China: Beware Subversive Western Ideas

The CCP is in trouble. Unless it can stamp out seven dangerous Western-inspired trends that are already infecting the country the party’s power might be negated and the country thrown into chaos. This is a big story.

Communist Party cadres have filled meeting halls around China to hear a somber, secretive warning issued by senior leaders. Power could escape their grip, they have been told, unless the party eradicates seven subversive currents coursing through Chinese society.

These seven perils were enumerated in a memo, referred to as Document No. 9, that bears the unmistakable imprimatur of Xi Jinping, China’s new top leader. The first was “Western constitutional democracy”; others included promoting “universal values” of human rights, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civic participation, ardently pro-market “neo-liberalism,” and “nihilist” criticisms of the party’s traumatic past….

“Western forces hostile to China and dissidents within the country are still constantly infiltrating the ideological sphere,” says Document No. 9, the number given to it by the central party office that issued it in April….Opponents of one-party rule, it says, “have stirred up trouble about disclosing officials’ assets, using the Internet to fight corruption, media controls and other sensitive topics, to provoke discontent with the party and government.”

As the Times article says, these are not idle words. Already China is arresting more dissidents and stepping up its aggressive censorship of the Internet. Liberal Chinese intellectuals are crushed, having naively hoped Xi Jinping would usher in reforms and greater freedom of expression. I remember hoping exactly the same thing in 2003 when Hu Jintao took power, and I remember how painful it was when he almost immediately stepped up censorship and tighter controls across the board. “Mr. Xi has signaled a shift to a more conservative, traditional leftist stance with his ‘rectification’ campaign to ensure discipline and conspicuous attempts to defend the legacy of Mao Zedong.” So much for optimism.

I can’t really stress just how depressing this is. It means adherence to orthodoxy and a rejection of any open-mindedness toward even moderate reform. Read the article to see just how vitriolic (and paranoid) the language directed at constitutional government is, and how it implicitly and explicitly blames the West for all the perceived threats.

And it’s really as bad as it sounds. For example:

Staff members at the Southern Weekend newspaper there [Guangzhou] protested after a propaganda official rewrote an editorial celebrating constitutionalism — the idea that state and party power should be subject to a supreme law that prevents abuses and protects citizens’ rights.

The confrontation at the newspaper and campaign demanding that officials disclose their wealth alarmed leaders and helped galvanize them into issuing Document No. 9, said Professor Xiao, the historian. Indeed, senior central propaganda officials met to discuss the newspaper protest, among other issues, and called it a plot to subvert the party…

Everything’s a plot to subvert the party, and the West, as usual, is behind it. For anyone who’s been going easy on Xi during his honeymoon, this should serve as a brutal wake-up call. If the directive is rigorously carried out censorship and repression can only get worse.

I think the directive makes the Chinese leaders look awful — prickly, paranoid, insecure, reactionary and worse. But I also think they couldn’t care less. They have a country to hold onto, and if they perceive a threat to its grip on power it will go to any extent to tighten that grip. Read the article; it’s the most depressing thing I’ve read about China in many months.

Update: For a brilliant analysis of the directive and why it is such a bad move by the party go here.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 9 Comments

Some U.S. analysts are reading this as a tactical move by Xi to dampen leftist anger over Bo Xilai’s downfall and sweeten the pill of deeper economic reforms to come at the October plenum.

August 21, 2013 @ 8:30 am | Comment

As before, the Party will do as it will in order to maintain power.

Is there a viable alternative to the Party, however? No.

But only because the Party will not permit the existence of an alternative. And the argument just goes round and round.

Sigh.

Everything is a Western plot to destabilize China. The Cold War has never ended for the Party because they never wanted it to.

August 21, 2013 @ 8:54 am | Comment

No…they don’t have a country to hold onto. They have I’ll gotten wealth to hold onto. None of this is surprising and anyone…anyone…that held a sliver of enlightened hope with the ushering in of the Xi Era should smack themselves for their stupidity.

August 21, 2013 @ 9:40 am | Comment

I’m surprised they didn’t mention reality TV in their list.

August 21, 2013 @ 11:08 am | Comment

“These seven perils were enumerated in a memo, referred to as Document No. 9, that bears the unmistakable imprimatur of Xi Jinping, China’s new top leader. The first was “Western constitutional democracy”; others included promoting “universal values” of human rights, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civic participation, ardently pro-market “neo-liberalism,” and “nihilist” criticisms of the party’s traumatic past. “

“Neo-liberalism” here is the new one. As anyone who follows debate on the far-left knows, it’s become a pretty much meaningless term used by critics of free-market economics for any policies they don’t like.

It didn’t always mean this, of course. It was originally the name used by the Freiburg school of economics for their “Third Way” of a highly-regulated, limited free market economy (AKA the “Social Market Economy”). Latter it became used by critics of the Chicago school of economics as a name for their policies – this despite the fact that people like Milton Freidman never self-identified as “neo-liberals”. Nowadays definitions applied to it are indistinguishable from those for “capitalism” in general.

What it means in this case, though, is they likely won’t be too keen to introduce further free market reforms of the kind suggested by the IMF.

August 21, 2013 @ 1:29 pm | Comment

This is all very sad. Sad for the Chinese people, sad for the rest of the world, just a pity. But I suppose the bright side is that a few million CCP members will make enough booty in the next few years to keep the casinos in Macau humming along.

August 26, 2013 @ 9:11 am | Comment

“The confrontation at the newspaper and campaign demanding that officials disclose their wealth alarmed leaders and helped galvanize them into issuing Document No. 9, said Professor Xiao”

Didn’t the highly corrupt Grandpa Wen campaign for senior members of the Party to disclose their family fortunes?

(Great site by the way. just found it thanks to Hao Hao “R”)

August 30, 2013 @ 12:30 pm | Comment

Hi
I do not think that Everything is a plot to subvert the party. what do you imagine in the west it is different? Corruption also exist.

Xijinpin and Boxilai are ennemi and one fall down.

I agree that the directive of Xi is rigorously carried out censorship and repression

Funny but so true …
The directive makes the Chinese leaders look awful — prickly, paranoid, insecure, reactionary and worse.

September 2, 2013 @ 10:26 am | Comment

haven’t been to this site for ages but am so glad to see it’s still going strong…great post, although VERY depressing. i guess it could be one of those “two steps forwards one step back” kind of situation with this “Document number 9″ being a BIG step back.

let the cold war mentality (generation?) die and die soon for goodness’ sake. maybe we can all move on then.

“the west” as the enemy? retarded cynical dangerous propaganda

January 23, 2014 @ 10:20 pm | Comment

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