Dong Fang/The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China
What ideology guides the star of rising Chinese power? General Secretary Xi Jinping’s answer to this question is unequivocal: “Socialism with Chinese characteristics is socialism, not any other ‘ism.’” Xi is adamant that his Party adheres to what he calls the “lofty ideals of communism.” But what exactly do those ideals mean in 21st century China? What does Marx have to do with Zhongnanhai?
Of late, this question has much vexed the Communist Party of China. Over the last year we have witnessed a string of campaigns, slogans, speeches, and study sessions meant to reinforce the importance of the Party’s Marxist heritage. It is clear that continuity ranks among the highest priorities of the Party. Its leadership is wary of the impacts which growing wealth and an increasing Chinese diaspora might have on its political foundations.
The speech translated below is part of this effort. It was originally given shortly after Xi Jinping became General Secretary, on January 5th, 2013, to the Party’s then-newly elected Central Committee. An extremely abbreviated version of it was published in Xi Jinping’s first book, The Governance of China. Two months ago the Party’s premier ideological journal, Qiushi, published a much larger version. This is the version that has been translated below. The original speech was given behind closed doors; we do not know what changes have been made to its text between then and now. This is what we can be certain of: the version published here is seen by Party leadership to be particularly relevant to the challenges China faces at the current moment.
One of the most striking aspects of this speech is the language Xi Jinping invokes: party members must have “faith” (xìnyǎng) in the eventual victory of socialism; proper communists must be “devout” (qiánchéng) in their work; and Party members must be prepared to “sacrifice” (xīshēng) everything, up to their own blood, for revolutionary “ideals that reach higher than heaven” (gémìng lǐxiǎng gāo yú tiān).
Behind this religiously charged language is a man deeply worried that the cadres of his generation are not prepared to make the sort of sacrifices their parents and grandparents did for China’s revolutionary cause. Xi’s verdict is that such people do not have enough faith in the “eventual demise of capitalism and the ultimate victory of socialism.” Their “views lack a firm grounding in historical materialism,” leading them to doubt that “socialism is bound to win.” This has practical consequences. The cadre without communist convictions will act “hedonistically” and “self-interestedly.” Worst of all, he might begin to believe “false arguments that we should abandon socialism” altogether.
For Xi, this would be a grave betrayal of the Party’s heritage. The Communist Party of China is tasked with “building a socialism that is superior to capitalism” whose economic and technological prowess will give it “the dominant position” in world affairs. And though Xi asserts that this is inevitable, “the road will be tortuous.” Party members must fiercely fend off ideological attacks on socialism with Chinese characteristics. The most pressing ideological problems identified in this speech are two ‘false arguments:’ First, that the mass death, cruelty, and poverty of Maoist China undermines the credibility of the Party leadership today, and second, that socialism with Chinese characteristics is not really socialism at all.
However, readers should note that Xi offers very little in the way of classical Marxist exegesis to justify his claim that “an economic system in which publicly owned enterprises are the principle part” and the “political system of the National People’s Congress” are the natural extension of Marxist theory to current world conditions. The claim is asserted more than proven; one suspects he would rather not have the readers of Qiushi thinking too hard about the details of classical Marxist texts.
More significant than Xi’s use of Marxist theory to justify any particular policy is his conviction that he leads an ideological-political system distinct from that of the capitalist world. Threats to this system are not framed in military or economic terms, but ideological ones. The Soviet Union fell, he declares, “because ideological competition is fierce.” If the faith of its cadres remains fervent, Xi believes his Party will succeed where the Soviet Union could not.
The footnotes below detail the context and sources behind some of the language Xi uses in his speech. They vary from Chinese historical texts to work by Deng Xiaoping and the CCP, as well as Marx himself.
Uphold and Develop Socialism with Chinese Characteristics
First of all: Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is socialism. It is not any other sort of “ism.” The foundational, scientific principles of socialism cannot be abandoned; only if they are abandoned would our system no longer be socialist. From first to the last our Party has emphasized that “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” adheres to the basic principles of scientific socialism and is imbued with characteristically Chinese features bestowed by the conditions of the times. Socialism with Chinese characteristics is socialism, not any other ‘ism.’
