In China, history is always viewed through the prism of a peculiarly inverse political logic. The fact that tyranny in the form of a communist dictatorship triumphed in 1949 was a testament to the ability of the Communist Party of China to apply this logic and to turn almost two centuries of national humiliation by a diverse collection of foreign powers into the illusion of victory.
Presently, witnessing the seemingly steady economic and military progress of the People’s Republic of China, the majority of the Chinese people and foreign observers have succumbed to this illusion and thus have failed to see the inherent weakness of the political foundation and the ephemeral quality of the economic growth. Indeed, these individuals were, and still are, more focused on the results than the gradually accumulating challenges, as though the latter would be insignificant in comparison with the former. Thus, the current condition and the future of the People’s Republic of China will remain shrouded in the fog of complete political confusion, ideological misconceptions and erroneous theories, as long as it is not understood that it cannot, and why it cannot, modernize and fundamentally reform its ossified political and economic institutions.
The Communist Party of China seized power over sixty years ago by militarily defeating the dysfunctional Chiang Kai-shek regime. Under the leadership of Mao Zedong it established the most violent one-party state in the world. For almost thirty years he and his ever-changing lieutenants indiscriminately terrorized China in order to consolidate their absolute power over a thoroughly subjugated people. Mao died in 1976, yet his successors have not dared to significantly relax the brutality of their rule. The cause of this political rigidity could not be found in exogenous circumstances. On the contrary, China’s enduring political crisis has been the result of the insoluble internal contradiction between the absolute rule of an unelected minority over the majority and the former’s mendacious claim of legitimized representation of the latter.
In this manner, oscillating between modernization and self-preservation, a succession of Chinese leaders and their colleagues have promoted an anachronistic prosperity, while simultaneously shoring up the tyranny of the party. The result has been a situation in which politically driven and, therefore, socially unfair and unequal economic growth has become the instrument of preserving the status quo. The Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China reaffirmed this traditional strategy. The new leadership headed by Xi Jinping deliberated behind closed doors between November 8 and 12, 2013, and produced a ponderous and vaguely worded document, that is proof of the party’s and the government’s catastrophic cluelessness. Locked within a vicious circle of lies, they were unable to escape from a paralysis of their own creation.
The sixty point document that emerged from the session is a caricature of economic modernization and a farce as far as political liberalization, the widening of individual freedoms and the extension of the rule of law are concerned. Concealed behind this glaring inertia, is the admission by Xi Jinping and his closest associates that China cannot adopt democracy and free market economy in their true forms because it would mean the end of the regime. In reality, the tyranny of the party will remain absolute in both politics and the economy. For this very reason, there will be no room for any real opposition to the Communist Party of China. Consequently, the historic struggle between the dreaded state power and the horribly oppressed people will continue for the time being. This situation does not exclude the possibility of the short or mid-term survival of the existing power structure. However, because of the power structure’s inherent inflexibility, the danger that it might break is real and remains permanently present.
Maoism, as did Imperial China in 1911, collapsed because it could not compete with the rest of the world. Its failure ended the ideological identity of the Communist Party of China. Deng Xiaoping’s limited economic reforms were designed to finally establish a modern nation-state. His efforts also failed, because he only attempted to substitute ideology with prosperity without reforming the fundamentals of the state. The 2002-2012 rule of Hu Jintao is now described as “the lost decade” because of its Brezhnevian stagnation. The irony of Xi Jingping’s reign is that his policies will put Maoism out of its misery once and for all, while simultaneously eviscerating China’s fledgling capitalism. Exactly, as Mao’s and Deng’s reigns were characterized by preserving tyranny, Xi’s putative new deal emerges not as a new beginning, but a historical reprieve prior to the gradual demise of the party’s monopoly on power and the approaching end of the Chinese economic miracle.
By now, Xi Jinping should know that the regime couldn’t create a modern Chinese nation-state unless the leadership of the party establishes a complex development strategy. Walking backwards in Mao’s and Deng’s footsteps will only condemn him and his successors to vainly chase the mirage of perpetual economic growth. Given the enormous problems and challenges that China faces in its industrial, agricultural and financial sectors, its lack of energy resources and its ticking demographic time bomb, this goal is clearly unattainable. Attempting to save the existing system by transforming China into a military absolutism and waging war against the rest of the world will certainly be suicidal. Sadly, in its current incarnation, the party’s tyranny is built on quicksand, a condition that the world must be aware of.
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Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi is the Vice President of Frontiers of Freedom.