Imagine a poster with headlines that read: “What the CCP can do for you!” It would capture all of the utopian Chinese communist promises from the early years of the civil war propaganda, through the first series of the five year plans and redistribution of property. Add that to the Great Leap Forward; skip past the years in-between and look at the mighty rise of wealth that was only made possible through the great socialist market. Then, set your eyes to rest on the present, where large buildings touch the heavens, trains reach speeds of planes and the entire world revolves around you. All thanks to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
No, do not look at the past years of loss. Gloss over the resulting famines as natural hardships. Do not fixate on the setbacks that helped shape this great adventure. Set your gaze to the future. Look at how far we have come. We are almost there. Just give us a little more time.
Your humble servants at the CCP
The above might capture a pure representation of the current state of political China, sponsored and presented by the CCP. The last portion is emphasized against the growing unemployment in the cities, the massive income gap, corruption, human rights abuses, widening gap between the number of marriage age females to males, scandals, and more.
Would anyone in their right minds vote for this group of power thieves? Politicians break promises all of the time. What makes this case so interesting is that the rulers still believe and they are still pretending to be “communists” in spite of the fact that they are now capitalists with great personal gains and wealth. Then there is the consideration of dynastic trends of a “red aristocracy”. In the new China: one man faces starvation on a farm and another dies of the cold and another in Shanghai cruises around in a Ferrari— likely a young party member.
The Big Lie
We, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), are made up of the [peasant] proletariat—“proletarian dictatorship”.
We are all socialists!
We will stamp out corruption.
We represent you.
We can give you what you need.
- Why is there even a Chinese “communist” party today?
- Is it possible to protect the party integrity and include the people?
- If there needs to be a CCP, why have all Chinese nationals been bared entry to its membership?
Sowing seeds of revolutionary self-destruction
Indoctrination of revolutionary socialism aside, the party faces growing political instability. A look at the conditions on the ground do not restore confidence in a dream that is falling apart. The foundations of the CCP rest on a combination of promises of great wealth and prosperity.
Ones that appeared to be steadily coming true at that time. The CCP survival was also founded on the public’s fears—the fear of censorship, defamed reputation, imprisonment, or worse. But, As hope can falter, fears can be overcome. Playing a power base on emotions is always going to be problematic.
Moreover, a fundamental ideological fallacy within the CCP pitches capitalism and socialism together. Simply redefining the contradiction as a “Chinese characteristic” (or social market economy) is not sufficient to solve the contradiction. More accurately, this combination of injecting appropriate levels of capitalism under a socialist infrastructure was done for the purposes of necessity and then later as a form of reward and/or appeasement to the people. The idea picks up swimmingly after the June Fourth Massacre: why offer them a stick when you can offer them a carrot instead?
Economic gain of the people is a socialist tenant, one might argue. Deng Xiaoping was pragmatic in his reasoning that it did not matter what he engineered if it would aid communism as long as it worked. So the CCP shifted from an isolated command collective economy to being a global free market trading hub and it offered its people economic gains instead of political ones. Everything is about expansion now (as if to make up for the lost years). On that front, no one can argue with that success.
Unfortunately, the CCP has to a great extent, taken the enormous risk of affixing party legitimacy with financial growth. This makes some sense, since the promises of utopian communism require a sufficient economic egalitarianism that could not be reached otherwise, and certainly not in stagnation or decline. Nor is China anywhere ready for the “great leap” that might justify its means with glorious ends. Nevertheless, such an attachment to free market system success will no doubt, become problematic should China undergo a series of economic hardships in the future. Anything severe will tip the balance of this tenuous and faulty arrangement of their financial legitimacy.
More promises of prosperity through Hu’s “scientific development concept” have been introduced in response to anger over the rampant economic inequalities. A plan for shifting from an export to an import or domestic economy is in the making, with the understanding that the CCP can engineer sustainable growth.
The party legitimacy still rests on the success of these new “financial” measures and now, even more so on transferring state wealth into individual benefits. China’s adaptive models of quasi central socialism may have catastrophic results; running the risk of over-reaching commitment to pensions, health care, unemployment insurance and other programs for over a billion people does not seem even close to possible regardless of what the party leadership promises. Will this transition from public wealth and modernized infrastructure to increased social welfare benefits be quick enough to satisfy and appease the people?
Meanwhile, the party is estranged from any direct access with the people since the counter-revolutionary and counter-culture years. Now, the risks of economic failures to deliver guarantee crack downs and at least the hope of political reforms.
Another troublesome behavior pattern, aside from purchasing ensured loyalties of the people, is the use of foreign affairs as a distraction of domestic troubles. Greater territorial ambitions, an avarice eye to oil and mineral resources, and incitement to ethno-nationalism reeks of reactionary rather than progressive attitudes:
An unconventional way out
Legitimacy depends on social inclusion—individual empowerment and not individual oppression. All citizens of China must be part of the CCP, even as the name implies. They must be able to address their concerns through some political participation and see them being met. They need more than a puppet “United Front”.
There is one small step the CCP could take to ensure a longer and more peaceful reign. The CCP should be divided into two officially recognized representatives: conservative communists and progressive reformers. This division already exists within the echelons of the CCP, so the alteration would simply need to be institutionalized, set down in the constitution and confirmed by precedent.
Effectively, there could still remain a one party system and two competing factions. Justifying CCP existence on two competing models for the Chinese political consumers ensures greater innovation, participation and consensus. Making this feature public will channel all political innovations through these two schools and the coalition building would be made public.
There could also be a slow transition that gradual includes the people through a latent form of democracy in the one party system. If it is conformity and cohesion that the CCP wants, then the next group of elections from the people might claim this or that ideology but they would run as a CCP member.
Naturally the conservatives would at first hold the most power in the transition and a balance of small economic and political reforms could evolve at a cautious pace with those of a more liberal bent. They would start out with the president and premier posts. The two competing groups would now officially be sponsored to represent the varied interests of society.
Even if this was done fairly, and for show initially, recognition and some inclusion would still be better than denying the party fractures that threaten to destabilize the party now, or the separation of the CCP from the input of the people. A lack of political innovation and being out of touch with the people will result in the party’s stagnant “hold the line” approach of CCP rule. This was noted in the tone and language of Hu Jintao’s outgoing speech as General Secretary.
This massive political reform provides the needed release valve to vent the pressures stirring from within the one party consensus environment. Short of another party purge and risking a civil war among the top players, any failure to enact this political reform of a proto-parliamentary setting, will likely result in increased instability. Shaming and barring political reformers in the CCP will become just as useless as shaming economic reformers was in the past. Greater corruption, criticisms, labels, house arrests and political detainments, and greater social unrest are the guaranteed outcome.
An even more radical proposal was presented by General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, before his 16 year house arrest and death in 2005. He proposed a full Western style democratic transition and he cautioned a cynical fall of the CCP that failed to politically reform.
It is unconvincing that the CCP will be able to maintain its grip on power through suppressing its own membership and using scapegoats and trickery forever. Even foreign wars and plunder will not resolve the deeply needed political adjustments that continue to be ignored or delayed. The situation is very simple: if the CCP does not redefine itself, it faces an impending extinction from within and amongst the masses—destroyed by the same revolutionary fervor that helped create the the party.