November 12, 2012, by China Policy Institute

The Enduring Ideological Monism of the Chinese Communist Party

 By Giorgio Strafella.

In his last article on this blog, Dr Wang Zhengxu examines the coming changes in the CCP Constitution to prove the CCP’s “continuous evolution toward a normal, secular, governing party.” The current Party Constitution, dated 2002, does not include Hu Jintao’s contribution, “the Scientific Outlook on Development,” which will be added after “Deng Xiaoping Theory” and Jiang Zemin’s “Three Represents.” Deng, Jiang, and Hu’s formulas could be subsumed under the umbrella term “the System of Theories of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.”

Even though the Constitution has been amended several times to make room for new formulas, the primary source of ideological legitimacy of the CCP has remained Marxism. Whenever a new formula or theory is adopted, the CCP takes great pains to stress its adherence to Marxism. Therefore, this revision of the Party Constitution does not entail any intention to allow for a more democratic political system to emerge.

Crucially, the formulas do not constitute a set of tenets of the same value. They are introduced as mere derivations from Marxism — actually, as the best possible derivations for the Chinese context. Maoism, for instance, is celebrated for representing the correct application of Marxism to China’s situation. Deng Xiaoping Theory is officially described as “a great theoretical result of the Sinicisation of Marxism,” and so on. This also applies to key ideological slogans that are not included in the Constitution, such as Deng’s “Seeking Truth from Facts”. In 1992, the phrase became a code word for pragmatism in economic policy-making. Even such a basic proposition could not be officially used without justifying it vis-à-vis Marxism. A long article on the front page of Guangming Daily (10 July 1992), proclaimed: “Seeking Truth from Facts is the quintessence of Marxism.”

The same happens today with the addition of the Scientific Outlook. Hu did not present it as simply another “principle for managing economic and social issues”, but as a further distillation of Marxism. The General Secretary declared on 8 November: “The Scientific Outlook on Development was created by integrating Marxism with the reality of contemporary China and with the underlying features of our times, and it fully embodies the Marxist worldview on and methodology for development.” There would be no Scientific Outlook without Marxism, and the Outlook itself would lack legitimacy if Marxism were not accepted as the sole correct ideology. This is why new formulas could be summarized as “System of Theories,” but Marxism must remain untouched.

Hu Jintao added: “Firstly, we must strengthen ideals and beliefs and hold fast to the spiritual aspirations of a communist. The faith in Marxism and belief in Socialism and Communism represent the political soul of a communist, they are the spiritual mainstay that a communist relies on through every ordeal.” The use of “faith” and “belief” in this passage suggests an ideological disposition diametrically opposite to “secularisation.”

In the final analysis, the key to “democratization” is not the “secularisation” (or de-ideologisation) of the Communist Party, but the pluralist nature of the state. That is, not the demise of the CCP’s ideology, but the ability of the state to accommodate a plurality of ideologies. At the moment, the CCP remains a Marxist-Leninist party, which by nature is characterized by the ideological monism described above, no matter how hollow the references to Communism might sound. As long as a party so devoted to ideological monism owns the Chinese state, real pluralism within the state is impossible and the narrative of democratisation little more than an act of faith.

 Giorgio Strafella is a PhD Candidate of School of Contemporary Chinese Studies.

Opinions expressed in the CPI blog do not represent the views of the China Policy Institute or the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham. They are the personal views of the bloggers/authors.

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