They Aspire To Be Better

The Tree of Woe contemplates the ideological history of Chinese communism and considers the implications of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. Read the whole thing there.

I have summarized the tenets of Xi Jinping Thought. You can find the Thoughts in Xi’s own words here.

  1. The CCP leads the government, the military, the academia, and the people.
  2. The Party must serve the interests of the public and govern the country for the people.
  3. Only socialism can save China. Only reform can develop China.
  4. Scientific development is the key to solving all the problems of the country.
  5. China’s representative institutions must develop according to the principals of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
  6. The judicial system must be reformed to enforce rule of law and improve morality.
  7. China must foster the cultural values of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
  8. Improving people’s livelihood is the primary goal of economic development, in order to maintain social harmony, ensure stability, and provide the people with contentment.
  9. China must protect its energy supplies and natural environment as it develops.
  10. China must strengthen its national security and prepare for danger.
  11. The CCP must retain absolute control over the armed forces.
  12. Achieving complete national reunification of Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan into the mainland is the paramount requirement for the rejuvenation of China.
  13. China must be the builder of world peace and defender of the international order.
  14. China must have a zero-tolerance attitude for corruption and decadence within the Party.

Chinese thought is, almost inherently by virtue of its language, nuanced and delicate. Chinese writing is often susceptible to multiple interpretations, and is perhaps the diametric opposite of frank and blunt Americanism. With that caveat, here is how I believe we should understand the tenets of Xi Jinping Thought.

Points 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, and 11 are reiterations of the Marxist-Leninist belief in the necessity of totalitarian control by a vanguard party that maintains ideological purity, organizes the people in the pursuit of communism, and maintains leadership in all facets of society. They represent the diametric opposite of our hoped-for “liberalization” of China. These points need to be understand in the context of Xi’s views on the Soviet Union, which he presented at the Eighteenth Party Congress:

Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party fall from power? An important reason was that the struggle in the field of ideology was extremely intense, completely negating the history of the Soviet Union, negating the history of the Soviet Communist Party, negating Lenin, negating Stalin, creating historical nihilism and confused thinking. Party organs at all levels had lost their functions, the military was no longer under Party leadership. In the end, the Soviet Communist Party, a great party, was scattered, the Soviet Union, a great socialist country, disintegrated. This is a cautionary tale!

Xi Jinping, Eighteenth Party Congress

Xi Jinping Thought is making a clear statement that China will not become “liberalized” like the Soviet Union; it will not engage in glasnost and perestroika and develop into a multi-party parliamentary democracy in the Western style. Xi Jinping Thought is also making it clear that China in the New Era hasn’t progressed to that stage of communism when the state will wither away, either. It will maintain its ideological commitment to Communism and it will do so under one-party rule.

Point 8 re-emphasizes that the goal of socialism with Chinese characteristics is to eliminate poverty and create prosperity. The means by which this is to be accomplished are explained as scientific development (point 4) in conjunction with sustainable environmental and ecological practices (point 9). The latter point must be understood in a pragmatic context – the CCP are not deep ecologists or Gaia worshippers. When Europe was poor, it tolerated pollution (“London fog”) to achieve wealth; when it became rich, it could afford clean air and clean water. China, as it gets richer, will want clean air and clean water, too. If it can make the West pay for that because of our commitment to “climate justice”, so much the better!

Points 6 and 14 emphasize anti-corruption. Confucianism, with its emphasis on each person’s particular duty to their family, can lead to endemic nepotism, which in turn can lead to corruption and self-dealing. Like Deng Xiaoping before him, Xi is emphasizing anti-corruption as a means of ensuring domestic harmony and stability. Purging “corruption” is also a useful tool for consolidating one-party rule in the face of oligarchic wealth, as uppity billionaires and their crony politicians are inevitably corrupt…

Finally, Points 10, 12, and 13 explain China’s place in the world. Point 12 emphasizes that China is a civilization-state: All that is Chinese (culturally) must be part of China (politically). Particular emphasis is given to Taiwan. Left unsaid is Taiwan’s incredible strategic importance to point 4, scientific development, because of its world leadership in semiconductor manufacturing.

Point 13 positions China as the world’s new hegemon. Conventionally, we identify a hegemon at any point in time by speaking of its pax, the peace it imposes through its power — hence, the Pax Romana, Pax Britannica, and Pax Americana. For China to be builder of world peace and defender of the international order is for China to impose the Pax Sinica.

Point 10 acknowledges that achieving all these other points puts China at risk from those who would prevents its rise (the unstated foe is, of course, the United States). The implacable tendency towards war that occurs anytime a new hegemon arises against an old is called a Thucydides Trap (named for the Greek historian Thucydides and his account of the Peloponnesian War between mighty Sparta and rising Athens). Xi here is codifying the need to prepare for this war to come.

Taken as a whole, Xi Jinping Thought is an ambitious and confident doctrine meant to make the 21st century the Chinese Century.

Until recently, the West has been oblivious to this. Instead, it has taken comfort in pretty lies. “The Chinese don’t really believe in Communism!” They really do. “If China doesn’t become a capitalist democracy, it’ll collapse into poverty.” They won’t. “As the Chinese become more prosperous, they’ll become more like us!” They won’t.

This last delusion is utterly laughable — our Western intelligentsia hates Western culture, Western history, and Western civilization. The Chinese intelligentsia loves Chinese culture, Chinese history, and Chinese civilization. Can you imagine a Chinese scholar denouncing Mao or Confucius as irrelevant because they’re just dead Chinese males? No, they don’t aspire to be like us. They aspire to be better than us.