XI JINPING AND HIS CHINA DREAM
It needs to be understood that while trying to understand as to what actually motivates China and more particularly its present leader Xi Jinping and therefore trying to understand the much touted “Xi Jinping Thought”, the only two figures of Chinese Communism who need to be taken seriously as ideologues, who have made a fundamental contribution to modern China are Mao himself and thereafter Den Xiao Ping. Mao’s seminal contribution to Communist ideology and consequently to the development of Chinese Communism was that, whereas classical Marxism considered that the socialist or communist revolution is brought about by an industrial working class, the Proletariat, with a revolutionary consciousness with the Communist Party as its vanguard. After bringing about a complete annihilation of the feudal/agrarian economic system and replacing it with the new capitalist mode of production, the Capitalist system initially liberates the peasantry and the class of landless labourers from their bondage to land and the land owners. The peasantry now moves, in hordes as workers to the urban centers of industrial production, with the only commodity that they have to sell namely, their labour. In theory these workers are free agents who are free to sell their commodity to any buyer in the market. But in the process each labourer competes against the other and the law of supply and demand kicks in continuously pushing the wages downwards. As the means of production are increasingly concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer Capitalists, the working class is reduced to penury as wages fall to the lowest subsistence levels. As per Marx, the working class is the real creator of value but is denied it’s true share in it and the capitalist usurps the surplus value created by the worker, because the capitalist is motivated by nothing more than maximization of his profits. Thus, a new class of exploiters (capitalists) arises in the place and stead of the old landowning class and the working class finds itself once again in bondage. Thus capitalism which is the antitheses of feudalism harbours within itself the seeds of its own destruction. A bitter class struggle between the new class of oppressors and the oppressed and exploited proletariat becomes inevitable as the internal contradictions within the capitalist system become increasingly obvious and irreconcilable. All this inexorably leads to a revolution from which emerges the new syntheses namely, Communism. However, as in a Communist society the means of production are taken over by the people at large i.e. the new Communist State, the very root cause of exploitation is eliminated and this ushers in a classless society which is devoid of any exploitation of any nature whatsoever. Hence, this stage Communism and a communist Society is the highest state of human development and with it the dialectics of theses-ant-theses-syntheses stops as a perfect classless society devoid of any element of exploitation comes into being where every man attains the highest level of freedom. Here we need to understand Marx’s concepts of Base and Superstructure. The economic relations between human beings and the economic system that they give rise to are the base whereas the entire socio-politico-cultural edifice is the Superstructure which rests on this base. When this base of economic relations between human beings undergoes change a corresponding change in the superstructure becomes imperative. This change is resisted by those who have developed vested interests in the continuance of the existing system, this incongruence between the base and the superstructure can and is resolved only when those who are engaged in the new economic relationships rise up in a violent revolt against the entire superstructure and bring about its total annihilation which in turn creates the space for the building of a new superstructure which is in consonance with the changed economic base.
China of the twentieth century however, was an essentially per-industrial agrarian society and therefore not ready for revolution as contemplated in classical Marxism, as there was no industrial working class who could lead the coming communist socialist revolution. Mao, on the other hand turned classical Marxism on its head by proposing that the agricultural peasantry was and can be a revolutionary vanguard in pre-industrial societies such as China bringing about a socialist revolution rather than the industrial proletariat. The universal appeal of Maoism was and is that Mao applied this principle not only to the then prevailing circumstances in China but anywhere in the world where similar circumstances were to be found. This is the aspect of Mao’s thought that resonates in the hearts and minds of the various Naxalite groups active in the predominantly tribal areas of India today. Be that as it may, the point is Mao made a seminal contribution to the development of Marxist thought in the world. This concept of Mao is at the root of “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” and its many variants that have emerged over a period of time and have been and continue to be articulated by subsequent Chinese leaders. So, Mao’s “thought” is in fact the first break from classical Marxism. One more aspect needs to be appreciated, the movement of 4th May 1919 gave rise to an intellectual class who was itching to repudiate traditional Chinese thought, including Confucianism and embrace modernism, but at the same time this intellectual class was highly critical of the western world because of the shabby manner in which they treated China at the conclusion of WW-I and the signing of the treaty of Versailles. This class of intellectuals were therefore nationalists to the core. As we have seen, Mao was one of the thousands of youth who spearheaded the 4th of May movement. When Mao propounded his thought which treated China as unique, his thought appealed to this class, because it helped them to simultaneously repudiate the Chinese traditionalism which, they felt had failed China and was responsible for keeping China poor and weak, but at the same time by embracing Mao’s socialism with Chinese characteristics they could retain their nationalist core and yet embrace modernity in the form of Marxism-Maoism. Thus, the nascent Chinese nationalism could easily be and was subsumed in the larger framework of Maoist Communist ideology. Unfortunately, Chinese nationalists under the leadership of Chiang Kai-Shek and the Kuomintang, who were modernists who, while decisively repudiating Chinese traditional thought and embracing modernism, could still retain their nationalism by staying flexibly true to their civilizational roots, but without embracing Marxism-Maoism. These Chinese Nationalists could not create a definite political space for themselves where they could be an effective counterweight to the Communists under Mao.