Which ideological system a country implements depends on one crucial issue: can this ideology resolve the historical problems facing the country? In the days when the Chinese people were poor, weak, and at the mercy of others, all sorts of ideologies and theories were attempted. The capitalist road was tried and found wanting. Reformism, liberalism, social Darwinism, anarchism, pragmatism, populism, syndicalism—they all were given their moment on the stage. They all failed to solve the problems of China’s future destiny. It is Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought that guided the Chinese people out of the darkness of that long night and established a New China;[i] it is through socialism with Chinese characteristics that China has developed so quickly.
Now from the moment China’s opening up and reform began—and especially after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the tremendous changes in Eastern Europe—international public opinion has continuously railed against China. There has been no end to the different flavors of “China collapse” theory. Yet China has not collapsed. To the contrary, our comprehensive national strength increases day by day. The living standards of the people are constantly improving. “The scene before us is unique in its beauty.”[ii]
Both history and our present reality tell us that only socialism can save China—and only socialism with Chinese characteristics can develop China.[iii] This is the conclusion of history, the choice of our people.
In recent years there have been a few commentators—both at home and abroad—that have asked if what modern China is doing can really be called socialism. Some have said we have engaged in a sort of “capital socialism;” others have been more straightforward, calling it “state capitalism” or “bureaucratic capitalism.” These labels are completely wrong. We say that socialism with Chinese characteristics is socialism. No matter how we reform and open up, we should always adhere to the socialist road with Chinese characteristics, the theoretical systems of socialism with Chinese characteristics, the structure of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and the basic requirements put forward by the Eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China for a new victory of socialism.[iv]
These include: the absolute leadership of the Communist Party of China, grounding policy in national conditions, putting economic construction at the center, adhering to the “Four Cardinal Principles”[v] and to the program of reform and opening up, liberating and developing productive social forces, building a socialist market economy, socialist democratic politics, an advanced socialist culture, a harmonious socialist society, and an ecological socialist civilization.[vi] It includes promoting the comprehensive development of the people, gradually realizing the common prosperity of all the people, and building a modern, prosperous, strong, democratic, civilized and harmonious socialist country—including adhering to the fundamental political system of the National People’s Congress, a Communist Party led system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation, a system of regional ethnic autonomy, a system of grassroots self-government, a legal system with Chinese characteristics, and an economic system in which publicly owned enterprises are the principle part, which develop side by side with diverse forms of ownership.[vii] These features embody the basic principles of scientific socialism under our new historical conditions. If we lose these, we lose socialism.
Comrade Deng Xiaoping once made a profound observation: “Our modernization must flow from Chinese realities. No matter if it is revolution or construction, we should pay attention to, learn from, and borrow from foreign experience. However, copying other countries’ experiences and models has never been successful. We have learned a lot in this respect.”[viii]
In the past it was impossible to import the Soviet system full-scale; today it is just as impossible for us to import the Western system full-scale. After the conclusion of the Cold War many developing countries were forced to adopt the Western model. The consequence of this has been party feuds, social unrest, and peoples left homeless and wandering—all of which have, to this day, been difficult to stabilize.
I recall the story written in Zhuangzi’s ‘Autumn Floods:’
“Perhaps you’ve never heard about the young boy of Shouling who went to learn the Handan Walk? He hadn’t mastered what the Handan people had to teach him when he forgot his old way of walking, so he had to crawl all the way back home.”[ix]
We must not ever “go to Handan to learn to walk and forget our native stride.” Instead, we have taken Marxism and Sinicized it. That is socialism with Chinese characteristics.
In recent years, with the rise of China’s comprehensive national strength and international status, there has been much international discussion and study of the “Beijing Consensus,” “China Model,” and the “China Road.” Among these studies there is no shortage of praise. Some foreign academics believe that the rapid pace of China’s development has called Western theories into question. A new form of Marxist theory is overturning the traditional theories of the West!
