Why The Chinese Communists Are Not Doomed To Finish Yet
The following is the translation of an essay by Chinese exile Wan Runnan. This is not the usual thing to appear in English, because it does not fit into any conventional wisdom. The overriding question is why the Chinese Communists have not collapsed and faded away like their counterparts in eastern Europe. Wan asserts: "If you have not thought through this problem, then it is impossible for you think through what path we should follow in the future." Read on ...
(New Century Net) Wan Runnan (万润南).
In 1989, I was exiled to overseas. My basic assessment of the situation inside China was: The Chinese Communists are doomed. At the time, I frequently quoted French president Mitterrand: "A government that butchers its own young people is a government without a future." I should add something else that "their great leader" said: "Suppressing student movements will not lead to a good ending."
Seventeen years have passed since. The former Soviet Union and the Eastern European Communist Parties were indeed finished, but the Chinese Communist Party seems to have a long stay. Someone may have questions about this. So, let us not debate for now just how long it will last. But it is an uncontested fact that it has continued for seventeen years after June 4th.
Seventeen years may be just an instant in the long river of history, but it is a relatively long period in real life. After all, how many seventeen years do we have in our lives? From the founding of the Chinese Communist government to the Cultural Revolution, there was only seventeen years. Old Mao had generally concluded that the Communist Party must fight for its survival every seven or eight years. So we can say that after two more rounds, the Chinese Communists have not receded from the theater of history.
So why are the Chinese Communists not finished? How did the Chinese Communists manage to survive up to now?
If you have not thought through this problem, then it is impossible for you think through what path we should follow in the future.
Many friends have attempted to answer this question from various viewpoints.
Some people started with an examination of the weaknesses of the Chinese intellectuals themselves in order to explain why the Chinese Communists still exist today. The more representative examples are Cao Changqing's "Looking for the Good Wolves" and Hu Ping's "The Theory of Cynics." Let us call these the "wolf theory" and the "dog theory."
In a speech, Cao Changqing brought up the question that is the concern of this essay: "Why have all the European Communist Parties fallen but the Chinese Communists have not?" He believes that one reason was the responsibility of the intellectuals. He thought that the Russians have Solzhenitsyn and Sahkarov, the Czechs have Havel and Kundera. These people basically negated Communism and they pointed out that "Communism is evil and evil cannot be reformed. Evil has no conscience. Evil is evil. Evil is Satan. Satan can only be exterminated." But the Chinese intellectuals kept looking for the good wolves instead. He used the anti-right campaign as an example. In 1957, more than 50 million people were branded as rightists. "When we look at what these rightists said, they all thought that the Communists were good and they offered some suggestions to the Communists. As a result, they were branded as rightists. Very few of them opposed the Communist Party. Most of them were offering suggestions to the Communist Party and they were not negating the Communist Party."
Cao Changqing believes that from the reform era to June 4th, the Chinese intellectuals were basically praising Lord Deng and then seeking for the likes of Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. They are now pinning their hopes on the friendly-looking Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao. Their basic thinking was to "depend on the moderates who will reform the Communist Party and make the Communist Party become a good party." Then he used Liu Binyan's "The Second Kind of Loyalty" as an example. He showed that "the Chinese intellectuals keep looking for the kind wolf, the good wolf, the reformist wolf, the moderate wolf and so they kept getting eaten up by the wolves. Some even become part of the wolves, even though not subjectively. In the end, China is still being ruled by wolves."
Cao Changqing's "wolf theory" is not without reason. But what is questionable is that we have many intellectuals who "basically negate Communism" and I think the most outstanding person is Zheng Yi. Cao Changqing should count himself as one such person too. But if we have to blame Liu Binyan's "The Second Kind of Loyalty," then Liu Xiaobo from the later 1980's and Cao Changqing today have been making criticisms for almost twenty years and all the poison should have been erased already, right? Do you really think that the reason why the Communist Party continues to exist in China today is on account of the "second kind of loyalty" of the intellectuals?