However, Mao’s experiment with first, the Great Leap Forward (1958 to 1962) and then the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976) and the Great Leap Forward effectively ruined China economically. The Great Leap Forward was Mao’s massive effort to transform Chinese society from an essentially agrarian economy into a communist society and the means to do that was forced collectivization of agriculture or collective farming through the formation of what were called peoples communes. The said policy horribly backfired and it is believed that more than 30 million Chinese perished during the process of forced implementation of this ill-fated policy. After facing utter economic ruin as a consequence of the Great Leap Forward, Mao with an aim to return to the central position of power in China, now embarked on the Cultural Revolution the driving principle behind which was Mao’s another concept of Perpetual Revolution, which essentially meant first, that after a successful revolution there remain remnants of capitalist and traditional elements in society which need to be purged. And secondly, that post a successful socialist revolution, contrary to a perfect-syntheses as per classical Marxist Dialectical Materialism, the revolutionaries or the revolutionary class who leads the revolution and captures power in the name of the working class (or peasantry in case of China) themselves become counter revolutionaries by developing vested interests in the new power structure and thus become impediments in future social development and establishment of a prefect Communist Society (in Chinese terminology this stage is called primary socialism). It therefore becomes necessary to dislodge these counter revolutionaries and purge the system of such counter revolutionaries (who were the revolutionaries of yester years). This cycle is required to be repeated periodically. The Cultural Revolution was Mao’s solution to this conundrum of revolution and counter revolution and revolution again. So, we must understand that Mao put forward a novel thesis (a very popular term in Marxist ideological jargon) and actually acted upon it, for which there is another popular Marxist term “praxis”. Having burnt his boats very badly with his ideological brother nation, the Soviet Union (Soviet Communists were now called “Soviet Social Imperialists”) so much so that both the countries were almost at war, as their armies faced each other eye ball to eyeball at the beginning of the seventies and with a failed economy and the nation in economic ruin, Mao had effectively boxed China in and desperately needed to get out of the situation, and his master stroke was to reach out to the United States which he did. However, Mao still tenaciously clung to his version of dogmatic Marxism with Chinese characteristics. But on his death in 1976 and after a brief power struggle with the Gang of Four (which included Mao’s widow Jiang Qing), Deng Xiaoping succeeded Mao and embarked upon his now famous and legendary reforms which essentially meant, once again turning Marxism on its head or to put it more bluntly, jettisoning and ditching Marxism for all practical purposes and unabashedly embracing capitalism in all but name. This version of capitalism was now known and glorified as market socialism (whatever that means, because any sort of private ownership of the means of production or generation of profit is the very antithesis of communism) and Deng put forward his policy of the four modernizations (economy, agricultural, scientific and technological development and national defense). He famously quoted the old Chinese proverb “it doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, if it catches mice it is a good cat”, this was said with reference to the capitalist system which was seen to work as against the socialist system which simply wasn’t working. However, all these reforms were strictly for opening up the economy and adopting a capitalist free market system, under the strict watch and supervision of the Communist Party. There never was any intent to loosen the grip of the Party on the levers of power or opening up the political system or ushering in of any free market of ideas. Though many in the west and especially in America held the fond hopes that the opening up of the economy would inevitably lead to opening up of the political system and increased democratization. Any false hopes that the west may have had on this score, were brutally dashed with the crackdown on unarmed people demanding democratic rights, in the Tiananmen Square in 1989. The point is that even the great reformer Deng, never believed in democracy as we understand it in the free world which includes India. So, the only seminal contribution that was made by Deng to Marxist philosophy in China (or whatever was left of it, if at all there was any left) was limited to adopting capitalist free market system albeit under the overall control and supervision of the ruling Communist Party. But here one may be tempted to ask the question namely, “what Communist Party?”, especially when practically all the major tenets or dogmas of Classical Marxism had been effectively repudiated by the CPC. Well, by now the word Communist, was only a namesake devoid of its traditional classical meaning/s. And then began the charade to maintain the facade of Communism in order to perpetuate the dictatorship of the Party by falsely projecting that the party continued to be the vanguard of the working people but that the ideology was evolving in keeping with the needs of time. Nevertheless, as China took a decisive turn away from communist economy to the free market under Deng, after Mao, he undoubtedly deserves to be credited with making a seminal contribution to traditional Marxist thought in China.
