Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Communism with historical characteristics

No, it's not 1948 in Israel. It's not 1958 in China. It's not the 1960s in the USA. It's 21st century China. And the Communist Party-led government is not happy with this communist commune. After all, it's not accepting the official Party line of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Communism Is the Goal at a Commune, but Chinese Officials Are Not Impressed
Members of this idyllic utopian commune tucked away in the mountains of southwest China share an agrarian life that would probably have delighted Chairman Mao: Every day they volunteer six hours to work the fields, feed their jointly owned chickens and prepare enough food to fill every belly in the community. The bounty of their harvest is divided equally and apparently without strife, part of a philosophy that emphasizes selflessness and egalitarian living over money and materialism…

But Marxism doesn’t often look like that in modern-day China, and New Oasis has unnerved local officials in Yunnan, a lush semitropical province that borders Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Months of official intimidation and acts of sabotage have destroyed New Oasis’s water and electrical supply and driven many residents away, emptying two of the group’s three communes in the province.

The unfolding drama highlights the perils that Chinese people face in trying to address their country’s problems on their own terms.

New Oasis village
With its emphasis on organic farming, earthy spirituality and unconventional forms of kinship, the New Oasis communes were a beacon for people of all stripes who sought escape from the smog, graft and social conservatism of contemporary Chinese life…

But the Communist Party has never had much tolerance for independent organizations of any kind, however benign. Even as it has loosened restrictions on religious worship in recent decades, the government has moved to crush unsanctioned Christian churches, Buddhist teachers with their own followings and disciples of the Falun Gong…

Even small groups like New Oasis run afoul of the party’s deep fears of independent movements, especially when they are led by charismatic figures — a trepidation rooted in a national history of upheaval and revolution…

For the past year officials have been pressing New Oasis to disband, claiming that it violated laws on marriage, forestry and education. At the same time, they have mounted a campaign of unrelenting harassment that underscores China’s troubled relationship with the rule of law…

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