Welcome to China, where hammers and sickles are everywhere:


 

Before and during the 19th congress of the CPC (shijiuda), banners, signs and slogans were all over the country;

Apart from following events very closely, I took myself to the local Xinhua Bookshop, to find a huge number of Xi Jinping’s books for sale – carrying on the tradition of communist leaders who actually think and write:

Almost 20 books to read over the southern summer, along with Mao’s works:

In many places, I also came across signs reminding one of the achievements of Chinese socialism:

And these days Xi Jinping is known as ‘comrade [tongzhi]’, a term that has come back into wide use:

Small though it may be, I also try to make my own contribution:

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The following infographics of Xi Jinping’s speech is borrowed from the website dedicated to the CPC’s 19th congress.

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07

In what is clearly his most important speech yet, Xi Jinping spoke for three hours at the opening of the CPC’s 19th congress yesterday morning (18 October).

You can view the full video of the opening and Xi’s speech here (with English translation). Rather stunning in its relative simplicity, especially if you keep in mind that this is not only the congress of the largest political party in the world, but the most powerful communist party in human history.

In the next post, I will provide an infographics of the key points of Xi’s speech, but it is worth noting here that it has officially been designated as a significant new phase of Marxist thought in a Chinese context: Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

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And in a speech in which Marxism is clearly the framework, it is worth noting the continuing importance of Mao’s ‘contradiction analysis’. The key is to identify through careful analysis the primary or most important contradiction that needs to be addressed.

For Xi: ‘What we now face is the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life [mei hua sheng huo]’. By this is meant democracy, rule of law, fairness and justice, security, a better environment, and spiritual and cultural concerns.

These news stories are worth following, concerning China’s ongoing poverty relief program. It is a cornerstone of the preparations for a transition to the ‘moderately prosperous, well-off and peaceful society’ (xiaokang shehui) – in other words, the second stage of socialism. I have mentioned some of these earlier (herehere and here), but the latest appears on Xinhua news, along with a video explanation. More than 700 million lifted out of poverty so far, about 40 million to go by 2021.

Word in the CPC for a while has been that preparations are under way for a transition to the second stage of socialism (the distinction was first made by Stalin in the late 1930s). Until now, China has been in the first or preliminary stage of socialism. But if you study Xi Jinping’s first volume of writings, The Governance of China, you will already find the terminology of ‘socialist modernisation [shehuizhuyi xiandaihu]’, and a ‘moderately well-off society [xiaokang shehui]’. Xiaokang is an old Confucian term that had made its way into Chinese Marxist terminology. It is not the Datong, the ‘Great Harmony’, but a more realistic situation in which the vast majority can feel secure (anquangan) about food, shelter, clothing and well-being.

When will this take place? The target is the period of the Two Centenaries. The first centenary is 100 years since the founding of the Communist Party of China, in 2021, and the second is the founding of the People’s Republic in 2049.

All this is now becoming even more explicit, in preparations for the 19th Congress of the CPC in November this year. These congresses take place every five years, so preparations are under way. Already we find a number of key statements.

First, Xi has declared that socialism with Chinese characteristics is entering a ‘new development stage‘, if not a ‘new historical starting point’. Thus far, Chinese socialism has enabled the transitions from ‘standing-up to becoming better-off to getting stronger’, but now ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics has expanded the pathway to modernization for developing countries, thus providing Chinese wisdom and Chinese solutions to problems facing mankind’.

So what does all this mean in concrete terms? To begin with, a xiaokang society has lifted as many people out of poverty as possible. In the last 40 years, 750 million people lifted out of poverty (one of the greatest human rights achievements of all time), with more than 55 million since 2012. And Xi has made the continuance of this program a cornerstone of his presidency. A shade over 43 million remain in poverty in rural areas, with about 12 million a year making it out of poverty.

It also includes continual overhauling of the medical system, education, fostering supply-side structural reform, reducing overcapacity, dealing with the income gap, and – crucially – clean governance.

If these aims are indeed achieved between 2021 and 2049 then the second stage of socialism will have been attained.

 

As Lenin and the Bolsheviks realised after the Potemkin Mutiny in 1905, any communist revolution needs a military wing. This could be either its own force, or a process of winning over significant parts of the existing armed forces – or both.

In China, what became the People’s Liberation Army began with the Nanchang Uprising, on 1 August 1927. This was a response to the anti-communist attack by the Guomindang (after their first alliance). So yesterday marks 90 years since that first event, the foundation of the PLA.

Plenty of material in China celebrating the anniversary. The People’s Daily has a whole section devoted to it. Performances have been held, art-work produced, speeches given, and wechat is full of comments and pictures.

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And Xi Jinping has also made a major speech (see also here), emphasising the the history of the PLA, its achievements, and continual reforms in a changing world. I must admit that I was taken with the following two observations:

The Chinese people love peace. We will never seek aggression or expansion, but we have the confidence to defeat all invasions. We will never allow any people, organization or political party to split any part of Chinese territory from the country at any time, in any form.

Emphasising the absolute leadership of the CPC over the PLA, Xi – as he is fond of doing, quoted Mao:

Our principle is the Party commands the guns, and we will never allow the guns to command the Party.

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One of the realities of student life in China is ‘ideological education’. It is compulsory in middle school and in university. Obviously, such an approach has its benefits and problems. On the up side, I find that everyone knows the essential categories of Marxist analysis, socialism with Chinese characteristics, and so on. On the down side, many find it onerous, especially since it is a major feature of the gaokao, the university entry examinations. Or, as an article today in the Global Times, put it,

For college teachers, the ideological and political course about Marxism, Mao Zedong Thought and moral education is a hard nut to crack. Almost synonymous with dullness, for years, the class has been an ideal place for students to nap or play as long as one could bone up before the exam. The teachers were equally disinterested, and mostly repeated what was written in the books.

Many are those who have made similar observations to me when we have discussed it. But I also know quite a number of people who teach such courses and discussed with them the various strategies to interest the students.

But now Xi Jinping has come to their assistance. A little over six months ago he stressed the need to overhaul the whole way of teaching. For Xi, ‘moral education the central task in cultivating talents and making the ideological and political work run throughout the whole education process’. In fact, 2017 is the year focused on improving the quality and techniques for teaching this courses.

Plenty of examples in a long article in the Global Times, from the use of virtual reality to courses on friendship (youyi) at Fudan University by one of the ‘four zheng goddesses’, but I like this one from a colleague of mine at Renmin University:

“Do you believe in Communism? You may have different answers to the question. But if I ask, do you want to make a fortune, your answers may be unprecedentedly similar,” Wang Xiangming, a professor at the School of Marxism Studies of the Renmin University of China, said in his class.

“As a matter of fact, pursuing material wealth is what Communism is about. But real Communists don’t pursue fortune for themselves, but work for the welfare of the human beings. As long as we try our best in our positions to serve the people, we are adhering to Communism. Communism is not intangible. It is around us,” Wang told his students.