Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Chinese political correctness

Joining the Communist Party in China is not like joining a political party in the US. If there were divisions within the Party in China, they would never show up in public the way they have recently in the two major US parties.

The return of correct thinking
ON APRIL 6th Xi Jinping, China’s president, launched yet another ideological campaign. It is named (as most such initiatives are) with a low number and a couple of nouns: “Two Studies, One Action.” The aim, says Mr Xi, is to “strengthen the Marxist stance” of Communist Party members and keep them in line with the party leadership in “ideology, politics and action.”…
Ideology has always mattered to the party’s leaders. University students endure lessons on “Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought”. Soldiers have to spend hours a week studying the party’s history and the military writings of its leaders. Applicants for party membership undergo rigorous indoctrination. Chen Xiaojie, a 25-year-old official, recalls weekly classes on party theories and having to write a 1,500-word essay every three months on the latest doctrine. “When you’re in the party, you’ll join a group at least every month to learn about the latest thing they’re promoting.” Officials take regular refresher courses at party schools.

Since Mao’s rule, when ideological training took up a considerable portion of almost everyone’s lives, leaders have given people much more time to get on with their jobs. Deng Xiaoping’s catchphrase, “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice,” captured a new mood of pragmatism. But the party continued to stress the importance of indoctrination…

Numbers and nouns have come thick and fast. Some have been aimed at improving the behaviour of a corrupt bureaucracy. Mr Xi’s “Eight Points” campaign launched in 2012 required party officials to eschew such things as lavish welcoming ceremonies and traffic-snarling cavalcades when they tour the country. His “Three Stricts, Three Honests” drive of 2014 was about strengthening officials’ moral rectitude. Other campaigns have been more ideological: the “Eight Musts” of 2012 stressed the importance of the party’s monopoly of power as well as of “reform and opening”…

Why, then, has Mr Xi chosen to put such stress on ideology? … Lenin has a lot to offer someone trying to establish centralised one-party rule. The campaigns, with their emphasis on discipline, also help Mr Xi in his efforts to root out corruption—a problem so pervasive when he took over that he saw it as a threat to the party’s survival… The head of his new ideology centre, Zhu Jidong, argued last year that the Soviet Union had collapsed in part because it failed to maintain ideological standards…

The party’s concerns were made clear in a document that began circulating in secret in April 2013 and was later leaked. Document Number Nine, as it is called, describes “the current state of the ideological sphere” and identifies seven challenges to it. They include Western constitutional democracy, universal values, civil society, neoliberalism and “the West’s idea of journalism”. To combat these, the communique says, party members must make ideological work “a high priority” in their daily lives…

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