Ma Renzhong


Mǎ Rénzhōng
马任重
Ma Renzhong colour.jpg
Ma Renzhong in 1952
2nd State Chairman of Xiaodong
In office
24th June 1946 – 7th September 1959
PremierZhou Hongkui
Chen Xuechang
Preceded byWu Jinmo
Succeeded byLi Zhaozheng
President of the Legislative Council
In office
4th September 1942 – 24th June 1946
Preceded byPost established
Succeeded byWu Junji
Minister of Finance
In office
13th October 1940 – 4th September 1942
PremierRao Junzhao
Zhou Hongkui
Preceded byPost established
Succeeded byShao Guiren
Member of the State Presidium of Xiaodong
In office
13th October 1940 – 7th September 1959
Personal details
Born(1886-08-16)August 16, 1886
Imperial flag of Xiaodong.png Xingjuan, Anqian Province, Xiaodong
DiedSeptember 7, 1959(1959-09-07) (aged 73)
Flag of Xiaodong.png Rongzhuo, Xiaodong
Political partyXiaodong Regeneration Society
Spouse(s)Liu Ran
Children4
Alma materUniversity of Baiqiao
OccupationPolitician
This is a Xiaodongese name; the family name is Ma (马).

Ma Renzhong (Xiaodongese: 马任重, Mǎ Rénzhōng; August 16th 1886 - September 7th 1959 aged 73) was a Xiaodongese statesman and technocrat who served as State Chairman of Xiaodong from 1946 to his detah in 1959. He also served as President of the Legislative Council from its creation in 1942 to 1946, Chairman of the Xiaodong Regeneration Society from 1942 to 1959 and Minister of Finance from 1940 to 1942.

Born into the wealthy Xiaodongese landowners family in 1886, Ma entered into the state bureaucracy through the imperial examination system. Ma prior to the Great War was aligned to the reformist section of the bureaucracy that supported nationalist expansionism and the shift from the imperial, aristocratic-dominated state to one more industrialised and led by bureaucrats. During the Great War Ma worked in both the Ministry of Revenue and the Ministry of Munitions. In 1934 the new Munitions Minister, Lu Keqian, appointed Ma as Secretary of the Ministry making him the highest ranking bureaucrat in the ministry. As a result Ma became extremely close to Lu - during Lu's attempted coup in 1934 known as the July Incident Ma supported his superior and accompanied Lu in his flight to Zorasan. Ma became a founding member of the Xiaodong Regeneration Society and was its inaugural secretary giving him control over the organisation's structure.

Following the Corrective Revolution and the Xiaodongese Civil War Ma retained his importance as one of Lu's closest confidents. He was seen as the de facto leader of the "Armament Clique", a loose collection of bureaucrats and officials who had aligned with Lu starting from his days in the Ministry of Munitions compared to the "Ukyou Clique" of military officers who had first aligned with Lu during the invasion of Senria. Following the end of the civil war Lu appointed Ma Minister of Finance (1940-1942) and Chairman of the Economic Reconstruction Committee (1940-1946). Under his economic stewardship, post-war austerity was pushed until 1942 when the state began massive infrastructure spending and industrialisation. In 1942 he became Chairman of the Regeneration Society and President of the Legislative Council, becoming the leading civilian politician after State Chairman Wu Jinmo and one of Lu's most senior aides.

Lu's death in 1945 sparked a power struggle between the differing groups that supported his rule. Ma quickly became the highest civilian official thanks to his control over the Regeneration Society which he attempted to entrench as the most important organ of the state. In 1946 Wu stepped down as State Chairman, with Ma becoming his replacement after outmaneuvering premier and general Zhou Hongkui. Initially seen as an interim leader, by 1947 Ma had established himself as the foremost leader of the regime after suppressing an alleged coup by military figures and consolidating Xiaodong into a one-party state.

