The Communist Party Looks Backward

xi-propaganda-mashup

Dazed and Confucian

Russell Leigh Moses writes: Nearly two years into his tenure as China’s leader, President Xi Jinping has yet to expound on a clear notion of what the Communist Party should stand for as a whole or what direction the country should take. In the absence of a BN-ES741_kongzi_G_20140926075714forward-thinking vision, Xi has instead often gazed backwards, into the periods of Chinese history the party once shunned.

That China’s president is often more comfortable talking about the country’s past than its future was evident this week when he delivered a speech at a meeting of the International Confucian Association commemorating the 2,565th anniversary of Confucius’s birth – the first time, according to Chinese Central Television that a Chinese president has addressed an international meeting on the philosopher.

The speech (in Chinese) was praised by people who were there as erudite and eloquent. Extolling Confucius and his importance, Xi said that “to understand today’s China, today’s Chinese people, we must understand Chinese culture and blood, and nourish the Chinese people’s grasp of its own cultural soil.”Chinese leader Xi Jinping

“Xi seems caught between an abiding respect for the Chinese classics and the need to make sure that China modernizes. That’s created a conundrum that he seems far from fully resolving.”

Many have taken notice of the Communist party’s interest in Confucius – a scholar excoriated by previous generations of communists for advocating a social system that promoted inequality – in recent years. Although that revival seemed to be starting before Xi took over, it has accelerated under his watch, with official media repeatedly portraying the leader as being steeped in classical Chinese literature.

There’s no question the glorification of China’s past has helped the party win public support, adding emotional heft to the “China Dream” of national rejuvenation. The question is how much an obstacle it’s going to be for Xi’s efforts to lead the party.

Xi’s approach is different from his immediate predecessors, who provided ideological templates with slogans designed to summarize what the Communist Party stood for and where it planned to take China.

With Jiang Zemin, it was the “Three Represents”, which said that the party had to incorporate business elites into their ranks. Hu Jintao proffered “Scientific Development” in the expectation that government decision-making and economic growth would be more technocratic and based on an overall strategy from Beijing, instead of being driven largely by officials looking out for local interests. Both ideological guides were also designed to unite the rank-and-file behind something recognizable—a political shorthand that could also act as a means of testing the loyalty of party officials to follow the Party line.

As with so many matters, Xi’s been different…. (read more)

China Real Time Report – WSJ

Russell Leigh Moses is the Dean of Academics and Faculty at The Beijing Center for Chinese Studies. He is writing a book on the changing role of power in the Chinese political system.


One Comment on “The Communist Party Looks Backward”

  1. […] Pundit from another Planet Dazed and Confucian Russell Leigh Moses writes: Nearly two years into his tenure as China’s […]


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