However, after Deng (who was called the Paramount Leader) Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and now Xi Jinping have succeeded him at the helm of affairs in China. None of these leaders could be said to have made any seminal contribution to Marxist Thought in China which could be said to have resulted in China taking a decisive turn in a new or different direction.
Chinese politicians, like politicians anywhere else, have a great gift which can be described in a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln to the effect “He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.” And this gift is an absolutely essential asset to politicians who swear by closed ideologies who promise to people a great utopia in future if they sacrifice all their liberties and aspirations in the present and unquestionably follow the dictates of The Party or The Organisation or The Great Leader. As they inevitably fail over period of time to deliver on the promised paradise or utopias it becomes of paramount importance to them to go into longwinded explanations to the people in order to justify their continuing hold on power and to paint ever new hopes and pictures before the people with the help of catchy slogans, one liners and “new Policy Frameworks” which, it is now promised will expeditiously usher in the paradise or utopia. In the history of practically all the ideology-based parties this charade is periodically played out. In case of the Communist parties the world over, a high-sounding name is given to this periodic charade namely “thesis” which is normally delivered by every new leader to the annual party congress thereby giving a new programme to the party workers in particular and the people at large in general. All the three leaders namely Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and now Xi Jinping have done nothing more than acting out his charade and that is the reason their so-called thoughts need not be taken with undue seriousness. However, it is Xi Jinping who is presently at the helm in Beijing and therefore what he says and does is an indication of what the world might expect China’s policy to be in the immediate future. And for this reason, we need to take note of Xi and what motivates him and in what direction is China likely to move under his stewardship and how it affects and impacts the rest of the world, including us. Let us therefore try and understand Xi Jinping and his thoughts, in brief.
Xi was born in Beijing in 1953, being the son of revolutionary veteran Xi Zhongxun, one of the Communist Party's founding fathers and a vice-premier, Xi was seen as a princeling. But His family’s fortunes plummeted as his father became a victim of a purge in 1962, prior to the Cultural Revolution, and was imprisoned. So, at the age of 15 Xi was banished to the countryside for “re-education”, where he remained for seven years. However, instead of being disillusioned and turning his back on the Communist Party Xi embraced it or, it would be more appropriate to say tried to embrace it. His initial attempts to get into the party were rebuffed, but he was eventually accepted in 1974. Once a party insider he assiduously worked his way upwards from being a local Party Secretary in China’s Hebei Province to eventually becoming the Party’s Chief in Shanghai, China’s new economic showpiece post reforms and new China’s financial hub. He was eventually picked to be a member of China’s top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee and finally he was elevated as President. Xi is an Engineering Graduate from China’s Tsinghua University. He married China’s glamourous singer Peng Liyuan. They have an only daughter Xi Mingze about whom the only thing known is that she studied at Harvard.
