Why China’s Left Is Up in Arms

China Media Project takes a close look at the ideological battle currently playing out between left and right in China:

The “deep reds,” with their wistful talk of the glories of Mao Zedong, the “Four Basic Principles” and socialism with Chinese characteristics, seem to have been emboldened.

But how, and why?

While the hawks on the left seem to have greater visibility (and perhaps greater political pull) right now, they are only half the story. It takes two to tango, right?

We have seen interesting, even historic, shows of strength from the liberal right in recent weeks. The first of two recent examples, of course, was the essay from social critic Mao Yushi (茅于轼), which enumerated the various crimes of the CCP’s revolutionary leader, Mao Zedong, a critical act of historic proportions. The second was an editorial in the Party’s official People’s Daily that urged tolerance for “differing ideas” and seemed to be pointing at the grumbling powers on the left when it said the “hurling of epithets and the yanking of pigtails” is “fundamentally is a sign of weakness and narrow-mindedness.”

It must be noted that the People’s Daily editorial, which according to a well-placed source at People’s Daily Online was an independent effort by moderate journalists with senior-level blessing (not, as some have suggested, a cynical public relations ploy), has drawn fury from the left. During a recent speech on Marxist theory, Chen Kuiyuan, the very same man whose prominent place at the national meeting of propaganda ministers signaled tighter ideological controls on the media, said that “so-called ‘tolerance’ cannot become the ‘stealthy substitution of one thing for another’,” a clear reference to what he saw as the dangers of the kind of thinking expressed in the People’s Daily editorial. “If Marxism is stealthily substituted, and changed out slyly for ‘democratic socialism’, ‘neoliberalism’ or other such bourgeois thought systems,” said Chen, “the nature of our Party and our country will change.”

Last but not least, of course, we have Premier Wen Jiabao (温家宝), who has stepped out on numerous occasions over the past year and harped on the need for political reform, most recently meeting with student leaders on the anniversary of the 1919 May Fourth Movement and on a diplomatic mission to Indonesia. And one of the most interesting (and perhaps revealing) rumors now going around in Party circles is that a deputy propaganda minister recently referred to Premier Wen as a “troublemaker.”


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