18th Party Congress

Communist Party to ease off on 'Mao thought'

A document outlining the way ahead is said to be missing references to the former leader's ideology in a bid to embrace modern themes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 3:38pm

A crucial document setting the Communist Party's direction for the next five years came to light yesterday after general secretary Hu Jintao convened a meeting of the elite Politburo.

The meeting by the 24-strong body will finalise the draft of a report to be submitted for approval by the central committee of the Communist Party, to be held on November 1, which will be the final preparation before the convening of the 18th party congress on November 8.

A dispatch from the meeting by Xinhua said the final report from the party's 17th national congress would make "plans and strategies on our country's reform and development from an all-round perspective".

While highlighting several guiding tenets of party doctrines by President Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin and Deng Xiaoping, one key term missing from the Xinhua report was "Mao Zedong thought", an absence that led some China watchers to wonder whether the party might be moving to play down the philosophy of its late patriarch in the 18th national party congress.

The ideas associated with the loosely defined term - such as class struggle, commune living and continuous revolution - seem ever more remote in modern China and party leaders have been under pressure to diminish them in the party constitution.

But the term retains significance as a founding party doctrine and Mao continues to be revered by many, a fact demonstrated by disgraced Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai's controversial campaign to revive "red" songs and culture.

"Bo's red campaign and his popularity for the endeavour might have triggered fear among some reform-minded leaders that Maoism might still be popular among those left in the cold in Deng Xiaoping's capitalistic economic reform," said Zhang Ming, a political scientist at Renmin University.

The details about the party congress report comes on the heels of a commentary last week by the party's main policy journal, Seeking Truth, calling for economic, political, cultural and social reform.

But Hong Kong-based political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said party leaders would not jettison Mao's philosophy.

"The Communist Party stresses much on inheritance of traditions," Lau said. "If it is allowed to take out Mao's thoughts just because there are some doubts, then one day, people may call for taking out the ideas of Deng and Jiang."

At its meeting in Beijing yesterday, the Politburo proposed amending the party constitution based on "important strategic ideas" that have arisen since the last party congress five years ago.

The agenda also included "other items", which analysts took to include issues related to Bo's removal from the party and the allocation of top party leadership posts after the congress convenes on November 8.

Every party congress has introduced changes to the constitution since 1982. The 2002 charter incorporated the "three represents" theory while the 2007 version included Hu's "scientific outlook on development".

Lau said the revised constitution was unlikely to include more of Hu's ideas.