As an undisputed leader of present day China, Xi has been vigorously pursuing what, in his own words is "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" which is Xi’s vision of his . Xi has attempted to enact economic reform to combat slowing growth, such as cutting down bloated state-owned industries, reducing pollution, and the most ambitious of all is his pet One Belt One Road (OBOR) or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project, of which the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor), which is intended to give China access to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port in Balochistan and in turn to the Persian Gulf. Under Xi China has become more brazenly aggressive globally, from ignoring international protestations, to its attempt to rope in various Asian and African countries into its grand scheme of things by pumping billions of dollars into these countries by calling them investments and its latest bellicose stand across India’s Northern Border from Ladakh in the west to Arunachal Pradesh in the east. Within the country, Xi’s rise to power has been accompanied by a resurgence of patriotic nationalism whipped up by state media, with a concerted and not so subtle attempt to showcase Xi as China's strongman leader and building a personality cult around him akin to that of Mao Zedong.
Media caption Songs have been written celebrating Chinese President Xi Jinping, one of which even has an accompanying dance routine. Xi has also embarked on a campaign of ostensibly rooting out corruption punishing more than a million “tigers and flies” which is a reference to both high ranking party officials (the highest ranking of which was Bo Xilai) as well as low ranking officials. This anti-corruption campaign against party officials has an eerie resemblance to the infamous Stalinist purges of the 1930s, prompting some observers to say that these are a series of political maneuvers to eliminate his opponents and consolidate his personal power. Not surprisingly therefore China has seen increasing clampdowns on freedoms, from to arrests of dissidents and making Xi the most authoritarian leader after Mao. But it would not be out of place to see as to what is the nature of the China Dream that Xi is peddling to his people as well as to the people of the world at large.
But what does the China Dream actually mean? Xi made his first reference to his China Dream in November 2012, when he was promoted to the top Communist Party post. But the propaganda storm really began in earnest after he became president in 2013. He made repeated reference to this term in his first address to the nation as head of state on 17 March.
"We must make persistent efforts, press ahead with indomitable will, continue to push forward the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and strive to achieve the Chinese dream of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," he said. However, he carefully avoided to go into the specifics of this dream or the specifics of how exactly it was going to be put in practice and for obvious reasons. He went further to say "To realise the Chinese road, we must spread the Chinese spirit, which combines the spirit of the nation with patriotism as the core and the spirit of the time with reform and innovation as the core". A retired Chinese Colonel Liu Mingfu, has written and published a book called “The China Dream: Great Power Thinking and Strategic Posture in the Post-America Era in 2010”. However, no sooner than Xi started using this term in his speeches Mr. Liu's books have been selling like hot cakes. Liu believes that China's new leader shares his dream - which is to make China the world's dominant power. "Since the 19th Century, China has been lagging on the world stage," says Liu. "President Xi's dream is of a stronger nation with a strong military." The appeal of this China Dream is perhaps that it is so loosely defined that it’s like a hat that can be made to fit any head. Even though the China Dream has not been clearly defined, there is no doubt whatsoever in the minds of those in power about what it does not include. A few years back, there were rare protests at one of China's most influential newspapers after the authorities censored their front-page editorial on the China Dream - which called for the rule of law. One of China's best-known authors and bloggers, Li Chengpeng, says the problem with the China Dream is that it does not address key issues. "We cannot mention universal values or an independent judiciary," he said. "We cannot talk about multi-party democracy. What we need is not a magical dream but good politicians." [https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-22726375]
On 18th October 2018 Xi addressed the 19th Party Congress in Beijing and delivered a marathon speech running over three and half hours, during the course of which he submitted a report to the Party Congress wherein he outlined his thought which is now known as Xi Jinping Thought and which is now incorporated into the Chinese Constitution and is therefore given the same importance and respect as Mao’s Thought. Xi, during his speech before the 19th Party congress outlined 14 points which would be the guiding principles of his policy
[BBC news portal 6th June 2013]
The thought consists of a 14-point basic policy as follows:
- Ensuring Communist Party of China leadership over all forms of work in China.
- The Communist Party of China should take a people-centric approach for the public interest.
- The continuation of "comprehensive deepening of reforms".
- Adopting new science-based ideas for "innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development".
- Following "socialism with Chinese characteristics" with "people as the masters of the country".
- Governing China with Rule by Law.
- "Practice socialist core values", including Marxism, communism and socialism with Chinese characteristics.
- "Improving people's livelihood and well-being is the primary goal of development".
- Coexist well with nature with "energy conservation and environmental protection" policies and "contribute to global ecological safety".