As State Chairman Ma's style of leadership was based on consensus, using his position as a first amongst equals. Ma followed Lu's economic modernisation and industrialisation policies, fuelled by state investment whilst spearheading a new foreign policy initiative known as the Three Fundamentals. Under his rule Ma toned down the revolutionary aspects of the regime that had been apparent under Lu, pushing for moderate conservative social policies and overturning some of the more progressive policies pursued by Lu. During his time in office Xiaodong experienced a period of sustained growth known as the "Decade of Development" (starting around 1950 and lasting into the 1960's) although by the early 1960's it had become apparent that such wealth was concentrated in the hands of a small socio-economic elite. In 1958 Ma had a deliberating stroke that led him to pass power onto his preferred successor, vice-premier Li Zhaozheng, over premier Chen Xuechang. In 1959 he died of another stroke with Li formally succeeding him as State Chairman.

Ma is regarded favourably by historians, who credit him with modernising the Xiaodongese economy and overseeing over a decade of solid economic growth as well as being an effective statesmen internationally. However, he has in recent years been criticised for being instrumental in the creation of the Xiaodongese one-party state and being discriminatory towards ethnic minorities. Whilst Ma was never accused of corruption himself he was said to have in the creation of the single-party tolerated the increasingly corrupt underpinnings of such a state that would become apparent under his successor.

Early years

Ma Renzhong was born the second male child of a wealthy, conservative landlord in the province of Fenjiazhi in the year 1886. As was custom in Xiaodong as the time the second son of the gentry class was often enrolled into the national examination system to be trained as a state bureaucrat, with those who were considered the best in the provinces forwarded to serve in the imperial government in Baiqiao. After taking his examination in 1905 Ma was sent to a Taojiao temple in northeast Xiaodong to be taught Taojiao philosophy and become one of the elite Taojiao scholar-officials in the imperial capital, as opposed to an imperial eunuch who managed state affairs within the capital.

During his time studying Taojiao philosophy Ma took up to writing an extensive poetry collection, a hobby he would continue to practice until his death.

Family

Ma first married Chen Qinli in 1904 in an arranged marriage. Ma also however had relations with two concubines as was common with upper-class Xiaodongese men at the time, being especially close to Liu Ran. Ma had 2 children, a boy and a girl, with Chen whilst having three children (two boys and a girl)
Ma's second wife, Liu Ran
with Liu and one (a girl) with his other concubine, He Xiebing. In 1937 concubinage was abolished, resulting in Ma to divorce Chen and marry Liu whom he stayed with for the rest of his life. One of his sons, Guofang, would later become a politician serving in the State Presidium from 1966-1974.

Bureaucratic career

In 1924 Ma finished his Taojiao ritual and scholarly studies entering the bureaucracy of the imperial government within the Ministry of Finance, being the vice-financial minister and helping draw up the military budgets during the Senrian-Xiaodongese War. During that time Ma subsequently became a member of the Xiaodong Expansion Group (晓东扩展小组; Xiǎodōng Kuòzhǎn Xiǎozǔ) a pro-imperialist faction in the Xiaodongese government with strong connections with Xiaodongese prime minister Ren Xilian who famously called for the "the orderly and complete dismantlement of Senria and the elimination of is people's" and the creation of a "Greater Xiaodong Order (大晓东地区命令; Dà Xiǎodōng Dìqū Mìnglìng)". The Xiaodong Expansion Group heavily favoured Senria being entirely depopulated of ethnic Senrians and the resettlement of ethnic Senrian's in contrast to the Xiaodong-Borea Association of Friendship (陆晓北大东交情协会; Xiǎodōng Běi Dàlù Jiāoqing Xiéhuì) which was more inclined to support Xiaodongese dominated pan-Monicism rather than Xiaodongese chauvinism.

Following the March 8 Coup and Treaty of Keishi the Xiaodong Expansion Group's influence in government collapsed as moderates within the regime became dominant. In response to this Xiaodongese war hero Lu Keqian merged the Xiaodong Expansion Group with the socialist nationalist Xiaodong National Restoration Group (晓东国家复辟小组; Xiǎodōng Guójiā Fùbì Xiǎozǔ) to form the Xiaodong Revolutionary Society (晓东革命会; Xiǎodōng Gémìnghuì). Ma became part of the provisional government following the Corrective Revolution with Lu appointing Ma to oversee munitions and financial affairs during the Xiaodongese Civil War. Ma subsequently became the only civilian member of Lu's supreme war command. Ma was responsible for drafting Decree 14 which created the Public Security Secretariat in 1936.

