In the 1980s, when I was working as a journalist in Beijing, many intellectuals would discuss the state of the nation as it was then, having emerged from the chaos of the Cultural Revolution and embarked on economic development. This is something the country should have done from the beginning. 'We went on a crooked road,' was a common way of expressing it. 'We wasted some time.' The idea was that the Communist Party had somehow made a mistake and had taken the people of China on a long, winding road instead of directly into the promised land. And, yet, it is clear that the party's obsession with political campaigns, rather than working on improving people's standard of living, was far more than a mere diversion. The goal for the party was very different from that of the people. The party's priority - as determined by Mao Zedong - was to have a perpetual revolution, to keep purifying the party ranks, regardless of the people's livelihood. Those found to be not pure enough would, naturally, be purged. If one correlates the political campaigns with the number of deaths in China, one comes up with some astounding figures. In the early years of the People's Republic, the communists killed between 800,000 and 4 million people, as political campaigns were launched against former landlords and rich peasants in the countryside and former Kuomintang supporters in the cities. The Great Leap Forward campaign resulted in famine and the death of 30 million people. And the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976 exacted a toll estimated at between 400,000 and 3 million. The total number killed as a result of Communist Party rule is estimated at tens of millions. Was this the work of a party intent on serving the people? The party's answer was 'yes', only because it had a shifting definition of 'the people' so as to exclude anyone who, at any time, was considered 'the enemy' and so no longer one of the people. The enemy did not deserve to live and, for them, no treatment was too severe. What brought these thoughts to mind were photographs of people on the mainland sweeping the graves of their ancestors on the Ching Ming festival - the first time since 1949 that they had been given a holiday in which to do so. In the 59 years since the People's Republic was formed, this was the first time that the festival had been declared a holiday so that people could honour their ancestors in the traditional way. The Communist Party likes to say it practises socialism with Chinese characteristics. But it is clear it has been doing the opposite. After it came to power, the party got rid of the country's traditional characteristics, dubbing Ching Ming 'rotten' and 'superstitious', culminating in the campaign to 'Smash the Four Olds': old ideas, old habits, old customs and old culture. Far from adapting foreign theories to Chinese realities, the communists attempted to eradicate Chinese traditions and culture, and replace them with Marxist ideas imported from Europe. If the shoe did not fit, then the foot had to be reshaped. All this time, Hong Kong and Taiwan continued to observe traditional Chinese festivals such as Ching Ming, Tuen Ng (Dragon Boat) and the Mid-Autumn Festival. These traditional Chinese festivals were always public holidays, both in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Even the British colonial government realised how important they were to the Chinese public. But in the People's Republic, those holidays were all abolished. Now, after 59 years, Beijing has decided to observe them again. That is some 'crooked road': it was more like a decades-long circuitous path that led them back to where they started. All's well that ends well, they say. But we have to hope that the party will never again make mistakes that have to be paid for with the blood of the Chinese people. Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based writer and commentator.