|A meeting of the Central Committee at Xibaipo|
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President Xi Jinping has been talking a great deal of reclaiming the past glories of communism in China and building on it a new ‘dream’ for his country. What if that dream sours, like others did in the past?
The 10th Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party's 8th Central Committee was held in September 1962 in Beijing. It was to be a crucial meet not only because Mao Zedong had decided to attack ‘arrogant’ India, but because it witnessed the first purge which culminated in the Cultural Revolution a few years later.
According to Dr Li Zhisui, Mao’s private physician and author of The Private Life of Chairman Mao: “During the Plenum, Mao retook the upper hand on the Party and his old comrades. He reemphasized class struggle in order to prevent the emergence of revisionism.”
The main casualty of the Plenum was Xi Zhongxun. The Vice-Premier’s mistake was that he was too close to Marshal Peng Dehuai who had dared to criticize Mao’s Great Leap Forward in 1959; further, Xi Zhongxun was suspected to support the ‘Three Nis’, thanks to the Chinese pronunciation: Kennedy (Ken-ni-di), Nikita Khrushchev (Ni-ji-ta), Nehru (Ni-he-lu).
At the time of the Plenum, Xi Zhongxun’s son was a young boy; he was only 9 years-old. He must have been deeply traumatized when his father was sent to the wilderness of Chinese gaols for the next 16 years. Senior Xi would only be rehabilitated by his old Comrade Deng Xiaoping in 1978.
Fifty-one year later, Xi Zhongxun’s son, today China’s President and General Secretary of the Communist Party, exhorts the Chinese nation to return to the good old Communist values.
It is difficult to comprehend, but last week, Xinhua reported ‘Xi urges China to keep red’.
The new Emperor paid a visit to Xibaipo in the northern province of Hebei; it was the old revolutionary base, where from May 1948 to early 1949, the Communist leadership worked on the blueprint of the new Red China.
According to Xinhua, addressing the Party cadres, Xi Junior “urged the 85 million members of the Communist Party of China to work hard and serve the people wholeheartedly to ensure the color of red China will never change.”
Xi warned the Party cadres against the Four Decadences: formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance.
While fighting laxity, mediocrity and corruption, Xi said the campaign should focus on self-purification, self-perfection, self-renewal and self-progression.
Xi called for "thorough inspection, overhaul and cleanup”.
He probably did not have in mind the rectification session of the 10th Plenum, when he said: “Late Chinese leader Mao Zedong's remarks on Party members' work styles prior to the founding of New China in 1949 still have far-reaching ideological and historical significance.”
His recent leitmotiv has been: “If every CPC member and every grass-roots organ …do a good job, the Party will be strong, the country will be strong and people will be strong. Thus, the Party's rule will have a solid foundation."
The President asked the senior provincial officials to take the lead in the ‘Campaign on Mass Line Education and Practice’; Mao Zedong used the word, ‘mass line’ to explain the need for the Party to stay in touch with the ‘masses’.
President Xi’s point is that if the Party is unable to do this, it will die. The ‘chaos’ so feared by the old emperors will then follow. At the same time, he does not want to blindly follow the ‘western’ style of democracy which would, according to him, destroy the ‘Chinese characteristics’ of the Middle Kingdom. He probably believes that the Indian model is not efficient enough.
The new drive is not limited to the cadres, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) too have to “nurture the core values of the contemporary revolutionary soldier” and have to do “a better job in educating, nurturing and molding the soldier’s character”.
This mass line scheme follows a campaign calling for a Chinese Dream, the catchword of the new Chinese leadership. The People's Daily explains Xi’s Dream: “The Chinese dream is a dream for development.” The leadership today believes that China has become the stabilizer of the world economy and following the international financial crisis, its new engine.
For the new President: “The Chinese dream is a dream for harmony. Unfair and unreasonable old international order which has not been fundamentally changed is the most important cause of world chaos and dilemma.”
That is not all, the Chinese dream is a dream for cooperation and finally a dream for peace: “China stands for peace settlement for global disputes and issues and the new security concept of mutual trust, mutual benefit and cooperation.”
The South China Morning Post quotes Prof. Wang Yukai of the Chinese Academy of Governance agreeing with Xi: “The key to the Party's rule is to improve its capacity to rule and maintain its internal vitality.”
That sounds nice. Chinese like it so much that hundreds of think-tanks, universities, national and regional institutions have started studying ‘The Dream’ and begun publishing comments and dissertations on it.
Even the PLA is praising the Dream. The People's Liberation Daily has even gone a step further: “it is like seeing a ship's mast in the sea, like seeing the radiant sun rise in the east”. The Editor added: "It is the dogma of my belief, the cosmic truth. ...The dream is more important than anything …it is like water that carries the ship; like the wind that sustains the wings.”
It is rare for the Chinese Army to have glimpses of the 'cosmic truth'.
Is it this 'cosmic' experience which guided some Chinese jawans to the Depsang Plain, near Daulat Beg Oldi in the rarefied altitude of Ladakh or in Chumar, when some of them stole ‘dysfunctional’ surveillance cameras from the Indian side of the LAC?
After the Ladakh incidents, one could ask is this dream good for India?
But some voices already doubt the new campaign. Li Haiqing, a Communist Party historian at the Central Party School writes in Study Times, the School newspaper: “The mass line is not an effective substitute that can realise the function of democracy.”
This reminds me of the thoughts of Dr. Li, when looking at the flat ECG of the Great Helmsman who had just passed away: “In the beginning, I had adulated Mao. He was China’s savior, the country messiah. But this had long since passed. My dream of a new China, where all men would be equal and exploitation ended, had been shattered years before. I had no faith in the Communist party, of which I was still a member; [today], an era has ended, Mao’s time has passed.”
President Xi wants to revive the past, it seems a pipedream.
The problem is that if the Dream turns sour, it may have serious consequences for China as well as its neighbours. India should watch carefully.