Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, November 04, 2016

Party control of history, too

Let's see, recently the core leader of the Communist Party of China asserted its right to control civil society, the Party, and the government. Now the core claims the right to history. What's next? How about the PLA?

China is struggling to keep control over its version of the past
THE Chinese Communist Party likes to describe threats to its grip on power in barely comprehensible terms… Now Xi Jinping, China’s president, is waging war against “historical nihilism”, a peril as arcane-sounding as it is, to his mind, grave. As a state news agency recently warned, there is a “seething undercurrent” of it in China. Failure to stamp it out, officials say, could lead to Soviet-style collapse…

In party-speak, historical nihilism means denying the “inevitability” of China’s march towards socialism (the country is currently deemed only to be in the early stages of it). It is a term that came into vogue among party officials after the crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Jiang Zemin, who was then party chief, declared that historical nihilism was one of several ideological vices that had “seriously eroded” the party…

Already in 2013 the party issued secret orders (subsequently leaked) that its members must be on guard against historical nihilism. The following year Mr Xi said an important reason for the Soviet party’s collapse had been historical nihilism, including attacks on Lenin and Stalin. Mr Xi sees Mao’s legacy as being under similar assault…

Mr Xi has justified his vigilance by quoting the words of a Chinese reformist in the 19th century: “To annihilate a country, you must first eradicate its history”. Mr Xi takes that as a warning that rewriting history can cause catastrophe. When it comes to wiping out history, however, the party itself has been trying dangerously hard.

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