Chinese neo-Maoist memo rejects West’s ‘notions’

Communist party steps up attack on western constitutional democracy

China’s ruling Communist Party has stepped up its attack on western constitutional democracy and notions of civil society, saying they are alien concepts. Photograph: Claro Cortes IV/Reuters

China’s ruling Communist Party has stepped up its attack on western constitutional democracy and notions of civil society, saying they are alien concepts. Photograph: Claro Cortes IV/Reuters

Wed, Aug 21, 2013, 09:06


Just days before Bo Xilai, a former leader often seen as a leftist, “neo-Maoist”, goes on trial for corruption, China’s ruling Communist Party has stepped up its attack on western constitutional democracy and notions of civil society, saying they are alien concepts.

The criticisms come in a memo widely circulated among cadres, referred to as “The Seven Nos” or “Document No 9”, and are believed to be backed by the country’s new president, Xi Jinping.

“It is noteworthy that some of those neo-Maoists who used to be singing praise for Bo Xilai, after submerging for a while, resurfaced recently to publish articles that attacked western liberal democracy/ civil society again, resonating with Xi Jinping’s neo-Maoist rhetoric,” said Ho-fung Hung, associate professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University.

Mr Xi has worked to portray himself as a reformer, but the focus has been on economic reforms, which remain vague and hard to assess.

While the president’s name does not appear on the document, it is too important an internal memo not to have been approved by him.

It shows that, despite the fact that the leadership wears blue business suits these days, there is still a strong Marxist-Leninist heart beating within their Politburo’s chest.


Leftist elements
It may also be an attempt to appease still powerful leftist elements within the party who backed Mr Bo.

The latter was reputedly purged after a power struggle at the very top of the Communist Party between Maoists and “neo-Leftists” who feel the organisation is travelling too far down the capitalist road.

While in Chongqing as party boss, Mr Bo led a call for a return to old-fashioned communist values, something which clearly set him on a collision course with other factions in the last government of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, and isolated him from the more reform minded constellation of the Standing Committee that was emerging around Mr Xi and premier Li Keqiang.

Political reforms
On political reforms mentioned by the new leadership, which took over in November, some have spoken of efforts to create more accountability and transparency. However, there are an equal number of stories of dissidents being jailed and examples of civil rights being trampled in the name of the new president’s much-touted campaign against corruption.

The articles refer to “the roughly concocted myth of civil society”, and resoundingly praise the “Chinese dream” – a vague concept often repeated by Mr Xi aimed at channelling energies in a similar way to the “American dream”.

The Seven Nos include the adoption of western-style notions such as constitutional democracy, universal human rights, civil society, media freedom and other “nihilist” or “neo-liberal” values.

The document contains references to western infiltration and dissidents trying to attack China’s ideology, and since it was circulated, there has been a rash of articles critical of attempts to impose western notions in China.

Hu Angang, an economist and leading member of the “New Left” intellectual movement that backed Bo Xilai, has argued in favour of a “people’s society” rather than a “civil society.”