Let us now look at Hu Ping's "dog theory." He quoted the saying: "Totalitarianism turns people into cynics." The Communist system is an extreme form of totalitarianism, and therefore it turns people into cynics. Since the Communist Party does not tolerate dissident opinions, one can only have "no political opinions." If one cannot have any political opinions, one becomes resentful, cynical, sarcastic and so on. Hu Ping analyzed very accurately: "From resentment to cynicism is just one step away. Ordinarily speaking, resentment is idealism, albeit a very extreme idealism. Cynicism is thoroughly non-idealistic and thoroughly nihilistic. But it is precisely those seemingly most vigorous idealisms that can be turned into thorough nihilism." When you have no ideals, you see through everything. After that, it is the proliferation of materialistic ideas.
Hu Ping thinks: this cynicism offered stability in this totalitarian nation.
Ordinarily, this theory is not problematic, but it cannot address the question that I brought up today. First of all, cynicism is not a common thing that only showed up today. According to Hu Ping's citations, it seems that it was already there in ancient Greece. This is not a local Chinese problem. Hu Ping quoted the Russians as described by Smith. It seems that the former Soviet Russia had a great deal of cynicism, but that did not stop the dramatic changes in the former Soviet Russia.
In looking at the defeat of the 1987 student strike, the students back then were quite "cynical." The fashion was either the "Mah sect" (that is, to play mahjong) or the "TO sect" (that is, to study for the TOEFL examination). Many people were worried if they would become the "lost generation" and the "numbed generation." But in less than two years, they shouted and the world took notice. For the next seventeen years, the whole country has gone "cynical" again. Why is that?
Therefore, Hu Ping's "dog theory" may explain the social consequences that result from the continuation of Communist totalitarianism in China, but it cannot explain why the Communist totalitarian regime continues to exist.
Obviously, we need to think deeper.
Some people think that the Chinese Communists are still in China because the western governments were appeasing and tolerant, and the overseas businesses abandoned justice for profit. They ignored the totalitarian dictatorship in China and the dreadful human rights situation. They were enthusiastic about establishing ties and making huge amounts of investment. If we look at the ingratiation of Mitterand's successor Chirac or Bill Gates' praise of China as the "best capitalism," then this seems a reasonable judgment. But if we calmly review the historical trends over the past seventeen years, we may have a different conclusion.
Let us reverse time and go back seventeen years. After June 4th, 1989, the major western countries were condemning China and imposing sanctions. The European Union banned weapon sales to China and the ban has not been lifted even up to now. All the foreign investment capital was ready to depart; those investors who were about to enter paused. At that time, the Harvard Business School wanted me to answer a survey: Should foreign capital leave China? I recommended that they can remain there and observe. As time went by, they not only observed but they rushed in as they worked to get more profits. We used to say that the proletariats do not have a mother county. That was wrong. It should be the capitalists do not have a mother country. Wherever profits can be made, they will be there. Five hundred thousand Taiwan business people are happy in Shanghai and not thinking about the yam back in Taiwan. I just read another news report about how the Koreans think China is their home. The past two American presidents all talked tough when they took their posts. Clinton wanted to condemn all tyrants from Baghdad to Beijing, but he became Old Jiang's strategic partner. Bush began by defining China as the strategic opponent, but is now ready to treat China as a responsible partner with mutual interests in international relationships. What kind of magic did the Communists wrought?
Why are the Chinese Communists not doomed? Some people pinned part on the reason on the immaturity of the overseas Chinese democratic movement. I personally have some responsibility in the immaturity of the overseas democratic movement. But we must ask, which comparable overseas democratic movement anywhere ever had any influence? After the eastern European movements, we visited Poland and we asked Solidarity Union friends a stupid question: When the Polish military government began suppression, a number of dissidents went into exile overseas. What did these people do in the latter changes inside Poland? They replied without any pause: Nothing whatsoever. Then they sensed our embarrassment and consoled us: "Those exiles served some purpose because they gave us some fax machines and stuff."
There are many reasons why the overseas democratic movement is ineffective. One reason is that they are not sufficiently like "hooligans." We don't want to be "hooligans" and we cannot be "hooligans." This is because I agree with this saying: The means is the standard for the ends. If our future goals are freedom, equality, democracy and rule of law, then our methods today must satisfy those kinds of standards. I was aware of the effect of overseas democratic movement very early on. I met Dai Qing (戴晴) overseas and she said: "You do not have a place in the future change in China." I replied: Yes. The change in China is like a chemical reaction with reagents and products. We are just the temperature, pressure and catalyst that bring about this chemical reaction and we do not have a position in the final product. But we are willing. Is that alright? That is why I often say that I don't have to be successful, but I want to bring about the success. Unfortunately, many people still don't understand this.