Yet from beginning to end, we have maintained that every country’s road to development should be decided by the people of that country. The so-called “China model,” the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics, was created through the Chinese people’s own struggles. We firmly believe that as socialism with Chinese characteristics develops further, our system will inevitably mature; it is likewise inevitable that the superiority of our socialist system will be increasingly apparent. Inevitably, our road will become wider; inevitably, our country’s road of development will have increasingly greater influence on the world. We need just this sort of confidence—confidence in our theories, confidence in our system, and confidence in our road. We will truly be what the poets called “like cliffside bamboo, standing strong despite countless hardships, beaten about by gales on every side.”[x]
Secondly: Our party has led the people two historical periods of building socialism: before the “reform and opening-up” and afterwards. These are two periods are interrelated. They also had significant differences, but in essence they were both practical explorations made by our Party in leading the people in socialist construction. Socialism with Chinese characteristics was first initiated in the period of reform and opening up. However, it was during the New China era that the basic socialist system was built, and socialism with Chinese characteristics could only have been initiated on this twenty-year foundation of socialist construction.
To correctly understand this issue, we must grasp three points. First, if our party did not decisively decide to implement reform and opening up in 1978, unswervingly promote reform and opening up, and staunchly grasp the correct direction of reform and opening up, socialist China might not be in the favorable situation it is today. It may be facing serious crises—perhaps even the sort of crises faced by the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe, crises which brought about the death of their parties and their states. Yet if New China was never established in 1949 and we did not pursue socialist revolution and construction at that time, then the prerequisite ideological, material, and institutional wherewithal needed to smoothly implement reform and opening up would never have accumulated. We needed those experiences—both the positive and the negative ones.
Second, even though the guidance, policy, and actual work of building socialism in these two historical eras had large differences, they are by no means cut off from each other, much less inherently antithetical to each other. In the midst of building practical socialism, our Party put forward many correct propositions. But at that time these propositions were not implemented. Only after the reform and opening up were they fully carried out. In the future these concepts will need to be both adhered to and further developed. Like Marx said long ago: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”[xi]
Third, we must correctly evaluate the historical period that came before reform and opening up. We cannot use the post-reform period to repudiate the pre-reform period. Nor can we repudiate the post-reform period with the history of the pre-reform era. The exploration of socialist practice before reform and opening-up created the necessary conditions for the exploration of socialist practice after reform and opening-up. Our explorations of socialist practice in the post-reform era are a continuation and development of what came before. Thus, in regard to the exploration of socialist practice before reform and opening up, we should adhere to the ideological line of seeking truth from facts, clearly distinguish the essential from the nonessential, adhere to truth, correct errors, develop our experience and draw lessons from it. On this foundation we can continue to push forward the cause of the Party and the people.
The reason why I emphasize this problem is because it is a major political issue. If it is not handled well, it will have serious political consequences. As one ancient said: “To destroy a people, you must first destroy their history.”[xii] Hostile forces at home and abroad often write essays on the history of the Chinese revolution or of New China, doing all in their power to smear and vilify that era. Their fundamental purpose is to confuse the hearts of the people. They aim to incite them into overthrowing both the Communist Party of China’s leadership and the socialist system of our country.
Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Communist Party of the Soviet Union fall to pieces? An important reason is that in the ideological domain, competition is fierce! To completely repudiate the historical experience of the Soviet Union, to repudiate the history of the CPSU, to repudiate Lenin, to repudiate Stalin was to wreck chaos in Soviet ideology and engage in historical nihilism. It caused Party organizations at all levels to have barely any function whatsoever. It robbed the Party of its leadership of the military. In the end the CPSU—as great a Party as it was—scattered like a flock of frightened beasts! The Soviet Union—as great a country as it was—shattered into a dozen pieces. This is a lesson from the past!