Ma talking to interior minister Kang Baoshi in 1942.
Following the creation of the Auspicious Republic Ma became the chief financial adviser to Lu Keqian. Lu was instinctively lent towards socialist economics, favouring state control of the economy, collectivism and redistribution of wealth but self-admitted he had little knowledge or understanding of economics, and so left Ma to dictate and direct economic policy. In 1938, Ma was appointed Finance Minister wherein he was instantly faced with a high budget deficit and rocketing inflation left by the war. To deal with the inflationary and deficit issues Ma embarked on a harsh austerity programme, implementing rationing on most goods, raising taxes on land and cutting back on public spending which between 1938-1942 saw the deficit substantially reduced. The government also nationalised most major industries and implemented a comprehensive incomes policy with the intention of ending inflation.

The economic policies were unpopular, but accepted by the general populace wary after seven years of war and hoping Lu's and Ma's appeal for short term pain would produce long term gain. By 1940 hyperinflation had been reduced and a small budget surplus achieved thanks to the draconian austerity policies. As a result, in 1940 Ma announced it was "time to seal the gains" and embark on economic reconstruction. A five year plan was formalised which saw investment in heavy industry pursued and an expansion in housing and infrastructure. In 1942 the state had started to focus on industrialisation pouring huge investment into heavy industry. Ma made it policy to set economic growth rates at 8% per annum, stating "Xiaodong is two decades behind compared to Senria, which is running a war economy, and five decades behind the developed countries. We must oversee a decade of development if we are to meet the challenges of the modern world". Xiaodong's reindustrialisation had been frustrated with Operation Red Pheasant, a campaign launched by Senria starting in the mid 1930's that saw Senrian agents within Xiaodong sabotage Xiaodongese industry and in some cases destroy entire factories.

Ma also from 1938 served as Second Minister and Vice-Chairman of the Regeneration Society. Initially appointed to the post to balance civilian and military figures amongst the government, Ma's successful industrialisation policies which resulted in an average 11% growth rate and rapid economic expansion impressed Lu Keqian who saw Ma's pragmatic policy prescriptions as reason enough to possibly serve as his successor. In 1943, Ma carried out the most ambitious policy undertaken by the Lu government, nationalising most land and implementing a land value tax. Both measures effectively destroyed the power of the feudal aristocracy who no longer drew their power from the land. In 1945 Lu died of a cerebral haemorrhage with Ma becoming First Minister.

State Chairman

Power struggle

Although Ma had become First Minister and Chairman of the Revolutionary Society, in 1945 Xiaodong's political system was still fluid. Lu Keqian had as leader occupied four posts - Chairperson of the State Presidium, First Minster, Chairman of the Revolutionary Society and Grand Marshal (commander-in-chief) of the military - and exercised enormous personal power thanks to his role in the Senrian-Xiaodongese War and Corrective Revolution. However, as none of his colleagues exercised the same amount of personal power, there was no clear cut leader to succeed Lu. Ma had a reputation for economic pragmatism and personal affability that gave him a down-to-earth common touch, but lacked military experience and was mistrusted by the army. His rival was Yu Changshao, a former general who had become Chairman of the State Presidium and commander-in-chief of the military. Yu was in contrast to Ma a charismatic extrovert with strong military support, but was criticised for his heavy drinking. This division soon led to the creation of a "bureaucratic clique" that surrounded Ma and a "military clique" that surrounded Yu. The bureaucratic clique supported the creation of a one-party state with the Xiaodong Revolutionary Society as the main pillar of the regime and a strong bureaucracy, whilst the military clique wanted to create a military dictatorship with one strongman autocrat as the leader, where the military was the main centrepoint of the regime.

Yu Changshao, State Chairman from 1945-1946
In the early years of Ma's rule tensions within the government between the supporters of Ma and the supporters of Yu paralyed Xiaodongese politics. The Yu clique soon started to form links with Tuthinian officials, becoming pro-Tuthinian in comparison with the anti-Tuthinian bureaucratic clique. Although the military clique was made up of veterans of the Senrian-Xiaodongese War, its pro-Tuthinian stance made it much more friendly to Senria than Ma's government, with Senrian officials adopting a realpolitik approach.