There are also some people who attribute the responsibility on the quality of the people. Normally speaking, that is reasonable. The quality of the people leads to the quality of the government. But is this total reason why the Chinese Communists are not finished? We were able to find partial reasons from the intellectuals, the overseas situation, our own selves and the people, but we have not gotten to the crucial part.
Actually, we need to switch the viewing angle and discuss this problem according to the evolution of the Communist Party itself. Is the Communist Party of today the original Communist Party? On one hand, it is the same Communist Party, and even more Communist than the original one. On the other hand, it has transformed itself thoroughly and it is completely different from the original Communist Party. To quote a classical vulgar phrase from Li Ao (李敖) as the analogy of the Communist Party today: the part that should be hard is hard, but every other part has gone soft.
The hard part refers to the will and determination of the Communist Party to suppress opposing forces. How does this go? Please read the next section.
Why is the Communist Party not doomed to be finished? During the 1989 democratic movement and the Russian/Eastern European changes, the Chinese Communist became even firmer in the will and determination to suppress the opposition. On this point, it has become even more Communist Party then ever and the hard part became even harder.
How did the Communist Party defeat the Nationalist Party to win the country? One point was the will and determination to sacrifice. By sacrifice, they mean sacrificing the lives of their warriors in large and systematic ways. Lin Biao had this saying that the Tsinghua 414 used as their battle song during the Cultural Revolution: "When sacrifices are needed, we must be willing to sacrifice. The gun goes off and we head for the battlefield. I am determined that if I have to die today, I will die on the battlefield!"
The Communists won the nation by this rule and they governed the nation by this rule. What is political power? Lin Biao understood: Political power is the power to suppress. To maintain political power is to maintain the power to suppress. After the Communists established the government, the so-called suppressions were about killing people in order to establish authority. When they needed to kill, they dared to kill. The gun goes off and we head for the battlefield. If I have to kill today, I will kill 200,000 in order to guarantee 20 years of peace for the Communists! That was the will and determination to suppress that the Communists exhibited during the June 4th massacre.
There was a scene during the June 4th incident, and this scene touched the world. A young person stood on Changan Street to block the progress of the tanks. The tank turned left and the youth went to the left to block it. The tank turned right and the youth went to the right to block it. This was regarded as the representative visual image for opposing dictatorship. This requires a deeper interpretation. In 1990, we attended a European democracy forum in Berlin. The top theoretician of the Polish Solidarity Union gave the opening speech. He said: "This is an era without theory. This era has only left us with some images." He offered two images as examples. The first image was during the period of Prague spring when many citizens attempted to climb over the iron fence to enter the American embassy. The government guards only "perfunctorily" pulled at their legs. The other image was the youth who attempted to impede the tanks on Changan Street. He believed that these images caused the totalitarian governments to hesitate in front of the opposition. It was precisely the hesitation and doubt in the will to suppress that doomed the Eastern European Communist governments.
His words were correct insofar as the Eastern European Communist governments went. But as far as the Beijing Communist government was concerned, he underestimated Deng Xiaoping's will and determination to suppress. When Zhao Ziyang hesitated, he was ousted. For Deng Xiaoping, he was happy that he still had the old comrades around. In shutting down Shanghai's World Economic Herald, Jiang Zemin showed the will and determination to suppress and that was why he was brought into the core of the third generation of leaders. Hu Jintao wore a steel helmet during the martial rule in Tibet. According to reports, Deng Xiaoping pointed to that photo and asked: Who is this kid? He had been impressed with Hu's will and determination to suppress at the critical moment.
After June 4th and before the changes in Eastern Europe and Soviet Russia, a number of cadres within the Communist Party did not understand the need to use the military and their tanks to deal with the student movement. But after the eastern European and Russian changes, they reached a consensus: to maintain the political power of the Communist Party, they must not waver in their will and determination to suppress the opposing forces. Any show of pity or sympathy would give away their Red motherland. Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Russia were the examples for them.
