Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mao Zedong and His Rise to Power

Mao at his apex of power (8)

            Mao Zedong also known as Chairman Mao or simply Mao was born on December 26, 1893 and died on September 9, 1976.  Mao was a man of many faces; he was a revolutionary, head of state, poet, political scientist, and the father of modern day China among other things.  Mao was the chief architect of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and held its top seat of power from its conception in 1949 till his death in 1976.  Mao is considered a Marxist by some but others would contend that the changes he brought to Marxist theory classify his theories as a separate branch of Marxism.  Those who feel this way consider the Communism of Mao “Maoism;” similar to Marxism but different.  Mao had different theories on revolution among other things than Marx; some of those differences will be confronted later when discussing some of Mao’s writings.
The focus of this essay will be how Mao rose to power in the Communist power and eventually all of China.  To understand his story one must first understand his eary years.  The common man and woman in China identified with Mao and the reason for this was because he came from them, he was one of them in their eyes.  Mao was born in Shaoshan, China the son of a poor peasant who later became a prosperous famer and grain dealer.  In Mao’s early life he bounced in between school and working on the farm; when Mao was 18 the Xinhai Revolution broke out against Qing rule in China.  Mao joined the Revolutionary Army in Hunan.  A year later the war was over and Mao left the army and eventually returned to school.  By 1921 Mao was in and out of school, moving and taking odd jobs, identified himself as a Marxist in theory and to some extent in action and was one of the members of a small group that founded the Chinese Communist Party. 

Mao in 1931 (5)

The late 1920’sas well as the 1930’s was a busy time for Mao as well as everyone else involved with the Chinese Revolution.  In 1927 Mao led the Autumn Harvest Uprising which was a rebellion that took place in Hunan and established the short lived Hunan Soviet.  The uprising was defeated by Kuomintang forces and Mao was forced to retreat to the Jinggang Mountains on the border between Hunan and Jiangxi province, where he then assembled an army of miners. This was the first armed uprising by the Communists, and it marked a significant change in their strategy. Mao and Red Army founder Zhu De went on to develop a rural based strategy that centered on guerrilla tactics, paving the way to the Long March of 1934.

The Long March was an almost mythical journey which catapulted him into fame in China.  The Long March started in southern China when Mao’s Red Army was surrounded.  Estimates of around 80,000 (1) men under Mao’s control tried to escape through enemy lines and reform in the north and in the process 8,500 men survived the Long March to the north and establish their base in Yan’an.  This event was used as inspiration for those who survived and those who would fight for Mao in the future.  The following is a poem Mao wrote about the long march:  

The Long March, October 1935

The Red Army fears not the trials of the Long March,
Holding light ten thousand crags and torrents.
The Five Ridges wind like gentle ripples
And the majestic Wumeng roll by, globules of clay.
Warm the steep cliffs lapped by the waters of Golden Sand,
Cold the iron chains spanning the Tatu River.
Minshan's thousand li* of snow joyously crossed,
The three Armies march on, each face glowing. (2)

Mao at this time not only became infamous as a leader in the communist movement in China, but as a writer as well.  In 1937 Mao wrote two of his most popular essays entitled “On Contradiction” (3) and “On Practice.”(4)  These two essays are concerned with the practical strategies of a revolutionary movement and stress the importance of practical, grass-roots knowledge, obtained through experience.  In both essays he speaks of how to gain support and who is the best people to recruit for this revolution.  Mao’s theories on revolution are considered by some to be the most impressive of his theories.

Soviet Republic of China Flag Picture (6)

From 1931 to 1934, Mao helped establish the Soviet Republic of China and was elected Chairman of this small republic in the mountainous areas in Jiangxi.  Shortly after Mao’s ascension to power dissension in the ranks began occur.  Some that were in power at this time like Li Wenlin were against Mao's land policies and proposals to reform the local party branch and army leadership.  Mao reacted to this dissension by claiming his opponents were opportunists and then over time systematically suppressed them.  After the fall of the Japanese Empire in World War II the region then became an interest of the West, Russia and the United States particularly.  The Cold War was in its infancy and the battle of Communism vs. Democratic Capitalism was in full swing figuring out who would be under whose sphere of influence.  The U.S. continued to support Chiang Kai-shek, now openly against the People's Liberation Army led by Mao Zedong causing an escalation in the Civil War for control of China.  The Soviet’s on the other hand supported Mao with supplies, but not as much as the U.S. supplied their allies.  The truth of the matter is that although Russia wanted to encourage the spread of Communism, they also didn’t want China become too strong because Russia still had ambitions in the area and a strong China would keep that in check.  In 1948, the People’s Liberation Army starved out the Kuomintang forces occupying the city of Changchun in which at least 160,000 civilians are believed to have perished during the siege.   On January 21, 1949, Kuomintang forces suffered massive losses against Mao's forces. In the early morning of December 10, 1949, PLA troops laid siege to Chengdu, the last KMT-occupied city in mainland China, and Chiang Kai-shek evacuated from the mainland to Taiwan that same day.

