What is the Communist Party of China today on its 100th anniversary?
It has evolved since its founding from a proletarian party, part of an international workers movement, into a national, socialist party “building socialism in one country.” Deng Xiaoping famously noted the essence of the Chinese Communist Party when he described its mission as achieving socialism “with Chinese characteristics.”
The Marxism of its formative years, brought to China in part by some who had studied in France like Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, was domesticated and sinicized by Mao Zedong in the late 1930s using old Chinese ideological models of state and society. These ideational formulations were first advanced by Mozi (471-391 BCE) to justify a system of morally and politically totalitarian imperial rule and were later expounded in the 1300s in more overly religious terms by White Lotus sects insisting on purifying culture and society to please Heaven. Mao’s quasi-religious vision of the Party’s mission culminated in the Cultural Revolution.
National socialism was the branch of Marxism which grew out of the syndicalist labor organizations. Under Mussolini and Hitler, this variant of socialism took the form of corporatism with culture, society and economic productive forces all under the coordinated direction of the Party. These political programs imposing national discipline were marketed under the name of fascism.
As Hitler took the title “der Fuhrer,” similarly both Mao and his successor, Xi Jinping, were given the title of …. or “people’s leader.”
The “socialism with Chinese characteristics” promoted today by Xi and constituting the Chinese Communist Party’s program, at this time, recovers the recommendations for social justice advanced by Mozi. Just like Thomas Hobbes in England, Mozi sought to bring order to human civilization. His method, very similar to that proposed by Hobbes, was to subordinate all people under the direction of a ruler who looked to Heaven as a theocratic fountainhead of right.
Mozi’s vision of a theocracy, adopted and modified by other ancient Chinese thinkers such as Shang Yang, XunZi, Han Feizi and Li Ssu, was institutionalized as the Chinese imperial order with a lone Son of Heaven (Tian Zi) setting and enforcing rules and regulations for the Tian Xia or the “All-Under-Heaven” – literally everything and everyone on earth.
The establishment of such an order and its successive re-establishment by a new dynasty after the fall of a predecessor began in 221 BCE. The remarkable Chinese imperial system has continued to this day.
One can see in today’s Communist Party of China the recreation of that imperial order of late Bronze Age/early Iron Age invention emerging as a new turning of the dynastic cycle of founding, rise, apogee, decline, collapse, anarchy and civil war and then a new founding with the cycle then repeating itself.
The many Chinese dynasties were: Qin, Han, Sui, T’ang, Sung, Yuan, Ming and Ching.
We can gain a very important insight into the paradigm chosen by Xi for his party and country from a letter about his mother written recently by former Premier Wen Jiabao. Wen’s letter holds up a different set of Chinese characteristics – a righteous humanism – for the Party and for China.
Former Premier Wen points to an alternate set of deeply experienced Chinese ideals, those championed by Confucius and Mencius and, in other important ways, by Daoism and Buddhism. These philosophies expressly created Chinese “ethical characteristics,” placing a priority on individual virtue, on developing the humanness and righteousness (仁義) inherent in our moral sense as human persons and on having personal agency to live without state supervision. These individualized ethical standards can be applied to culture, society, politics and the economy, as the Chinese have done for 2,000 years.
The book containing the teachings of Mencius begins as follows:
Mencius went to see King Hui of Liang.
The King asked: “Venerable Sir, since you have not counted it far to come here, a distance of one thousand li, may I presume that you are provided with counsels to profit (利) my Kingdom?”
Mencius replied: “Why must your Majesty use that word “profit?” What I am provided with, are counsels to benevolence and righteousness (仁義) and these are my only topics.”
If your Majesty say, “What is to be done to profit my kingdom?” the great officers will say, “What is to be done to profit our families?” and the inferior officers and the common people will say, “What is to be done to profit our persons?” Superiors and inferiors will try to snatch this profit the one from the other and the kingdom will be endangered.
Let your Majesty also say, “Benevolence and righteousness (仁義) and let these be your only themes.”
Why must you use that word – “profit?” (Mencius, Bk 1, Part 1, Chapter 1)
Premier Wen’s elevation of humanness and righteousness aligns his vision of China and essential Chineseness with the Caux Round Table (CRT) Principles for Business and Principles for Government, not to mention the cognate CRT principles for civil society organizations and ownership of wealth.
If the Chinese Communist Party would follow Mencius, rather than Mozi, the Chinese people would be happy and prosperous and the world would be safer and more prosperous.
Premier Wen’s letter can no longer be found on the internet. All posts were removed in an act of, as we say in America, “cancel culture.” However, I have provided excerpts from his filial letter, along with a commentary, so that you can access the morality and thoughts of Premier Wen for yourself. The letter with commentary is here.