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Sunday August 25, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday August 25, 2013 MYT 8:03:45 AM
by frank ching
These are early days and something less ephemeral than a dream may emerge in the coming years.
IN office for less than a year, China’s new leader Xi Jinping appears poised to join the pantheon of Communist Party giants, with his thinking likely to be incorporated into the party’s constitution at the next congress in 2017.
This is consistent with a relatively new tradition within the Chinese Communist Party whereby each new leader seeks to distinguish himself by making a contribution to ideological development.
However, Xi seems to have done this in record time, unveiling his thoughts less than three weeks after his election as the party’s general secretary last November.
The new tradition started in October 1997, months after the death of paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, when the party charter was amended to stipulate: “The Chinese Communist Party adopts Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory as the guide to action.”
Mao, of course, had dominated the party from the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 until his death in 1976. His “Thought” had been incorporated into the party constitution in 1969.
Mao’s chosen successor, Hua Guofeng, was moved aside by Deng, who installed Hu Yaobang in his place, then replaced him with Zhao Ziyang, who was also purged when he objected to the Tiananmen Square military crackdown.
So the three party leaders after Mao were all removed by Deng, who finally installed Jiang Zemin as party leader in 1989.
Deng, who declined to be the nominal party leader or head of state, may well not have approved having his “Theory” incorporated into the party constitution.
It was Jiang who oversaw the posthumous elevation of Deng for having introduced the concept of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” which allowed China to depart from orthodox Marxist doctrine.
Jiang himself developed the concept of “Three Represents”, under which the party says it represents the interests of “advanced forces of production,” “advanced culture” and the interests of the “broad masses”.
This meant that capitalists, who used to be viewed as the “class enemy”, could be accepted into the party, which in turn represented all the people.
“The important thought of Three Represents” was duly added to the party constitution in 2002, when Jiang stepped down as party leader to make way for Hu Jintao.
Hu promoted the “Scientific Outlook on Development”, or sustainable development and a harmonious society. That concept was incorporated into the constitution at the end of his first term, in 2007.
Thus, after revisions at the last party congress in November 2012, the party constitution stated: “The Communist Party of China takes Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of Three Represents and the Scientific Outlook on Development as its guide to action.”
In early December, Xi took the six other members of the Politburo standing committee to the National Museum of China, where they visited the exhibition “The Road towards Rejuvenation”.
Afterwards, Xi unveiled the “Chinese Dream” – the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.
Last week, Qiushi, or “Seeking Truth”, the flagship magazine of the Communist Party, carried an article on Chinese diplomacy written by State Councillor Yang Jiechi.
Yang was foreign minister from 2007 to 2013 and, appropriately, his article was carried on the foreign ministry website. But the fact that it also appeared in the party’s political theory publication signalled that its importance lay in more than foreign policy.
In addition to praising Xi for having “expounded on new ideas in China’s domestic and foreign policies,” Yang praised “the important thinking of the Chinese dream.”
This recalls wording in the party constitution to describe Jiang’s theoretical contribution as “the important thought of Three Represents”.
The “Chinese dream”, it appears, far from being a mere slogan, is going to be a guide to action for the party and its 85 million members.
As for its application to foreign policy, Yang said that because “the Chinese dream is closely linked with the dreams of other peoples around the world, China is committed to helping other countries, developing countries and neighbouring countries in particular, with their development while achieving development of its own.”
This may not be a persuasive argument to China’s neighbours since the Chinese dream, after all, is “to achieve the great renewal of the Chinese nation,” and they may not look forward to that prospect with much enthusiasm.
Nonetheless, it looks as if Xi has latched onto the “Chinese dream” as his contribution to ideological development. But these are early days and something less ephemeral than a dream may emerge in the coming years.
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