Over the several decades Mao came into line with other Communist leaders of the time.  Controls of many different economies were brought under the control of the Chinese government.  U.S / Chinese relations improved over time and eventually in 197o’s under the tutelage of President Nixon and Sec. of State Kissinger the Chinese and the U.S started to warm up to each other and normalized relations.  At this same exact time through no coincidence the Chinese had a long contested border dispute with the Soviets which surely strained relations between Beijing and Moscow.  The very shaky ground on which modern U.S / Chinese relations were started on has continued until today even though both economies are becoming more intertwined.

Picture of Mao with Nixon in 1972 (7)

Works Cited

1.      "The Long March 1934 to 1935." History Learning Site. History Learning Site. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. <>.

2.      "The Long March | A New Long March." Morning Sun. Long Bow Group, Inc. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. <>.

3.      Tse-tung, Mao. "ON CONTRADICTION." Marxists Internet Archive. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. <>.

4.      Tse-tung, Mao. "ON PRACTICE." Marxists Internet Archive. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. <>.

5.      "File:Mao1931.jpg." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. <>.

6.      "File:Flag of the Chinese Soviet Republic.svg." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. <>.

7.      "File:Nixon Mao 1972-02-29.png." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. <>.

8.      Dryden, Samantha. "JACKIE CHAN TO SEEK CONTROL OF ALL CHINESE PEOPLE." Scrape TV. Scrape TV, 19 Apr. 2009. Web. <>.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Israeli / Palestinian Conflict and Water Rights

Bringing peace to the Arab / Israeli Conflict is a beautiful statement, but practically speaking it brings up many issues that are not easily solved.  Like many disagreements there are several issues that have to be solved to bring the main goal of peace in the region.  Some of the issues that plague all negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians are water rights, the barrier wall in between Palestinian lands and Israel, Israeli settlements that have been built after 1967 on former Palestinian land, and also Jerusalem; who should control this city and this argument alone would be huge and could be argued on a block to block level. 

This particular essay will briefly look at one of the lesser known aspects of this conflict but one I feel is of vital importance to both Palestinians as well as Israelis; and that is the issue will be water rights.

I am assuming that most people would ask why does this even matter?  When watching the news, reading the history of the conflict it seems that this issue of the four seems to never be mentioned if at all.  The truth of the matter is that water probably plays a larger issue than all the others.  When all is said in done, a wall is an issue but gates can be put in, buffer zones created, etc.  Settlements can be demolished or accepted as part of Israel depending on the agreement; even Jerusalem itself is just a city.  I know many who are devout Muslim, Jewish, and Christian that would disagree with this outlook but the fact of the matter is economically speaking loosing or gaining control of Jerusalem will not make or break either state in the near future. 

With all that being said water is a major building block of life itself.  When looking at major civilizations, cities, hubs of industry and technology the main thing in common is they all have easy access to cheap water.  Ancient Mesopotamians would not have survived and thrived near as well if it wasn’t for the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the Ancient Egyptians were made by the Nile River and even New York City grew immensely after the Erie Canal linked the Great Lakes of the American Midwest with the Atlantic Ocean making New York City a center of industry and commerce for the United States, and soon the world.  Even when looking at the history of other cities such as Los Angeles, the city itself didn’t bloom into the west coast power it is today until an aqueduct was built supplying the city with the water it needed.  Those examples as well as many others show the importance of water to any growing civilization.

One may make an argument that New York City and Los Angeles are not in the Middle East which is true but look at population statistics across the world when it comes to where people live versus where the water is.  From the following maps you can see where water plays a direct role in where people live:

Above: The darker the shades of red equate to higher the population density.  Look at the coasts and the areas around lakes and rivers; these areas have substantially higher population densities. (1)  
Above:  A map of the continent of Africa shows population density.  Egypt is a prime example of how water effects where people live. (2)

Above:  Map of Iraq shows how population density has not changed much since the times of the ancient Mesopotamians. (3)

            Without filling this essay with maps upon maps, it is easy to see why water is essential to any population.  The Israeli – Palestinian conflict is no different in this aspect; to quote the American Historian Jack Temple Kirby “drainage is destiny.”(4)  Although this phrase doesn’t sound sexy, in fact it sounds rather nerdy; but the statement is true when looking at population density maps.