From this starting point, we can understand their slogans. "The two hands must be hard" means that the hands to suppress must be firm. The Communist Party must have the "consciousness to rule" means that they have to be ready to suppress. To raise the Communist Party's "ability to govern" means to raise the Communist Party's ability to suppress. "Stability over all else" means that "any method of suppression" can be used to guarantee the "stability" of our party. I remember that certain scholars wrote essays to argue with them: Stability is not everything and stability does not overrule everything else. This is like a chicken trying to speak to a duck, because there is no understanding of what the Communists are about.
When Old Jiang suppressed the FLG without hesitation, he proved that the third generation was mature and qualified. When Little Hu gave internal speeches about imitating Cuba and North Korea, it showed that the fourth generation meets the expectation of being tough in their thinking. Recently, there was an incident in Shanwei, Guangzhou. They called it a mass incident which Zhang Dejiang handled in a decisive manner by firing the first shots after June 4th. The outside rumor was that Zhang was forced to make a self-examination at the central government, which rejected his presentation. Thus, Guangdong province will initiate a movement to oust Zhang. This is just nonsense. In my view, Zhang Dejiang will have a wonderful career in the future.
But if you think that the Communists are able to survive purely on their will and determination to suppress, then this is over-simplifying matters. Back then, Nicolae Ceauşescu had the will and determination to suppress, but where is he now? The Chinese Communists are smarter. They have the will and determination to suppress, they continuously enhance their ability to suppress, they refine their methods of suppression and they expand their resources to suppress. How do the Chinese Communists manage to do all this? We must speak not just about the hardness of the Communist Party, but we need to also understand the softness of the Communist Party.
I am done with speaking about the hard part. The soft part will be explained in the next section.
After June 4th, Deng Xiaoping had three sayings: First, "we won't lead." Second, "we won't argue." Third, "development is the only solid reason." These three sayings express the softness of the Communists. "We won't lead" means conceding to the American imperialists. "We won't argue" means that they will soften their position after betraying Communism. "Development is the only solid reason" means eliminating all barriers and laying down new paths for the growth of the new capitalist class. Would you say that this type of Communist Party is the original Communist Party? If Zhang Chunqiao (note: a member of the Gang of Four) were alive, he would be making this type of criticism: this is the typical double surrender of revisionists: "Internationally, you surrender to the imperialists; domestically, you surrender to the capitalists." Frankly speaking, there are some people within the Communist Party who understood this. On the right, Deng Xiaoping is one of them; on the left, Zhang Chunqiao is another one.
After the Eastern Europe/Russian changes, there was no leader in the socialist camps left. Only "two or three small cats" asked the Chinese Communists to assume the leadership and the response of Deng Xiaoping was, "We won't lead." This obviously meant that China preferred to hide its capabilities and bide its time. Of course, they can't be quite so blunt. After packaging, the narrative is this: China is seeking for a "peaceful emergence"; "under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, China has decided to accept globalization"; China "does not believe that it is engaged in a life-or-death struggle with capitalism"; "China does not seek to propagate anti-American consciousness"; "China does not wish to get into a conflict with the United States." The voting at the United Nations showed China does not obstruct the Americans anymore; when Old Zhu was trying to appease the Americans, the embassy in Belgrade was bombed and Old Jiang could only hide like a turtle inside its shell. More recently, Bu posted a deposit of several hundred million American dollars, and then complained because he could not get the confidence of his American bosses. Based upon what they say and do, it would not be unfair to say that they have surrendered to the imperialists in the international arena.
So how can the "steel-bodied" Deng Xiaoping become so soft? He did so in order to obtain an "international environment for peaceful development" to allow the Communist government to survive. If you look at how the Chinese Communists manage to go from a situation of universal condemnation to their present state over the course of seventeen years, you must admit that the softness of Deng Xiaoping has been effective.
Let us now look at "we won't argue." Since they lack reason, they are soft in their arguments; because they are soft, they won't argue. Let us look at what the Communists did over the past seventeen years. How much of it was consistent with the fundamental tenets of Communism? That is why the old and new leftists who don't understand the current situation want to bring out the party regulations and national constitution to argue with them. Comrade Deng Xiaoping was deaf, so he pretended not to hear. Comrade Jiang Zemin adhered to the principle of Shanghainese businessmen by "making lots of money without muttering a word." Comrade Hu Jintao did not care about left or right, and he just bottled everything up. Then he offered a prize of 10 million RMB to establish a new Marxism school for the old and new left so that they can argue among themselves behind closed doors. This was better than anything else before then.