Comrade Deng Xiaoping pointed out: “The banner of Mao Zedong Thought cannot be discarded. Throwing this banner out negates the glorious history of our Party. Generally speaking, our Party’s history is still a glorious one. Although our Party has made some large mistakes in its history, including in the 30 years since the founding of the People’s Republic, even mistakes as large as the Cultural Revolution, in the end it was our Party that made the revolution successful. China’s status in the world was significantly improved after the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Only the founding of the People’s Republic of China enabled us, a big country with a population of nearly one fourth of the Earth’s total, to stand up and stand strong in the world.”[xiii]
He also emphasized, “The appraisal of Comrade Mao and the exegesis of Mao Zedong Thought does not solely touch upon the personal issues of Comrade Mao. These things cannot be cut away from the entire history of our Party and our country. To grasp this is to grasp everything. This is not just an intellectual issue—it is a political issue. It is a great political issue, both here and at home.”[xiv]
This is the vision of a great Marxist politician. Just think: if at the time of reform Comrade Mao had been completely repudiated, would our Party still be standing? Would our country’s system of socialism still be standing? And if it was not still standing, what would we have? A world of chaos.
Therefore, correctly handling the relationship between socialist practice and exploration both before reform and opening-up and after cannot be seen as a mere historical issue. It is a political one. To better understand this, I recommend you all take the time to read the “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of our Party since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.”[xv]
My third point: Marxism always develops along with the social realities and technology of the times. Marxism cannot stagnate. After the start of opening-up, socialism has only continued to advance. Upholding the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics is much like a great book. To establish foundational principles and ideas, Comrade Deng Xiaoping etched his part in. The Party Central Committee’s third generation, with Comrade Jiang Zemin as its core and Comrade Hu Jintao as general secretary, added their own brilliant chapters to this book. The responsibility of this generation of Communist Party members is to write the next chapter of this great work.
More than 30 years have passed since socialism with Chinese characteristics began; in that time, it has succeeded in many a grand endeavor. This is besides the accomplishments made in the founding of New China, a foundation that has allowed China to stand tall and stride far. Our understanding of socialism, and our grasp of the laws that govern socialism with Chinese characteristics, have reached unprecedented heights. This is unquestionably true. Yet at the same time, we should also recognize that the socialism of our country is still in its infancy. We still face many problems that we have not grasped clearly and dilemmas that have not been resolved. It is also unquestionably true that our understanding and handling of many significant issues is still deepening. Understanding anything requires a process. We have only engaged in socialism for a few decades. Our grasp on these things is still very limited; in practice, we must constantly develop further.
To uphold Marxism and socialism, we must take the perspective of development. We must take the practical problems of China’s modernization and reform and put these things we are doing at the center of our vision. Then we must focus our view of them through the perspective of Marxist theory, the sort of theoretical thinking that addresses practical problems, and through the new practices and forms of development that result from this. We have said that there is no one-size-fits-all path of development for the entire world. There also is no path of development that does not require change. Our past achievements in theory and practice will help us better face the problems of our forward march. However, we cannot let them become an excuse for arrogance and complacency, or even worse, a weight that drags this march down. As our cause advances and develops, the situations we encounter will be less familiar, the challenges and risks we face will grow greater, and we will meet with a growing number of events that cannot now be foreseen. We must become more alert to potential misfortune. We must prepare for danger in a time of peace.
Liberate your mind. Seek truth from facts. Keep pace with the times. This is the living soul of Marxism. These are the fundamental ideological weapons for adapting to new terrain, understanding new things, and accomplishing new tasks. Yet first and foremost, all Party cadres at all levels must adhere to the Marxist viewpoint of development, insist that practice is the only criterion for testing truth, bring into play historical initiative and creativity, and clearly perceive both continuity and change in the Party, the country, and the broader world. We must always have the spirit of “opening roads where we find mountains and building bridges where we meet rivers.” We should be enterprising, bold, and daring as we analyze and answer the pressing questions of real life and issues of mass ideology. We will continue to deepen reform and opening up, continue to discover, create, and advance, and continue to promote institutional, theoretical, and practical innovations.
Fourth: From beginning to end our Party has always adhered to the lofty ideals of communism. Party members, especially leading cadres, should be firm believers and faithful practitioners of the lofty ideal of communism and the common ideals of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Faith in Marxism, a socialist and communist conviction, is the political soul of the Communist Party member. They are the spiritual pillar that give him the strength to undergo any test. The Party Constitution clearly stipulates that the Party’s highest ideal and ultimate goal is to achieve communism. At the same time, the Party Constitution also clearly stipulates that the high ideal of communism can only be realized by a highly developed socialist society.[xvi] To pause for a moment or two and then suddenly enter communism—that isn’t realistic.