            Water, which many in the developed world take for granted is necessary for any civilization to survive.  One can make the case that the current actions of the Israeli government in regard to water and Palestinians are very discriminatory.  The following are some statistical information in regards to water in Israel as well as Palestine:

·        Israeli settlers pay $0.40 per cubic meter for domestic consumption; the Palestinians pay $1.20.(5)
·        Israeli settlements are connected to the Israeli water network.  10%-20% of the West Bank Palestinians (200,000 residents) are not connected to a water network; 9% buy water from tankers.(5)

The high price of water in Palestine has caused the locals to seek water from elsewhere; many times from polluted streams which leads to an increase in the spread of disease and infant / child / adult mortality rates.  If cheap clean water cannot be accessed, then a population will shrink either by disease, thirst or migration. 

When water becomes an issue for hygiene, how is water to be used in the irrigation of crops and for the watering of livestock?  The answer to that question is it isn’t.  Palestinian’s who once had successful citrus farms are left to scrape by for their very existence without access to cheap, clean water.  Livestock is not an option in many cases or isn’t as plentiful because of water as well.  If people were to become ill from drinking tainted disease ridden water, that same filth cannot be given to livestock or used to water crops; all those fore mentioned things are not people but need access to clean water to survive.  Livestock or crops that are watered with diseased water will suffer the same fate as a person who was to drink it, illness or death.

The following are some images of a Palestinian and Israeli villages, guess which one is which (Hint: Israelis have the access to cheap water): 

Top Left:   An empty Palestinian agricultural reservoir near Jiftlik in the West Bank. (5)
Top Right:  Israeli settlers in Maaleh Adumim enjoy a swim. (5)

            I know that not everyone in this world can own a swimming pool but can the question be asked; is it moral to own a swimming pool when your neighbors (and by Israeli definition refuges living in your own country) can’t even fill a reservoir for farming?           

Although it is easy to condemn the Israeli’s way of life in regards to how they live as compared to their neighbors in regards to water; it is another thing to say they are doing something wrong.  That issue is harder to explain but we will attempt to figure out this complex issue ahead.  So what does each side say in regards to water? 

The Palestinian side is really very simple to understand; they claim that the Israeli’s are stealing their water.  I will focus more in depth on their point of view shortly but for now let’s focus on the Israeli point of view before the essay becomes biased.  The Israeli point of view on water rights is the following; we have prior rights to the aquifer and we are taking the water though our access to it.  The best example for this argument I am going to steal off of the movie “There Will Be Blood.”(7)  In the movie the main character Daniel Plainview played Daniel Day-Lewis is explaining to Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) why he doesn’t need the lease on a particular piece of land to drill for oil because he already has the lease on the surrounding land:
“Plainview: Drainage! Drainage, Eli, you boy. Drained dry, I’m so sorry. Here: if you have a milkshake... and I have a milkshake... and I have a straw; there it is, that’s the straw, see? Watch it. My straw reaches across the room... and starts to drink your milkshake: I... drink... your... milkshake! [slurps] I drink it up!”

If that quote wasn’t clear enough look at it this way, the Palestinians and the Israelis share the same milkshake (aquifer.)  The Israelis are taking the milkshake (water) like crazy through their straw and if the Palestinians aren’t getting any that isn’t their fault.

Both sides in this argument claim to have sole access to drilling rights and in all actuality both sides do have the right to drill for water.  Treaty after treaty and UN resolution after resolution has stated that Israel and Palestine have rights to the natural resources, water being one of them.  If that was the case why can’t they each drill in their own sovereign state?  That is where other issues non-water related are affecting this one.  Radicals on each side of the argument dispute the rivals existence let alone sovereignty.  As the situation currently stands the Palestinian state does not have the ability or the right to drill for their water in the eyes of the Israelis.  The Israelis see themselves as the care takers of the water supply and will distribute it fairly.   Israel also makes the case that it is vital to their nations security that they are in charge of water drilling and that if Palestinians wanted to drill for their own water then they should have accepted the peace treaty they were offered in 2000.

To better understand the situation between Israel and Palestine on water lets first look at what water sources they share.  Israel and Palestine share two main water sources; two aquifers and the Jordan River and its tributaries.  The Mountain Aquifer which is one of the aquifers that we are speaking of is a system extending over approximately 130 square kilometers.  It stretches from Mt. Carmel in the north to Be’er Sheva in the south.  Israel also shares their coastal aquifer with Gaza on the coast.  These two aquifers are not connected.     


