in general use in China for the urban administrative unit usually found immediately below the district level, although an intermediate, subdistrict level exists in some cities. Also called streets (administrative terminology varies from city to city). Neighborhoods encompass 2,000 to 10,000 families. Within neighborhoods, families are grouped into smaller residential units of 100 to 600 families and supervised by a residents' committee; these are subdivided into residents' small groups of fifteen to forty families.
      New Culture Movement
      Refers to the period between 1917 and 1923, which was marked by student and intellectual ferment and protests against the warlord government. Culminated in the May Fourth Movement of 1919.
      one country, two systems
      A policy originating in the early 1980s that promotes reunification of Hong Kong, Macao,and Taiwan with the mainland and offers them a high degree of autonomy as special administrative regions of China. Through separate agreements with Britain and Portugal, Hong Kong and Macao are to revert to Chinese control in 1997 and 1999, respectively.
      overseas Chinese
      Term usually used to refer to any person of Chinese origin living abroad on a permanent basis, without regard to his or her current citizenship. Overseas Chinese minorities are concentrated principally in Southeast Asia but are also found in other parts of Asia, the Middle East, Europe, North America, South America, and the Caribbean. Overseas Chinese have long been important to the government in power in China as a source of business contacts and of financial and moral support from abroad. The majority of foreign investment in China is by overseas Chinese, and more than 90 percent of all foreign tourists who visit China are overseas Chinese. Also used in China to refer to persons living in China who have returned from sojourns abroad.
      people's commune
      Formerly the highest of three administrative levels in rural areas in the period from 1958 to 1982-85, when they were replaced by townships (q.v.). Communes, the largest collective units, were divided in turn into production brigades and production teams (q.v.). The communes had governmental, political, and economic functions.
      production brigade
      Formerly the intermediate administrative level in the people's commune system, the organizational structure of the collective sector in agriculture. The highest level was the commune; the lowest, the production team. Most brigades were transformed into townships or villages in the period from 1982 to 1985. (See also people's commune, production team, townships, villages.)
      production team
      Formerly the basic accounting and farm production unit in the people's commune system. Production teams were largely disbanded during the agricultural reforms of 1982-85. In the administrative hierarchy, the team was the lowest level, the next higher levels being the production brigade and people's commune. Typically the team owned most of the land and was responsible for income distribution. Since 1984 most teams have been replaced by villages. (See also people's commune, production brigade, village.)
      The common spoken language; also called guoyu (national language). The official spoken language of China, used in its various forms by more than 70 percent of the population. The People's Republic government started promoting putonghua in 1956 for use in schools, the cultural arena, and daily life as a means of bringing about the standardization of the language used by the Han (q.v.) nationality. Putonghua is based on the northern dialect, and uses Beijing pronunciations as its standard.
      A term referring to political and ideological attitudes prescribed by Maoist doctrine. Usually juxtaposed with "expert" (q.v.), the term was seldom used in the 1980s.
      Red Guards
      Generally used to refer to young people--primarily students--in their teens and twenties who began in May 1966 to support the leftist intraparty struggle then emerging against Liu Shaoqi and others. They made world famous the "little red book," Quotations from Chairman Mao, and were known for their use of big-character posters (q.v.) during the Cultural Revolution (q.v.). Acting under the leadership of Mao and his radical adherents, Red Guards were the "soldiers" and the vanguard of the Cultural Revolution. The term Red Guard was derived from the early days of the Chinese Communist Party's armed struggle.
      A practice dating from the early years of the Chinese Communist Party. Denotes the reinstatement in positions of responsibility of former government and party officials and military personnel who had been accused of wrongdoing. Rehabilitations sometimes take place posthumously to clear a former leader's name and reputation.
      responsibility system
      A practice, first adopted in agriculture in 1981 and later extended to other sectors of the economy, by which local managers are held responsible for the profits and losses of the enterprise. This system partially supplanted the egalitarian distribution method, whereby the state assumed all profits and losses.
      As used by communists, term refers to political, economic, and social tendencies that stray to the right of orthodox Marxism- Leninism. The Chinese communists long insisted that these tendencies were counterrevolutionary and that internal and external enemies (such as the Soviet Union) were infected by this negative phenomenon.
      Socialist Education Movement
      Inaugurated in September 1962 at the Tenth Plenum of the Eighth National Party Congress Central Committee as a mass ideological campaign for both party cadre and the general population. The movement was patterned along the lines of the Yan'an rectification campaign of 1942-45 and was intended to increase ideological "correctness" and consciousness, especially in regard to reversing "capitalist" and "revisionist" tendencies perceived in social and economic life. The Socialist Education Movement, which continued at least until 1965, is considered a precursor of the Cultural Revolution (q.v.).
      special economic zones
      Small coastal areas established beginning in 1979 to promote economic development and introduction of advanced technology through foreign investment. Special preferential terms and facilities are offered to outside investors in taxation, land-use fees, and entry and exit control for joint ventures, cooperative ventures, and enterprises with sole foreign investment. Special economic zones have greater decision-making power in economic activities than provincial-level units. Market regulation is primary.
      township (xiang)
      The basic government administrative unit below the county level in rural areas. Townships existed before people's communes were organized in 1958 and were reconstituted when production brigades and communes were disbanded during the period 1982-85. Each township has a people's congress and an elected chairman. In the mid-1980s, townships were about the same size as the communes they had replaced. (See also county, people's communes, productions brigades.)
      united front
      Chinese Communist Party strategy that attempts to utilize an organization or movement for the purpose of building a consensus and an organized following for party-supported programs and goals. Historically, the term is associated with the Guomindang-Chinese Communist Party first united front (1923-27) and second united front (1937-45).
      village (nong cun)
      Replaced production brigades (q.v.) from 1982 to 1985 as the lowest-level semiofficial government entity. They provide bureaucratic coordination, and welfare payments and settle disputes. Party branches are usually organized at the village level.
      yuan (-Y)
      China's monetary unit, which in mid-1987 had an exchange rate of US$1 to -Y3.72, or -Y1 to US$.269. The yuan is divided into 100 fen, and 10 fen constitute 1 jiao. The currency is known as renminbi (RMB), meaning the people's currency. The inscription renminbi (or renminbiao) appears on bank notes as well as yuan, and the terms renminbi and yuan are used synonymously in quoting exchange rates. In transactions the terms are universally replaced by the word kuai (piece). Beginning in the early 1980s, the standard currency was paralleled by a special currency called Foreign Exchange Certificates, which were issued in exchange for "hard" foreign currencies.

    NOTE: The information regarding China on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of China Glossary information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about China Glossary should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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