The Story of Two 20Th Communist Party Congresses

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The Hang Seng Index (HSI)–the main Hong Kong market index–hit a new low since 2009 after the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), although some Hong Kong observers predicted that the congress would have been good for the HSI in the short term.

The congress has many worrying signals. It resolved that the party constitution should explicitly state the “core position” of Xi Jinping in the party and its central committee, as well as the “guiding position” of Xi’s thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era. What is more, Xi was named “people’s leader” for the first time since Mao Zedong and Hua Guofeng. In other words, the CCP, which had vowed not to engage in a personal cult again after the Cultural Revolution, broke its own word on the excuse of “the common wish of the whole nation.”

The resurrected extreme leftism does not stop here. The concept of “struggle” was re-introduced, requiring party members to “develop the spirit of struggle, improve their struggle skills, and continuously seize new victories in the great struggle,” which is tantamount to giving legitimacy to wolf-warriors in both domestic and diplomatic affairs. The “great rejuvenation” will take the form of a new Cultural Revolution.

Moreover, the stress on “common prosperity,” meaning the mandatory dispossession of private property, and the forceful removal of ex-party secretary Hu Jintao during the congress allegedly because of his untimely flipping of the meeting documents, all point to Xi’s status as Mao Zedong in the 21st century.

It is interesting to note that there was another epoch-marking 20th national congress of the Soviet communist party. Convened in 1956, three years after the death of Stalin, the Soviet Union congress was well-known for its “secret report” by first secretary Khrushchev, who denounced Stalin and his personal cult and promoted the peaceful coexistence of capitalism and communism. Not all agreed with Khrushchev’s reform ideas, and some members of the communist bloc, like China, branded him as a revisionist. Mao ordered the party to dig deeper into the roots of revisionism, resulting in the tragedy of the Cultural Revolution.

Besides the Cultural Revolution, the Soviet Union’s 20th congress also had historical relevance to China’s 20th congress. We should discuss this connection through Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union. Opinions about him differ. Whereas the west tends to praise him for his reform policy that led to the liberalization of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, which won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, the CCP sees him as a threat to communism, as his reform was a harbinger of the Soviet Union’s demise. The CCP took one step further by linking Gorbachev to Khrushchev. The story of Yakovlev, the “godfather of glasnost,” is always cited. He was well-versed in the Marxist-Leninist classics and considered such dogmas “getting dimmer and dimmer every year.” He attended the 20th congress of the Soviet Union communist party and considered Khrushchev’s report decisive in correcting wrong perceptions. As a result, Gorbachev and his reform fellows were perceived to be a continuation of Khrushchev’s “wrong policy” that began at the 20th congress, leading to the demise of the first communist regime in human history.

The fall of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe after the June Fourth massacre led the CCP to intensify its ideological work to prevent China from becoming another Soviet Union. In other words, its worry arising from “revisionism” rooted in the Soviet Union’s 20th congress still haunts the CCP after the Cultural Revolution, and this is the real cause behind the coming of another Cultural Revolution. This explains the statement in Xi’s report of the 20th congress that “the Party will never change its quality, color, and impression,” the party’s denunciation of universal values, and its necessary struggle against “historical nihilism” (which highlights the importance of upholding “correct” history that affirms the party’s leadership).

As a Hongkonger, my question is: how should Hongkongers survive in this tough time of renewed leftist struggles? The ways acceptable to the regime include “praise the great leader” (like chief executive John Li Ka-chiu who said that every word of Xi Jinping is a treasure) and “act like a wolf-warrior” (like deputy chief secretary Warner Cheuk Wing-hing who wrote passionate Facebook posts). Anything beyond these may risk infringing the national security law.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Hans Yeung

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Hans Yeung is a former manager at the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, specializing in history assessment. He is also a historian specializing in modern Hong Kong and Chinese history. He is the producer and host of programs on Hong Kong history and a columnist for independent media. He now lives in the UK with his family. Email: hku313@gmail.com



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