As in 1950s, China aims to erase malicious ideas of democracy and constitutionalism

On a wintry day in February 1952, two victims, their hands tied behind their backs, were marched off to the execution grounds of Baoding, the provincial capital of Hebei, just south of Beijing. They were shot in the heart rather than in the head,”writes Frank Dikotter, the author of Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution:

Both victims were central actors in the local party hierarchy. It was the defining moment of a campaign against corruption Mao Zedong had unleashed against the party itself. There were mere “flies” who needed to be swatted, the chairman explained, and there were “tigers”. Everywhere tiger-hunting teams tried to outdo each other, encouraged from above by Mao.

In the country’s northwest, 340,000 cases of corruption were uncovered, although Xi Zhongxun, the man in charge of the region, said that in reality there could well be three times as many culprits.

“Today, Xi’s son runs the country, and again there is talk of ‘flies’ and ‘tigers’ threatening the party’s legitimacy. Under President Xi Jinping, not a day passes without state media announcing new investigations into party officials,” Dikotter notes.

“But 60 years ago, under cover of popular approval and publicity for exceptional cases, something more sinister was happening,” he writes for The Financial Times:

One by one, the remaining voices of opposition to Communism were silenced. Millions of “intellectuals” – students, teachers, professors, scientists and writers were forced to prove their allegiance to the new regime. Ideological education became the norm, as sessions of self-criticism, self-condemnation and self-exposure followed one another until all resistance was crushed and the individual broken, ready to serve the collective. Those unable to resist the pressure committed suicide.

Today, too, the anti-corruption drive coincides with an ideological “rectification campaign”. As in 1951-2, there are malicious ideas such as democracy, freedom and constitutionalism that must be stamped out. Only a few weeks ago, it was reported that several people were arrested simply for expressing online their dissatisfaction with the government.

Xi has openly declared his admiration for Mao, Dikotter notes.

“Some foreign observers have interpreted his defence of the Maoist legacy as a rhetorical move designed to assuage those on the conservative wing of his party. But it is always prudent to take leaders of one-party states at their word rather than try to second-guess them,” he concludes. RTWT

Democracy Digest 

3 Comments on “As in 1950s, China aims to erase malicious ideas of democracy and constitutionalism”

  1. Interesting article!The damage caused by the Communist Revolution in China is not discussed that often, which particularly contrasts with all the work on the Bolshevik uprising in Russia. So it’s great that you’ve written about it! It would have been even better if you’d added some figures about casualties/damages, as they really show the extent of the tragedy (although these are often only rough estimates). If you’re interested in history, please visit and follow my blog at (I’ll follow you back!) It contains history articles written by myself and friends from university – I’d love to hear your feedback. All the best! :)

  2. […] As in 1950s, China aims to erase malicious ideas of democracy and constitutionalism ( […]

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