A commentary carried on major mainland news portals yesterday hit out at advocates of Western-style political reform and warned that democracy would leave China in the same weakened state as it has Russia.
The commentary, which accused intellectuals of sowing seeds of unrest on social media, was posted on Xinhua's website amid growing calls for political reform. It comes as Communist Party leaders prepare for their annual conclave in Beidaihe to debate contentious policy issues.
"Public intellectuals have been creating rumours and negative news on Weibo to create an impression that China will collapse soon," it said. "They have been promoting European- and American-style capitalist constitutionalism. They have been fanning the public to hate the current leadership."
The article, which was signed Wang Xiaoshi, appears to have originated July 15 with post on a personal blog registered to someone by the same name. It was picked up by Xinhua's website and featured prominently on many news portals yesterday.
The piece warned that a Soviet-style collapse of the Communist Party would leave China poor, weak and miserable. It cited a series of statistics to illustrate how Russia has suffered from democracy the subsequent fall of the Soviet Union.
"The Soviet Union has disintegrated into fifteen separate countries and its gross domestic product has reduced by half overnight after the democratisation," the article said. "The once great power [became] a second- or third-class nation."
China would be even worse off, the writer warned, because it lacks Russia's plentiful natural resources. Russia has 40 times more oil and 193 times more natural gas, it said.
"What we can live on? And how many times we will be worse than [Russia]?" it asked.
Analysts said the article might reflect concern by some conservative officials ahead of a series of important high-level meetings, including the upcoming session of the Communist Party's Central Committee. It will be Xi Jinping's first since becoming party chief in November.
"I guess it proves that over two decades after the fall of the USSR China continues to be haunted by its fate and has never really had closure on why this happened and what it's real implications were for China," said Kerry Brown, of the University of Sydney's China Studies Centre. "The only consensus seems to be that, for the doctrine of Communism, this was a bad thing."