Could Xi Jinping become another Mao Zedong?

Source article in Chinese:  以毛式铁腕捍卫权贵资本主义——习近平的执政蓝图(一)
By He Qinglian on May 14, 2013.

It's been over a half year since Xi Jinping began his reign. The ruling blueprint he has is very clear: he sees as his political mission acting as a “guardian of the Red Regime”. Facing the facts, even the most tenacious dreamers found it hard to continue their argument that Xi Jinping would engage in the so-called “great cause of political democratization reform”. 

“Document no. 9”.

Recently, a “Briefing on the current state of ideological sphere”, issued by the General Office of the CPC Central Committee, is being circulated on the internet. Since the file number of that document is “GO-2013-9”, it is known as “document no. 9” for short. Allegedly the document has already been distributed to the county and regiment levels; in Chongqing, Jilin and other provinces and cities there are reports about studying of “document no.9”.

The document stated that:—

The core purpose of promoting universal values is to eradicate the leadership of the Party, forcing the Party to make concessions;
The proposition of “civil society” seeks to create new political force outside of the basic level of Party organizations; the ideals of “new liberalism” oppose macroeconomic regulation and control by the state;
To advocate “Western journalistic concepts” is to reject the “mouthpiece theory” that the Party has always adhered to, and is an attempt to rid the Party’s leadership of the media, to launch the “Glasnost policy” that the Soviet Union implemented when it carried out reform, and to bring chaos to the Party and society by bringing chaos to the public opinion;
The key thing about “historical nihilism” is that it targets historical problems under the leadership of the Party, refuting the facts that people have generally accepted;
The marked feature [of historical nihilism] is its strong disparagement of and attack on Mao Zedong and Mao’s thoughts, negating altogether the historical role played by the CPC under Mao’s leadership. The aim of this is to weaken or even subvert the legitimacy of the Party’s leadership; and
The various sayings distorting reform and opening up argue that bureaucratic bourgeoisie and state capitalism emerged during the process, that China’s reform is not thorough, that only by initiating political reform could the economic reform be improved, so on and so forth.

The “seven don't speaks” that are circulated wildly on the Internet and confirmed by several intellectuals is in fact a condensed version of “document no.9”. The [Party] Central ordered high school teachers not to touch the “seven banned topics”, including universal values, freedom of the press, civil society, civil rights, historical mistakes of the Party, the privileged bourgeoisie, and the independence of the judiciary.

Encompassing the spirit of “document no.9”, Guangming Daily published an article stressing Xi Jinping’s remarks that “the historical period after reform and opening up must not be used to negate the historical period before that; and the historical period before reform and opening up must not be used to negate the historical period after that, either” and placed a special emphasis on Xi’s another remark: “How can our Party stand if Mao Zedong were negated at that time? If the Party cannot stand, all hell will break loose.”

At the same time, the Chinese government prepares to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong with a host of activities.

To this point, Xi Jinping’s ruling blueprint has been shown clearly, all that is left is the step-by-step implementation. This blueprint demonstrates Xi’s determination to honor Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

Seeing Mao as a master, Xi wants to learn from him the way of forceful domination by a single supreme authority; in following in Deng's footsteps, Xi intends to inherit his spirit of “state opportunism”, and to preserve and carry forward the “fruits of reform” from the Deng era: bureaucratic bourgeoisie, state capitalism, and macroeconomic regulation and control by the state, which in fact is the CPC's ability to control national resources.

Could Xi Jinping become another Mao Zedong?

I've never doubted the determination Xi has to become a “guardian of the red regime”, I only have considerable reservations about his fortune and ability to do so. I will first look at his fortune, that is, whether or not Xi Jinping could re-establish the stupefying politics that Mao did under the conditions of a closed-door policy.

The most outstanding feature of Mao’s rule was the “three monopolies”: the monopoly of power, the monopoly of resources, and the monopoly of truth (which changed into the monopoly of public opinion in Deng’s era) made possible by "gun barrels" and "facile writers".

But, unlike the Hu-Wen era that swords are drawn and standoffs between the police and the people are frequently seen, the role of the “gun barrels” in the Mao era was chiefly a deterrent only.

Mao's ability of not using the troops inside the country easily came with a premise that the thought of all the Party, all the military, and all the people was strictly controlled and that the populace obeyed him consciously.

That Mao was able to build a stupefying rule with an iron fist like this could be attributed to his supreme authority inside the Party obtained through the establishment of the regime, the hierarchy of benefit sharing within the Party; and the closed societal environment all across China as the country’s door was shut to the outside world.