On the 14th August 1946, the military clique led by Yu spearheaded an attempted coup d'état against Ma Renzhong. Several tanks occupied the city of Rongzhuo and placed government ministers under arrest. A provisional military government was installed, with Yu proclaiming himself the President of the Democratic Republic of Xiaodong and calling for the arrest of Ma. However, many members of the army, including brigadier general Sun Yuting remained loyal to the government - after a short shootout between loyalists and the coup plotters the coup fizzled out, with its members being arrested and put on trial, where many were sentenced to death including Yu on the grounds of being Senrian agents. The botched coup allowed Ma to launch a purge of the army, with those deemed to be part of the military clique removed from their posts and replaced with Ma loyalists. Ma also amended the constitution, abolishing the post of Marshal of the Armed Forces and making the State Chairman commander-in-chief, whilst also stripping the State Chairman of much of their executive authority and giving it to the First Minister.

A single-party state was also declared, as the military and government were increasingly sidelined as the Xiaodong Revolutionary Society - now renamed as the Xiaodong Regeneration Society (晓东再生会; Xiǎodōng Zàishēnghuì) - began to be installed as the main component of the regime, adopting a Haclavist party structure with a seven man National Executive led by a Chairman and appointed by a central committee. Ma was also able to engineer the assumption of power of Tao Guangmei, the widow of Lu Keqian, to the position of State Chairperson - Tao's status as wife of Lu meant that the remaining opponents to Ma could not oppose her assumption to power, but her lack of support from any one group in the regime meant she was a de facto puppet to Ma, who amassed an increasing amount of power in the hands of the First Minister. By the end of 1946, Ma had successfully moved Xiaodong from a personalist dictatorship into a one-party state, with the military now firmly subordinate to civilian bureaucrats.

Economy Policy

Ma announcing the "second decade of development" in 1950
Under Ma, the move towards a command economy was implemented, with industry either nationalised or merged into industrial cartels known as Caihongs. During his term, Ma emphasised economic development and double-digit growth as the most important policies of the government, saying "any other economic policy is useless. The sacrifices we have to make for this development is nothing compared to the fruits of prosperity such development will bring".

Upon coming to power, his government abolished worker cooperatives, slashed wages and instituted military discipline in factories to increase productivity. Trade unions were banned, strikes repressed, and conscripts redirected from military exercises to work in mines. Investment was courted from abroad, including Ankoren, Tuthina and Luziyca, whilst the state mobilised its resources to undergo rapid industrialisation, massively investing in heavy industry and coal mining complexes. During the 1940's, Xiaodong was one of the top exporters of ships and coal, which were overwhelmingly its two main industries. Steel and iron works were also expanded, whilst efforts were made to also produce electricity.

The massive push towards heavy industry and neglect for agriculture put enormous strain on Xiaodong's agricultural sector, which had been partially nationalised. Food was imported from abroad, but there were still food shortages in the late 1940's as industrialisation was emphasised, with Ma commenting that "the death of a few farmers' should not be an obstacle on the development of the nation".

By 1950, the average annual growth in the decade prior was 11.2% leading Ma that year to announce a second "decade of development" which so that a "path of consolidation can be forged...the great reforms must now be sealed and entrenched." The second decade saw more investment in agriculture, whilst small and medium sized businesses were privatised and deregulated to promote small scale economic growth whilst the "commanding heights" of the economy were still under state-ownership or merged into industrial conglomerates. The second decade of development ended in the late 1950's - by that time the GDP had trebled, the country had regained its pre-1927 industrial capacity and living standards had improved for all sectors of the population. However, economic gains had not been distributed evenly, with most of the economy controlled by a small clique of technocrats and oligarchic families, who benefited the most from the decade of development. As well as this light industry remained chronically underdeveloped and had started to collapse, as the policy of privatisation and subsequent re-nationalisation had a destabilising effect on the light industrial sector.