Comrade Deng Xiaoping said that the consolidation and development of the socialist system will require its own long period of history. He said it will require the tireless struggle of generations, up to ten generations, or perhaps even tens of generations of communists. Tens of generations—that is a long time! From the time of Confucius to the present day we have not seen more than seventy generations. Looking at the problem in this way is a real demonstration of the soberness of the Communist Party of China.
We must recognize that our labors today and the unceasing work of so many generations in the future are paired together, all moving towards the ultimate goal of achieving communism. If we throw away our Communist Party’s lofty ideals, we will lose our direction and become coldly utilitarian. At the same time, we must recognize that the realization of communism is a very long historical process. We must ground ourselves in the struggles of the present moment and keep our work down to earth.
Socialism with Chinese characteristics is our Party’s most fundamental, unifying program. The program of socialism with Chinese characteristics is, in a nutshell, to build a prosperous, strong, democratic, civilized, modernized and harmonious socialist country. Not only is this program based on the basic national conditions in which our country is now in, and the primary stage of socialism in which it must remain in for a long time—it also does not depart from the highest ideals of the Party.
Thus we must tread the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics with resolve. We must keep the sublime ideals of Communism in our hearts, and with unswerving conviction implement the Party’s basic line and program for the primary stage of socialism. Every job we do must be done well.
Revolutionary ideals reach higher than the heavens. Without lofty ideals, you do not reach the standards of a Communist Party member. Yet those who abandon their work in the real world to vainly preach such ideals also do not reach this standard. In our Party’s ninety years of history, one generation of Communists after another did not hesitate to shed their blood and lay down their lives for the independence and liberation of the people. They did this by relying on their faith and ideals. Even though they knew that their ideals would not be realized by their own hands, they firmly believed that as long as the generations to come continued laboring, as long as the generations to come sacrificed for this goal, then their sublime ideals would be realized.
Today, there are objective criteria to measure whether a Communist Party member or a leading cadre aspires to the lofty ideals of communism. Will he devote his whole heart and purpose to the service of the people? Will he suffer hardship first and postpone enjoyment until later? Will he work diligently and perform his duties honestly? Is he willing to dash ahead regardless of danger, fight, and consecrate his entire spirit, his entire life, for these ideals? Every hesitant, undecided conviction, every hedonistic way of thinking, every self-interested behavior, and every style of inaction is incompatible with these ideals.
There are people who believe that communism is an unattainable hope, or even that it is beyond hoping for—that communism is an illusion. This touches upon whether historical materialism or historical idealism is the proper frame through which to view world affairs.[xvii] The fundamental reason why some of our comrades have weak ideals and faltering beliefs is that their views lack a firm grounding in historical materialism. We should educate and guide cadres and the broader mass of Party members so that we can unite our the common ideal of practicing socialism with Chinese characteristics together with our lofty ideal of securing Communism. Our actions must be devout, determined, profound, and sincere. With firm ideals and convictions, we will stand taller, our vision will grow wider, and our mind will grow broader. We will be able to adhere to the correct political orientation, stand without arrogance in victory, without despair in adversity, enduring all sorts of risk and adversity, consciously resisting the corrosion of decedent philosophies, forever fostering the political essence of a Communist.
Facts have repeatedly told us that Marx and Engels’ analysis of the basic contradictions in capitalist society is not outdated, nor is the historical materialist view that capitalism is bound to die out and socialism is bound to win. This is an inevitable trend in social and historical development. But the road is tortuous. The eventual demise of capitalism and the ultimate victory of socialism will require a long historical process to reach completion. In the meantime, we must have a deep appreciation for capitalism’s ability to self-correct, and a full, objective assessment of the real long-term advantages that the developed Western nations have in the economic, technological, and military spheres. Then we must diligently prepare for a long period of cooperation and of conflict between these two social systems in each of these domains.