- Strengthen the National security of China.
- The Communist Party of China should have "absolute leadership over" China's People's Liberation Army.
- Promoting the one country, two systems system for Hong Kong and Macau with a future of "complete national reunification" and to follow the One-China policy and 1992 Consensus for Taiwan.
- Establish a common destiny between Chinese people and other people around the world with a "peaceful international environment".
- Improve party discipline in the Communist Party of China.
Even a cursory glance over the 14 points shows the obsession with ensuring the Communist Party’s Leadership Role in national life which is a euphemism for maintaining the Party’s tight control on all the levers of power. Maintain strict internal discipline in the party, which is a euphemism for unquestioned loyalty to Xi’s leadership. Use of such terms as “practicing Socialist Core Values”, “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” are kept deliberately vague so that they could be made to mean whatever the party leadership wants it to mean, at any given point of time, as suits it convenience. It needs to be taken note of that there is hardly anything in Xi’s thought or his China Dream which appeals to or promises anything coming remotely close to individual liberty or freedom of speech or expression to its citizens. Even though point No. 6 does speak about “Governing China by Rule of Law” it rings totally hollow in the light of increasing repression and a complete absence of any democratic freedoms. Even point No. 12 which reiterates the principle of One Country Two Systems in case of Hong Kong and Macau, has been most brazenly violated by Xi’s China recently by use of force and coercion to integrate Hong Kong with the one-Party authoritarian system prevalent on the mainland. Last but not the least, in the China Dream that Xi’s China is peddling to the world, there is nothing that it has to offer to the outside world, no universal values, which would appeal to it or entice it in willingly embracing the so-called China Dream. Even, Xi’s pet project, the OBOR or BRI, after some African and Asian countries enthusiastically joining it on the promises of huge “investments” have now discovered to their utter dismay that so called investments were not investments but upfront loans which these countries were fooled into borrowing by misrepresenting them to be investments but with very high interest rates and repayment beginning much sooner than expected. When these countries found that they were unable to repay the loans and their installments China enforced the unconscionable conditions that were written into those contracts and began acquiring land assets in those country, as Sri Lanka found out in case of their port of Humbantota, which they had to hand over to China as Sri Lanka was not in a position to pay the loan installment with high interest rates. Myanmar, Malaysia and even China’s closest ally Pakistan are all learning the hard way as to what they have got themselves into by entering into these arrangements with China. Even countries like Australia have ended up leasing their important ports such as Darwin and New Castle to China for 99 years and have presently effectively ceded control over them to China. The rise of China as envisaged in the China Dream and Xi Jinping thought as it is articulated, is by no means benign but definitely malevolent. It threatens the world order and is pursued single mindedly with a single aim and that is to establish Chinese supremacy the world over and put China in an unchallengeable position from where it dictates its terms to every other nation in the world. This is nothing more than a version of Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich (or their Middle Kingdom as the Chinese would call it) with Xi as the Fuhrer (Core Leader, not only of the CPC and the PRC but the whole world) and the Han Chinese as the Master Race. The present belligerent and aggressive maneuvers against various nations across the spectrum from the South China Sea to Ladakh is China’s version of the Nazi concept of Lebensraum (The Nazis used the idea of Lebensraum, literally "living space" in German, as the basis of their policy for the Germany's expansion.) The world will have to ensure that this China Dream meets the same fate as the Third Reich, sooner rather than later.
The above discussion is only an invitation for a more detailed examination of the issues involved as we seriously address the task of crafting a long-term strategic response to the multiple challenges that the rise of China poses to us as we navigate the increasingly volatile and fluid world situation to relies our strategic goals including our ambition of emerging as a great power/super power in our own right. As I conclude this monograph today i.e. __ June 2020, a tense drama is being played out across the Galwan Valley where we seem have lost 20 soldiers in the Dragon’s latest tango, they too seem to have lost more than double the number, on their side. Once again, it is the Dragon’s favourite game of “who blinks first”, but the trouble for the Dragon is that, for the past sometime now, we seem to have given up the habit of blinking first, and for good. Tense but quite interesting times ahead, though. The Dragon may have managed to awaken the Elephant from its slumber, but with a steely resolve which the Dragon did not expect to find in it.
- Adv. Kishor Jawle