Above:  A map showing the location of the coastal aquifer and the mountain aquifer in Israel and Palestine. (8)

The Mountain Aquifer is feed mostly by rain water that falls on the mountains in the West Bank which then seeps into the ground.  The water then flows eastward and westward to the reservoir areas, from where it is drawn by wells. This source supplies about one-quarter of the water needs of Israel and the Israeli settlements and almost all the running water that Palestinians in the West Bank receive.(9)

The Coastal Aquifer has dropped in significance over time.  Over pumping of the aquifer has led to seepage from the Mediterranean causing salt levels to rise and also pollution from industrial complexes on the coast have led to inability to use this source of water.(10)  Israel over the past 50 years has been pumping water from this source quicker than it could replenish itself.  Desalination can be used to fix this issue but it is costly and toxins from manufacturing are harder to extract from ground water than salt is.  This Aquifer is also used a great deal by those living in the Gaza Strip as well as those in Israel. 

The second joint source of water is the upper Jordan River and its tributaries.  Some of the tributaries of the Jordan River include the Sea of Galilee, the Yarmuh River and the lower Jordan River as well. Although only the Jordan River is shared geographically with Jordan; the water Israel draws from the Jordan River and its tributaries directly affect the amount of water in the Jordan River itself. This source of water supplies approximately one-third of Israel’s water needs as well as some of the water needs of Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Palestinians on the other hand do not receive any water from this source.

Demand for water in the region continues to grow over time because the population of the region has been on the rise for some time.  Also with time comes technology meaning more business’s and people are connected onto a water grid as well.  All of these things have helped led to a short falls in water supply.  As opposed to working with its neighbors and Palestine Israel has decided the best solution to this problem is to limit the access of Palestinians to this water.  By limiting Palestinian access it prevents supply from meeting demand and water prices to escalate over time.  Israel 's water policy in the Occupied Territories has benefited Israel in two primary ways:

1.      Preservation of the unequal division of the shared groundwater in the West Bank's Western Aquifer and Northern Aquifer. This division was created prior to the occupation, a result of the gap between economic and technological development in Israel as opposed to the West Bank . However, the gap would have likely diminished had Israel not prevented it.

2.      Utilization of new water sources, to which Israel had no access prior to 1967, such as the Eastern Aquifer (in the West Bank ) and the Coastal Aquifer, primarily to benefit Israeli settlements established in those areas.(9)

In the West Bank as well as Gaza the drilling of new wells is strictly forbidden by the Israeli government limiting the ability of the Palestinians to become self-sufficient in regards to water although plenty of water lies under their feet.  According to military orders, drilling a well required obtaining a permit, which entailed a lengthy and complicated bureaucratic process.  The vast majority of applications submitted during the occupation were denied.  It should be noted that the rationing of the drilling of wells is a good idea; the only issue with it is that the Israelis are biased when issuing permits when allowing for new wells discriminating against Palestinians.

Not only is supply an issue in the West Bank and Gaza, but the means of transporting water is an issue as well.  The infrastructure needs to be updated periodically to prevent failure; unfortunately some places in the West Bank and Gaza haven’t had maintenance preformed since pre-1967.  In Gaza the embargo has led to the corruption of ground water and the inability to clean their water because many supplies are not allowed through. 

In closing the best possible solution I can see is that Israel needs to put forth a consorted effort to rebuild a rejuvenate the water infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza.  If Israel is unwilling to do so then they should allow for the Palestinians to do so but sitting back and ignoring the issue cannot be the practice of the future.  The longer Palestinians go without essential services and human functions like water the more and more credibility they will lose in the international community.  This is not the Cold War, the world has become flat with the internet.  As more and more people around the world become aware of the basic issues facing Palestinians like water; the more these same Palestinians gain sympathy and the moral high ground. 

Works Cited
1.      "US POPULATION DENSITY MAP." Map. Map of USA. Print.

2.      Encyclopedia - Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. <>.

3.      "Iraq Population Density Map - Iraq • Mappery." Real Life Map Collection • Mappery. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. <>.

4.      Cayton, Andrew R. L., and Stuart D. Hobbs. The Center of a Great Empire: the Ohio Country in the Early American Republic. Athens: Ohio UP, 2005. Print.

5.      Shalhevet, Sarit. "Water Rights and Water Allocation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority." Lecture.
From On-line lecture

6.      Viklund, Andreas. "Water in Palestine « Fundamental Human Rights." Fundamental Human Rights. Blog at Web. 18 Apr. 2011. <>.

7.      THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. <>.

8.      Wulfsohn, Aubrey. "WHAT RETREAT FROM THE TERRITORIES MEANS FOR ISRAEL'S WATER SUPPLY - FREEMAN CENTER BLOG." Freeman Center for Strategic Studies. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. <>.

9.      "B'Tselem - The Water Crisis." Web. 18 Apr. 2011. <>.

10. Rinat, Zafrir. "Green Groups Warn: Coastal Aquifer Pollution Is Limiting Israel's Water Supply." Haaretz News, 21 Mar. 2011. Web. <>.