In this world, some things can be done but not talked about. Deng Xiaoping's reform is one of those things. You can talk about it and you can't debate about it in order to reduce the social costs and gain time. Talk less and do more. You get the economy going, and thus accumulate more capital for the continuation of the Chinese Communist regime.
Deng Xiaoping said: "Development is the only solid reason." This should actually read "Getting rich is the only solid reason." The reason is solid, but the words are soft. According to Comrade Zhang Chunqiao's critical opinion: "This is a capitulation to the national capitalist class." On this issue, I have the right to speak. I started the company Stone (四通), which had sales of over 1 billion RMB in 1988. I accounted for half of Zhongguan village. I was called by the western media as the "most outstanding result of the ten year flirtation between Deng Xiaoping and capitalism." At the time, a western reporter asked me: "Do you think that Deng Xiaoping is on your side?" I answered without hesitation: "Of course, because I am on his side." After the June 4th massacre, I could no longer be on his side and therefore I parted ways with the Communist Party. Many friends were sorry for me, but I want to say something to those friends who really cared about me: "On those essential significant interests, there is also the absolutely important human conscience."
The Communist Party originally branded themselves as the party which "led the poor people to liberate themselves." They have now become the party that nakedly serve the rich people and won the hearts and minds of the world's capitalists. They brought investments and they paid taxes. Boss Zhu patted his pocket and said that every cent in there was real money! The softness of the Communist Party won over the real money of the capitalists. The real money of the capitalists extended the life of the Chinese Communist government. This seems to be a pretty good trade.
So did the Communist Party transform itself by becoming so soft? If you really think so, then you are underestimating the Communists. Mao had assessed Deng as "the hidden pin in the cotton." Mao really knew Deng. We have analyzed the hardness of the Chinese Communists and we have analyzed the softness of the Chinese Communists. We must still analyze the hardness concealed in the softness of the Chinese Communists. This is the pin hidden in the cotton. The softness of the Communist Party is in their own words, "they fold up their flags but they won't hand over the guns." To understand this, please read the next section.
According to legend, the statement "fold up the flag but don't hand over the gun" came from Deng Yingdao and this is regarded as a classical saying for the economic reform and opening. The Communists have employed this trick for a long time, so this is nothing new. The biggest deal was when the Red Army was transformed into the Eighth Route Army during the war of resistance against Japan. They took down their five red stars and the red stripes and they raised the nationalist flag. They not only "folded their flag" but they raised another one. They not only "refused to hand over their guns" but they seized more guns and eventually the whole county. This episode was the classical case of the Communists "folding their flag and not handing over the guns."
"Folding the flag" is soft and "not giving up the guns" is the hard part behind it. If you understand this, then you will understand the Communist slogans. "Reform and open" was brought up by Deng Xiaoping. The "Four Insistences" was brought up by Deng Xiaoping. The former was the "cotton" and the latter is the "pin." This is known as concealing a "pin in the cotton." "Won't lead" is soft while "imitating Cuba and North Korea" is the hardness behind. "Developing is the only solid truth" is soft talk; "stability is the solid task" is the hard talk. "Caring about weak social groups" is soft talk and the faked compassion of Buddha; "destroy the chaotic elements in their infancy" is hard talk and the "thunder and lightning" methods behind "Buddha's compassion."
During the past seventeen years, Jiang Zemin was there for fourteen of those years. For the first few years, he was not in charge because Comrade Deng Xiaoping said very clearly: "While I am here, only what I say counts." Once the backstage ruler left the scene, Jiang was in charge for a few years. Therefore, when we analyze those seventeen years, we must analyze the Jiang years. Most people cannot stand the light-weight character of Jiang Zemin. He is capable of giving an "artistic performance" at any time and place: he held the hand of the concubine of the casino tsar and sang; he embraced the wife of the French president and danced; he played guitar and sang love songs with the governor's wife; he hung over Yeltsin's neck to show friendliness; he combed his hair in front of the King of Spain. This type of repulsive scenes could be find everywhere. But although he was a light-weight personality, he was strong. He did two wonderful things for the Communists: first, he brought up the Three Represents to clearly show the change in the nature of the Communist Party; second, even though his retirement was not entirely smooth, he was able to show a viable means of peaceful transition and handover of power within the Communist Party.