For a fairly long time yet, socialism in its primary stage will exist alongside a more productive and developed capitalist system. In this long period of cooperation and conflict, socialism must learn from the boons that capitalism has brought to civilization. We must face the reality that people will use the strengths of developed, Western countries to denounce our country’s socialist development. Here we must have a great strategic determination, resolutely rejecting all false arguments that we should abandon socialism. We must consciously correct the various ideas that do not accord with our current stage. Most importantly, we must concentrate our efforts on bettering our own affairs, continually broadening our comprehensive national power, improving the lives of our people, building a socialism that is superior to capitalism, and laying the foundation for a future where we will win the initiative and have the dominant position.
From this analysis, we gain a deeper appreciation of the fact that the ideological road we choose to follow is the central problem that will determine the victory or defeat of our Party’s work, the very fate of the Party itself. As Comrade Mao Zedong once said: “A revolutionary party is the guide of the masses. In revolutions, there has never been a revolutionary party that led its people onto the wrong road whose revolution did not fail.”
Our Party, in the time of revolution, construction, and reform, has adhered to the national conditions of our country, explored and formed a new democratic revolutionary road, a road of socialist transformation and construction. This is the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics. This spirit of exploration, this resolution to stick to our own road, is the true reason this Party has always been able to reawaken itself after set-backs and spring from triumph to triumph.
The great writer Lu Xun coined a famous saying: “Even if there is no road, when enough people walk through, a road will be made.” Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the dialectical unity of the theoretical logic of scientific socialism and the historical logic of China’s social development. It is a scientific socialism rooted in China’s soil, one that reflects the aspirations of the Chinese people, and one that is adapted to the conditions of progress in our times. It is the only way to comprehensively build a prosperous society, accelerate socialist modernization and realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. As long as we stick to our own path and unswervingly adhere to and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics, we will surely be able to comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society by the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, and a prosperous, democratic, civilized, modernized, and harmonious socialist country by the centennial anniversary of the founding of New China.
[i] “New China” is a rhetorical term for the People’s Republic of China, designed originally to highlight the revolutionary nature of the new regime. It has a strong Maoist flavor, and the phrase “New China Era” is often used as a shorthand for the era Westerners would label “Maoist China.”
[ii] The quotation is from a 1937 poem written by Mao Zedong (“Huichang”) often played to orchestral accompaniment.
[iii] Variations of the phrase “Only socialism can save China” have been used since Maoist times; the “develop” clause was added in the Dengist era. Xi first used it as General Secretary just a few days after his new role as Genera Secretary had been announced (see Xi Jinping, Governance of China, vol I, p. 7).
[iv] The 18th National Congress was convened in 2012. The various work reports produced by the conference can be accessed here.
[v] The Four Cardinal Principles are: 1) Adhering to the socialist path, 2) the people’s democratic dictatorship, 3) The supreme leadership of the Communist Party of China, and 4) Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought.
[vi] Each of these terms are enshrined in the Chinese constitution’s “basic line”. The five categories listed—economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological—have become standard frames through which policy, political campaigns, and even threats to the regime are understood. On that last one, see Samantha Hoffman, “Programming China: the Communist Party’s autonomic approach to managing state security,” PhD diss, University of Nottingham (2017), chapter 2
[vii] No clause in this sentence is of Xi Jinping’s invention; each and every part is a sloganized summary of a policy platform or institutional arrangement of the China’s party-state. Timothy Heath explains why Party leaders communicate through staid slogans like these:
[In the Chinese theory system there are many] specialized concepts designed specifically to drive policy on very specific issues. For example, “socialist harmonious society.” There’s a major strategic concept. It is a very important term that the Chinese identified as an ideal that had the Marxist vetting and was grounded in Marxist theory needed to allow their bureaucrats to develop policy to address social welfare issues: healthcare, retirement, education. That’s all wrapped up in this word ‘socialist harmonious society.’ It is designed primarily for bureaucrats, officials and decision makers. It is not really designed to mobilize the people. In fact most people ridicule, deride, and make fun of these archaic sounding Marxist concepts. But here is the thing: the Communist Party does not really care all that much. What they really care about is that their officials get it. That they understand what to do with these concepts, how to develop them into policies, and how to implement them. That is really where a lot of the CPC’s energy is focused on today. Informing the bureaucratic elite instead of mobilizing the entire people.