The way the mind of the masses across the country was molded back in the Mao era was by the Party’s control of information dissemination vehicles, “the two dailies and one magazine” (the People’s Daily, the PLA Daily, and Red Flag Magazine) and the Central People's Broadcasting Station. The main function of these mouthpiece vehicles was to “convey the voice of Chairman Mao and the Party Central”. Cadres had access to a slightly bigger number of sources of information. Depending on their ranks, cadres could read Cankao Xiaoxi (“Reference News”), and various other internal materials that were for their eyes only. Those daring individuals who listened to the Voice of America, the Radio Peace and Progress of Moscow and radio stations from Taiwan and Hong Kong would be considered listening to radio stations of the enemies. Once caught, they would be given three years or heavier sentences.

Young people who spontaneously organized groups to study Marxism and Leninism were also considered “committing crimes”; some of the people I knew quite well were given a heavy sentence of ten years on the charge of “counter-revolutionary crimes” because of this.

Thus it could be said that the rigorous political and social control, the strict information blockade, coupled with high political pressure and an undereducated public created the conditions for Mao's success in establishing his stupefying reign.

Although Xi Jinping is the current leader of the CPC, he does not have the various conditions that enabled Mao to rule with an iron fist.

To begin with, the closed societal environment exists no more. The policy of opening up is highly incompatible with information blockade and thought control.

Back in those years Deng Xiaoping intended to savor only the fruits of economic opening up, and attempted to shut out cultural values of the West. However, whether it was the “Anti-Spiritual Pollution campaign” or the “Anti-Bourgeois Liberalization campaign”, all such efforts failed in the end.

During the Jiang and Hu eras, despite the CPC persistently making every effort to rein in the media, they became harder to control as the world entered the age of the Internet and technologies are constantly being updated. Even in the conventional media outlets, the CPC was finding it difficult to keep the sole uncontested supreme authority of the Party's voice.

With all kinds of information penetrating in people's daily lives like floods, even if there is an information gap between different groups of Chinese people whose perception of the world differ owing to the varying depths and breadths of information they have access to respectively, depending on whether or not they use the Internet and if they are able to climb over the Great Firewall, it is no longer possible for the CPC to continue its stupefying rule that makes all the country believe only in mainstream thoughts and allows one single voice to exist inside and outside the Party.

In his later years, Mao was in fact aware that those who privately disagreed with him were by no means limited to a minority, his divine status had long been like a castle in the sand that would fall apart in a matter of time.

Less than a month after his death, a high-level coup against the “Gang of Four”, of which his wife Jiang Qing is a member took place. From then on, Mao's supreme status tumbled.

At the time when Xi Jinping took over, the Red belief that was established in the Mao era was long gone. The CPC holds on to its rule solely by benefit distribution within the Party. The “bread contract” between the ruler and the people covers less and less in scope; and the emergence of the rigid “stability maintenance” system shows that the CPC has long ceased continuing its rule by obtaining the people's trust and approval and relies only on violent coercion.

Xi Jinping's authority comes not from his past merits or ability but from his three supreme titles in the Party, the government, and the military. As early back on the eve of his accession, foreign journalists raised a question: Apart from the resume of level-by-level promotion in local authorities, Xi Jinping's achievement records were chiefly that he had been to each and every of the subordinate counties and cities, and nothing else. What quality does he have that would make others obey him?

Zhongguo Xinwen Zhoukan (“China News Weekly”) published an article asking why did Emperor Qianlong pass the throne on to the mediocre Jiaqing? It read "Emperor Jiaqing was a man of integrity and diligence, yet he had few accomplishments when it came to governing the country. The most noticeable characters of Emperor Jiaqing were his lack of tactics and his mediocrity."

This old article, dated July 13, 2012, has been in circulation on Weibo recently. Many simply said that it alluded to “the current emperor”.

Throughout human history, there have not been any happy endings for dictators who ruled with violence and lies. The endings for Nicolae Ceausescu and Muammar Gaddafi were among the most tragic.

Xi Jinping's intention to maintain the crony capitalism that took shape between the Deng, Jiang, and Hu eras with the Maoist iron fist is but a wishful thinking, I'm afraid.

He worships Mao, and yet he has not the same authority and the conditions of times like Mao did; he admires Vladimir Putin, and he has not the foundation of resources (coupled with the opportunity of rising international energy prices) that Putin relies on to expand his power.

Under such circumstances, Xi could only rely on violence and lies to maintain CPC's grip on power. In today's China, with the various intensifying social conflicts, how likely would this ruling blueprint of Xi Jinping be successful at all?