Concerning the Three Represents, many people treat it as a joke. The joke goes something like this: one day, the leaders of the three major countries got together and discussed how to deal with Bin Laden. Bush said that he will use three cruise missiles to kill him; Putin said that he would send three beautiful women to enchant him; Jiang Zemin said that he would use the Three Represents to "irritate" him to death. The word "irritate" is quite vivid. When the Three Represents was first promoted inside China, it was difficult not to be irritated. This type of vulgar propaganda method has actually buried the grand historical meaning of the Three Represents.
The Three Represents say this: the Communist Parry wants to represent the development needs for the progressive forces of production in China; it wants to represent the direction of development for the progressive culture; and it wants to represent the basic interests of the Chinese people. The third Represent is a feign, because many multiple parties means that there is no party as they represent everybody and nobody at the same time. Thus, this is empty talk. The key lies in the first two Represents. What does it mean to represent the development needs for the progressive forces of production in China? To put it bluntly, they want to represent the needs of the wealthy people. What does it mean to represent the direction of development for the progressive culture? To put it bluntly, they want to represent the values of the elite in society. Jiang Zemin has therefore declared very clearly: The Communist Party today is no longer a party that represents the proletariat class, but it is now a political party that represents the rich people and the social elite. The corresponding organizational measure is that the capitalists are allowed to join the party.
The reason that I want to spell this out clearly is that I used to be one of their members. I once advocated that the middle-class can transform China. Back then, an important leftist criticized my absurd theory by name:
Overseas exile capitalist class representative Wan Runnan pointed out incisively: "The newly created middle-class wants to protect its own interests, which are basically contrary to the current Communist system." "The middle-class hates this system on one hand, but it will cooperate with this government in order to make money as this is where its interests lie. It uses money and materials to corrupt this government and it slowly brings about the social transformation." "It wants to develop through various means, mainly by using money to promote, change and smooth the ossified Communist system of bureaucracy. This caused the Communist government to be irretrievably corrupted. The money from the middle class caused the Communists to become corrupt. The more corrupt this government becomes, the greater the likelihood of social transformation. Once this newly created middle class obtains a certain economic position, there is hope for the right to know, the right to discuss political authority and the right to participate in government. This is the process of political democratization." But it can be said that these words reflect the political consequences of the creation of the middle class.
The most outstanding political consequence is that Comrade Jiang Zemin announced the Three Represents.
The undefined nature of the continuation of the authority within the Communist Party may be a cause of huge instability and chaos for society. The Jiang Zemin generation has basically solved this problem and its implications are tremendous. In terms of tenure, each team serves one and only one term. The rules are simple and clear, and it created a new model for the succesion of totalitarian power. It is more reasonable than inheritance by bloodline; it has lower social costs than democratic elections. This makes the direction of future political change in China and the mode of operation much more predictable.
Based upon the above analyses, we can come up with the following summary points:
1. From the lessons of the former Soviet Russia and eastern Europe, the Communist Party is more firm and clear about suppressing the opposition;
2. After forming alliances, the Communist Party has established a relatively stable international environment;
3. The continuous economic development has provided adequate resources for improving their ability to govern;
4. Under the pretext of "we won't argue," the Communist Party has actually totally abandoned their former ideology;
5. The Communist Party has become a political party that represents wealthy people and the social elite. This newly created middle class is the foundation of stability in Chinese society today;
6. The confirmation of their model for power succession has eliminated the concerns about their ability to maintain government.
It is said that the existence of something includes two aspects: the existence of the spirit and the existence of the body. Then, in terms of spirit, the Communist Party no longer exists. It is finished because it has killed itself. In terms of body, it is still there but without a soul. They can now speak of "being based on people" and "eight honors and eight shames", but most of these spiritual resources can be readily found in the governing philosophy of various Chinese rulers in history. In the predictable future, I do not see any likelihood for a sudden collapse of the Chinese Communists.