From Timothy Heath, “China’s New Governing Party Paradigm,” speech at the USC U.S.-China Institute, Feb 19, 2015. This speech can be seen on youtube here.
[viii] Deng Xiaoping, Address to the 13th National Congress, 1987.
[ix] The Zhuangzi was a work of Daoist philosophy from the Warring States Era. This translation of the passage is taken from Burton Watson, trans., Zhuangzi: Basic Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 111.
[xi] Karl Marx, “18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” (1852) https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch01.html. It is not surprising that Xi does not quote the sentence that follows: “And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.”
[xii] A line taken from Gong Zichen’s (1792-1841), Ding An Collection, “Discussing History and the Present.”
[xiii] Deng Xiaoping, Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, vol II, p. 298.
[xiv] Deng Xiaoping, “My Opinion of the ‘Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of our Party,’” address given on October 25th 1980, accessed at http://cpc.people.com.cn/GB/64184/64186/66692/4494734.html
[xv] This resolution was formally adopted by at the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on June 27, 1981. It was a decisive landmark in the Party’s decision to shift away from Maoist political economy and towards “reform and opening up.” Among other things, this resolution condemned the Cultural Revolution for “conform[ing] neither to Marxism, Leninism nor to Chinese reality,” blaming Mao personally for the disaster. The resolution honors both Mao and the Party for its earlier revolutionary achievements, but concedes that the Party now recognizes that “[China] was not fully prepared, either ideologically or in terms of scientific study, for the swift advent of the new-born socialist society and for socialist construction on a national scale.” It contains explicit guidance on what elements of Mao Zedong thought were to be retained by the Party moving forward, and which were to be discarded.
The full text of the resolution can be found at: https://www.marxists.org/subject/china/documents/cpc/history/01.htm
[xvi] The relevant text of the Party constitution (18th Congress version) reads:
The Communist Party of China is the vanguard both of the Chinese working class and of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation. It is the core of leadership for the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics and represents the development trend of China’s advanced productive forces, the orientation of China’s advanced culture and the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people. The realization of communism is the highest ideal and ultimate goal of the Party.
The Communist Party of China takes Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of Three Represents and the Scientific Outlook on Development as its guide to action.
Marxism-Leninism brings to light the laws governing the development of the history of human society. Its basic tenets are correct and have tremendous vitality. The highest ideal of communism pursued by the Chinese Communists can be realized only when the socialist society is fully developed and highly advanced. The development and improvement of the socialist system is a long historical process. So long as the Chinese Communists uphold the basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism and follow the road suited to China’s specific conditions and chosen by the Chinese people of their own accord, the socialist cause in China will be crowned with final victory.
“Constitution of the Communist Party of China,” English Edition of Qiushi Journal, Vol.4 (2012), No.4.
[xvii] Timothy Heath’s short primer on the way these terms are used in Party discourse is useful:
Materialist conception of history. The CCP retains the Marxist notion that history operates according to certain inherent natural laws, and that the most essential of these laws concern economic production. As one theorist explained, the most essential “driving force for social development is the production of material and material productive forces” (Wang H. 2004). One implication of this view is that the CCP prioritizes the development of economic production as the greatest enabler of the development of the social, cultural, and political life of all people.
Dialectical view of history. CCP theorists also emphasize the idea that history moves through the resolution of contradictions. Theorists define the dialectical view of history as the repeated, progressive manifestation of contradictions between forces of production and between the economic base and superstructure. The dialectical view directs CCP theorists to discern evidence that economic development has begun to outpace developments in the political and social life of a people, since it is the resolution of these contradictions which brings progress (Wang H. 2004).
Tanner Greer is a journalist and researcher. His writing focuses on contemporary security issues in the Asia-Pacific and the military history of East and Southeast Asia.