Social policy

Ma continued efforts to improve literacy. Under his predecessor Lu enormous progress had been made in this area - by 1950, 99% of those between the ages of 18-21 were literate, with literacy improving throughout Ma's tenure. Ma also expanded and modernised the healthcare system created under the Lu government, overseeing a rise in life expectancy.

The Ma government also saw censorship and repressive policies retained, although like the Lu government tolerated a degree of artistic freedom. Nevertheless, under Ma divorce laws were tightened, abortion banned and homosexuality classed as a mental disorder (although it still remained legal). Under Ma, repression was targeted specifically as ethnic Duljunese who were often sent to re-education camps to be assimilated into Xiaodongese society. Ma cracked down on Duljunese culture, encouraging ethnic Xiaodongese to settle in Duljun for the purpose of reversing the demographic superiority of Duljunese in the region. Christianity was banned in 1955, with church holdings nationalised by the state.

Foreign policy

Ma on a foreign trip to Jathana in 1949.
Ma's foreign policy formulated alongside his Minister of International Relations Li Zhaozheng was based on three principles, known as the Three Fundamentals - the isolation of Senria in regional affairs, the promotion of Xiaodongese interests to the extent that Xiaodong was the main regional power in eastern Borea and the containment of communism and other leftists. Unlike subsequent Xiaodongese statesmen, Ma did not practice diplomatic brinkmanship, instead adopting a conciliatory approach.

Ma throughout his term championed the retaking of territory from Tinza, Min and Narmada and during 1949 contemplated an invasion of Min to retake West Thianchin. The invasion plan - nicknamed Operation Chengzhao - was planned which envisioned the Xiaodongese army staging a false flag operation on the border which would result in Xiaodong entering Min and declaring a puppet state.

In 1946, Ma ordered the Shujichu to carry out the assassination of Senrian leader Imahara Katurou deploying a lone agent, Xi Yikuang, to do the job. Xi attempted to shoot Imahara and his wife Keiko during speech the latter was making in Furosawa on December 29th 1946; Xi missed Imahara instead killing a private, Sakaguchi Noriyoshi, and was shot trying to flee the scene. The attempted assassination worsened Xiaodongese-Senrian relations.

Death

On the 13th August 1951 Ma was struck by a case of sudden dysentery, dying in a hospital in Rongzhuo on the 24th August. During the time Ma was hospitalised and his death his anointed successor, hardliner and Presiding Officer of the State Presidium Chen Xuechang had taken up the duties of state. At his death, there was an outpouring of sadness amongst the general public at the news - Ma's funeral saw thousands mourn his death. At his funeral, his successor Chen Xuechang called Ma "a pivotal figure, who was one of the architects of new Xiaodong". Ma was buried in Rongzhuo east park, with the words "马任重 己丑年 ~ 辛丑年" (Ma Renzhong 1886-1951) engraved on his grave stone.

Assessment

In recent years, historical views on Ma have come to recognise his achievements. Ma is credited as the architect of Xiaodong's postwar economic recovery, with his tough economic policies modernising and industrialising Xiaodong, being a key figure in the transformation of Xiaodong from a feudal to industrial society. Ma has also been praised in his handling of foreign policy - his Three Fundamentals would be retained until the mid-1990's, and two of his objectives, containment of Senria and projection of Xiaodong's power, has been retained.

Xiaodongese historian Guo Hanqing called Ma the "best First Minister" of Xiaodong, saying "Lu Keqian possessed a vision of a modern Xiaodong with an industrial economy and as the main regional player in Eastern Borea...but it was Ma who oversaw the implementation of such reforms". Brian Haughey, a Lyonese historian specialising in Xiaodongese history, said Ma was the "most capable of Xiaodong's postwar leaders. He was able to skillfully implement policies, most prominently the so-called Decades of Development that saw Xiaodong rapidly industrialise. It is no surprise that until very recently under the Yuan Xiannian government no Xiaodongese leader has been so able in implementing his policy programme, and none have been able to boast of the same economic or foreign policy successes of the Ma government".

However, Ma has been criticised in his decisive role in turning Xiaodong into a one-party state, expanding the police state and labour camps system and suppressing Duljunese culture, setting a pattern followed by later Xiaodongese leaders of a policy of ethnic cleansing against Duljunese people.