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By Dr. Tao Peng
On October 10th, 2012, Gong Fanbin, professor at the University of National Defence of China1, wrote an article published by the official website of the “People’s Daily” in which he claimed that the reason for the repeatedly postponed political reforms in China is not that the Communist Party of China (CCP) fears democracy, but that the party had not updated her political theory (obsolete theory in conflict with political, economic and social developments of the country). China’s leaders have not worked out a modern or new political approach (political ideological attitude of the CCP is not consistent with the practice of the ruling) in the new political environment, Gong Fanbin wrote. On October 6th, 2012, a newspaper of the Central Committee of the CCP, “Study Times”, published similar articles, which made it clear that the leadership of the CCP have not built an effective, compelling value system.2 Thus, a kind of value confusion emerges in political practice.
Some of China’s intellectual elites and government think tanks have recognized that the political values and the political philosophy in China have changed over time and that Chinese politics lacks corresponding new theories or theoretical foundations. According to statements provided by Chinese reformers, they would gradually persuade the leadership to abandon the theories of Marxism, Leninism and Maoism.
Theories should reflect the reality
Several members of the leadership of the CCP have announced political reform through the state-controlled press: “If we do not reform the political system, our politics would fall into an impasse.” 3 Some political advisers have appealed to the Chinese regime for the abandonment of old political concepts. This is a consequence of the year-long conflict between political ideology and the practices of the CCP.
After Deng Xiaoping had criticized the ideology of Mao Zedong and promoted the emancipation of the spirit of the CCP and the implementation of an economic open door policy in 1978, the political practice of the CCP has gradually deviated from Marxism, Leninism and Mao’s main idea. In 1992 during Deng Xiaoping’s southern tour of Wuchang, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shanghai and other places in China, he opened debate of the so-called “second ideological emancipation” over the socialist or capitalistic orientations of the CCP. The Chinese leadership recognized the liberal economic model of capitalism in China and said good-bye to Maoist socialism in some degree. Thereafter, the CCP has demonstrated a political model of the so-called “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” This claims the philosophy of Marxism, Leninism and Mao Zedong’s Thought, but it is anti-Marxist, anti-Leninist and anti-Maoist in practice. Besides the one-party dictatorship, the “socialism with Chinese characteristics” of the CCP does not coincide with the “big pot of socialism” by Mao at all. The system of a planned economy is broken (replaced by the new crony capitalism). Political power is concentrated in the hands of a few powerful people and interest groups, the gap between rich and poor is constantly increasing, government corruption is a daily practice and the relationship between the government and citizens goes increasingly downhill.
The obsolescence of the Communists’ political theory complicates the Chinese government’s efforts to justify its decisions and performance. This leads to substantial loss of legality, legitimacy and credibility of the government and endangers the existence of the regime. If the name is not correct, the words will not ring true. The theory must match the fact, otherwise political acts and practices cannot be justified. For the CCP, Marxism, Leninism and Mao’s thought are only the cloak of image over a different political reality. Therefore, the CCP cannot convince the people of it’s legitimacy. The existing political theories of the CCP, i.e. Marxism, Leninism and Maoism plus Deng Xiaoping Theory, the theory of three representations of Jiang Zeming and the scientific concept of development of Hu Jintao, is full of contradictions and is an inconclusive mess which does not reflect the political acts of the Chinese government and misinterprets the political reality of China. The CCP must work out new theories. It would be a wise decision useful for the implementation of the political reform of the CCP.
What kind of new political philosophy would the CCP develop? How should the current political model be defined? What kind of political reform could be implemented? According to the view of Gong Fangbin, the CCP should change the political value system of the CCP, found a new political ethics (government controlled indirectly by citizens) and build a discourse system in accordance with the new political concept. Although the diversification of values, philosophies and the limits of public power are mentioned, the questions of what should be changed ideologically, of how to explain the political convictions of the CCP in a new way and of how to define the current political mode are not convincing answered. Gong Fanbin’s statement is still hindered by the old mindset of the Communist Party of China (namely the retention of one-party rule and adherence to the system of thought of Deng, Jiang and Hu). His announcement is contradictory and has basically offered nothing new. It seems that the Chinese government has no plan for new political ideas, future rule models and the direction of political reforms. Whether the doctrine of the bigwigs (like the Singapore political model) should be maintained and expanded, whether the CCP should return to the concept of “New Democracy,” (which the CCP had suggested before 1949 i.e. the rejection of the “dictatorship of/through a political group, a class and a party”) or whether a new theory of constitutional democracy will be developed are currently still hot topics in the party leadership. From the perspective of critics outside the system, the political philosophy of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is full of contradictions, fragmented and confused. It cannot guide politics in the future. The “new crony capitalism” (a sign of the political reality of the CCP) represents only the interests of a small number of rich and powerful rulers who will not allow limits to their power or let the people participate in policy-making. This unjust and unequal model oppresses the citizens in China and intensifies conflict between the regime and society. The last remaining option for political reform in China is constitutional democracy, which returns power to the people. The introduction of the democratic idea in the political system could help the Chinese government to get rid of the shackles of Marxism, Leninism and Maoism and to do away with the thinking and value system of the new crony capitalism. Only then can the CCP free itself from the contradiction between political theory and practice so that people accept governance by the CCP.
Regardless of what political model is chosen by the Chinese communists for the future, whether it will be “democratic socialism” or “social democracy” or “new democracy,” the Chinese regime would survive if it cancels its ban on other political parties, allows freedom of the press and implements constitutional democracy in China.
Only one road
Chinese political elites must abandon the authoritarian theory of one-party rule, pursue the ideals of freedom, human rights, democracy and universal values to transform China into a free and democratic state under the rule of law. Otherwise, the Chinese Communists will not be able to free themselves from the shackles of the old ideology and its contradiction between current thinking and practice. And it could jeopardise the rule of the CCP.
Even thinking of changing political ideology is a wise and brave step of the Chinese Communists. But in order to devise a new way of thinking, they have to bid farewell to autocracy and introduce democracy. Or they can continue the same policies as usual and wait for their own downfall. Currently, a silent political revolution in China is underway. It has created an independent public and moral authority in society. The mass protests that are everywhere grow at an unprecedented rate. The credibility of the government has suffered a sharp decline, relations between the regime and the people have become increasingly strained and the costs of national stability and security are constantly rising. This quiet revolution threatens the long-term stability of the Chinese Communist rule and is a real challenge for the authoritarian regime in Beijing. In fact, the current thinking about change and renewal of the Think Tanks of the Chinese leadership is a result of the further development and deepening of the revolution. The transformations driven by political elites are mostly a result of social movements and grassroots initiatives. Without political reforms in the direction of democracy, there is no escape and no future for the CCP.
October 29th, 2012
1. 公方彬：迟迟未政改缘于理论准备不足 不是惧怕民主，凤凰网(原载人民网), http://news.ifeng.com/