'New left' scholar Hu Angang for strident defence of party line

Hu Angang target of widespread criticism after another defence of 'new left' position

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 August, 2013, 6:08am

Despite their long tradition of criticising Western systems of government, China's communist leaders from Deng Xiaoping to current President Xi Jinping have all acknowledged the need to reform the country's system one-party rule.

They point to the lack of checks and balances for widespread abuses of power and rampant corruption within the party.

But on several recent occasions, Hu Angang, a prominent Tsinghua University economics professor, has hailed China's current system is superior to those in West.

Hu, a leading member of the "new left", has again come under fire for his latest argument that China's current "collective leadership" was superior to the presidential system in the US. Last month, he triggered a wave of criticism for an article in the People's Daily describing Western-style governments as inferior to the "people's society" run by the Communist Party.

In an op-ed published on Friday in the Global Times, a hawkish tabloid affiliated with the People's Daily, Hu argued that China's collective leadership was a better system because, as a relative newcomer on the world stage, it was modern, up-to-date and innovative enough to deal with the complexities of the world today.

The US presidential system was mired in its rigidity because its founders could not foresee the fiercely competitive nature today's global politics.

"China's collective leadership with Chinese characteristics is highly suitable for China's basic national conditions and cultural background, highly suitable for its stage of development and social conditions, highly suitable for facing all kinds of tests and challenges at home and abroad, but is also conducive to creating China's miracles of development and governance," Hu wrote.

In contrast, the US gave too much power to the president, leaving the nation and its people vulnerable to his mistakes.

Analysts, meanwhile, said Hu's latest article was part of an ideological campaign launched by the conservative wing of the party. Debate on China's future direction has been intensifying ahead of a crucial party plenary session, at which the new leader Xi is expected to unveil his political agenda.

"The article is part of an ongoing campaign to promote what leaders say is 'confidence in our road, theory and system'," said Xigen Li, an associate professor at City University's department of media and communication.

Zhang Lifan, a political affairs analyst formerly with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "This article that runs counter to common knowledge suggests how eager some cadres are to preserve one-party rule."

Li said Hu resembled the hired scholars of Chinese dynasties "who often wrote to endorse official views".

"Just read the comments that the article has attracted online. Most people laugh their heads off when they read Hu's invented and fantastic ideas," Li said.

Many internet users reacted to Friday's article ridicule, scorn and sarcasm.

"The article is full of wit and humour," one internet user wrote. "It is an unrivalled work that should be shared by all readers under heaven," said another.

One online user found as many as 17 Chinese idioms that contain a Chinese character "hu", the author's surname, to form puns ridiculing the author. Their meanings ranged from "reckless concoction", "talk big", "mess things up", "ravings", "wild talk" and "run wild" to "sheer nonsense", "fabricate wild tales" and "act wildly in defiance of the law or public opinion".