Officials tout 'red culture' to cure woes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 December, 2010, 12:00am

The revolutionary legacy of the Communist Party has apparently gained more traction in mainland politics, with another senior official pledging his allegiance to the party's orthodox 'red culture'.

In a study session last week, Guangdong Communist Party boss Wang Yang said lessons drawn from the brutal civil war, which saw the defeat of Kuomintang forces by the communist army and the founding of the People's Republic, were still valid in tackling the mainland's mounting social and economic woes.

The remarks by Wang, a rising political star who has earned a name as a reformer, raised eyebrows. They were widely seen by political observers as following a growing political trend of promoting revolutionary culture on the mainland, which was started by one of his rivals in the next top party leadership reshuffle, Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai .

'The book The War of Liberation has underlined the imperatives of history that no other political force in the world can replace people's power,' Wang was quoted by several government-controlled newspapers in Guangdong as saying.

He was referring to the two-volume non-fiction epic of the 1945-49 civil war written by Wang Shuzeng and published last year by the People's Literature Publishing House.

'The only way to garner public support is through serving the people's interest and the only way to earn people's trust is to share happiness and sorrow with the people,' Wang said. He added that deteriorating ties between cadres and the masses have threatened the success of social and economic transformation.

Analysts said the timing of Wang's remarks on the legacy of the revolution was intriguing amid intense jockeying for power in the run-up to the next leadership succession at the party's 2012 congress.

Although both Wang and Bo are widely seen as strong contenders for seats on the Politburo Standing Committee, Wang has largely maintained a low profile while Bo has made little attempt to conceal his ambition for higher office with his maverick crusade against organised crime and his controversial campaign to resurrect Maoist revolutionary culture over the past few years. Bo has encouraged Chongqing citizens to write text messages praising the country or the city, or describing how they have been inspired, and officials named these 'red text messages'. China Central Television said that by October more than 120 million such texts had been sent.

In recent weeks, Bo appeared to have gained the upper hand in the contest, with Vice-President Xi Jinping voicing his endorsement this month for Bo's anti-mafia crackdown and his initiatives revisiting revolutionary legacies. Xi looks set to succeed President Hu Jintao in 2012.

Professor Zhang Ming , a political scientist at Renmin University, said that as the comeback of revolutionary culture has become a main feature of mainland politics under Hu, Wang, as a protege of Hu, had little choice but to follow the trend.

'It is a matter of political correctness,' Zhang said. 'Wang apparently wants to woo the top leadership by clarifying ambiguities on his allegiance, but he simply avoids using the same set of revolutionary rhetoric preached by Bo.'

Zhang noted that Wang, who advocated 'thought liberation' during his first months in Guangdong, also tried hard to draw a distinction between Bo and himself by highlighting his respect for the people and public opinion.

Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based political analyst, agreed that Wang's remarks were mainly aimed at enlisting support from old revolutionary cadres who still held considerable sway in the party's politics. 'Wang tries to learn from what Bo has done in Chongqing, but surely he won't admit it in public,' he said.

He said Wang has made similar remarks on learning lessons from revolutionary legacies in the past, especially the importance of rallying public support.

'The war of liberation is simply a pretext,' Hu said. 'What Wang is trying to convey is the people have enough strength to rewrite history and there is no alternative but to pay adequate attention to their voices.'

Many analysts blame the rising conflict between government and the people on the growing arrogance of party officials and their ignorance of public opinion.

Professor Yuan Weishi, a historian at Guangzhou's Sun Yat-sen University, said Wang made the right choice by placing priority on the readjustment of the relationship between government and the people, which has become a constant source of unrest. But whether Wang could deliver on his words remained to be seen, he said.

Zhang said the prevalence of revolutionary culture among officials was a worrying sign that the mainland's political environment had further deteriorated.




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