Xi Jinping is the world’s most powerful leader, The Economist contends.
And the West ignores Xi’s quest to revive Stalin’s communist ideology “at our peril,” argues John Pomfret, author of “The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present.”
For decades, many Americans dealing with and doing business in China have held to the idea that the Chinese Communist Party did not believe in anything other than power. There was no ideology in China other than money, the story went. “Pragmatic” became the buzzword used by reporters, academics and consultants for everything Chinese, he writes for The Washington Post:
This blithe view of Chinese politics glossed over a struggle inside the party that began with the death of Chairman Mao in 1976 and ended — at least for the time being — with the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989. The faction that continued to favor a totalitarian ideology won. Those, such as one of Xi’s predecessors, Zhao Ziyang, who advocated the ultimate convergence of China with Western liberal traditions, lost. Xi Jinping’s upcoming reelection as party boss constitutes a capstone of this struggle.
For decades, the Chinese Communist Party has pushed a stiff regimen of ideological education on students, requiring tedious lessons on Marx and Mao and canned lectures on the virtues of patriotism and loyalty. Now, amid fears that the party is losing its grip on young minds, Xi is reshaping political education across China’s more than 283,000 primary and secondary schools for a new era, The New York Times adds:
In a stern directive issued last month, the party ordered schools to intensify efforts to promote “Chinese traditional and socialist culture” — a mix of party loyalty and patriotic pride in China’s past. …But the demands have run into opposition, and even mockery, from some parents and educators, and not just the so-called tiger moms. Many see political indoctrination as an anachronism in an era when China’s more than 181 million schoolchildren need a modern education in math, science and liberal arts to get ahead.
A study this year by Chinese and American researchers found that students appear to be tuning out shrill propaganda. The study, based on the results of a 2010 national opinion survey, found that the “incessant ideological indoctrination by the Chinese government turns out to be counterproductive,” with trust in the government actually falling among those who received higher levels of education.
The party’s socialist rhetoric had become “water-cooler banter and fodder for jokes” among educated Chinese, said Carl Minzner, an expert in Chinese law and governance at Fordham University in New York.
“The party of revolution is now the party of the wealthy and powerful,” he said. “They’ve got to stand for something. They’re worried about the moral void at the core of Chinese society.”
Besides suppressing public criticism and dissent, the government has launched an extensive propaganda campaign to laud Xi’s achievements and cast him as the central figure in China’s modern success story. Many bookshops in the country have stocked up on books praising the president ahead of the congress, adds China Digital Times, a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy.
Another example of Xi’s totalitarian project involves his control of China’s Internet, adds Pomfret, a former Washington Post bureau chief in Beijing:
Over the past year, the party has put in place an Orwellian series of laws designed to ensure that no one can use the Internet in China anonymously. In so doing, the party will aggregate, as two experts wrote, “all online data on individuals (financial transactions, behavior, social network) to feed into a vast credit system,” which will play a part in accessing loans, education, travel and even such everyday activities as restaurant bookings.