Academics' questions point to Communist Party divide over dogma
Party scholars raise series of agenda-setting questions, reflecting differing internal views on how to merge ideology with economic reality
The Communist Party must bridge ideological divides that are driving a wedge between its factions, party analysts have said ahead of a key meeting this month.
Academics at the Central Party School have raised eight ideological questions, the answers to which they say will be crucial to the direction of the country's development, according to a report by Shanghai Thinkers Forum, a theoretical journal run by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
The article was also posted on the People's Daily website.
The questions revolve around the need to maintain the traditional communist ideology as the party tries to establish a capitalist-style market economy.
The issues run from the contradictions between the tenets of socialism and market economics; to how to promote core socialist values; and the need to settle the theory of class struggle.
Question marks have also been raised over interpretations of Soviet-era Marxism, modern governance of state affairs, the role of market forces in resource distribution, the coexistence of Marxism and traditional Chinese culture, and the mechanics of a market economy under a centralised government.
The article comes as the party prepares for its fourth plenum in Beijing on October 20-23, a gathering expected to cover major political and ideological issues, including the rule of law and judicial reform.
The plenum will convene under the leadership of Xi Jinping who, in the two years since becoming general secretary, has launched both anti-corruption and ideological campaigns to "purify" the party to justify its sole rule of the world's most populous nation.
The ideological debate is reflected in the wrangle that two leading party publications - Qiushi (Seeking Truth), the party's theoretic journal, and the Study Times, a key product of the Central Party School - have engaged in over late leader chairman Mao Zedong's theory of class struggle.
Analysts said this rising debate highlighted the ideological dilemma the party had struggled with since the mainland embarked on market reforms 35 years ago.
"This is a very interesting debate. At the core is the Communist Party's difficulty in re-establishing its legitimacy as political and economic conditions change," said Professor Zhiqun Zhu, director of the China Institute at Bucknell University in the United States.
Zhu said the debate reflected deep divisions among party officials and scholars, disputes that could widen the party's internal gaps and create opposing political camps.
"It may also be conducive to redefining the party's very identity in the 21st century and lead to the transformation of the party [into one] that will become more politically open and tolerant."
Xigen Li, an associate professor at City University's department of media and communication, added: "The issue of ideological correctness and … reality is always a dilemma, which is difficult to resolve under China's current political system."
Li said the dilemma and the debates over the ideological issues would continue and have the benefit of bringing the issues to the table for those in power to face seriously.
"While ideological emancipation is the final solution - and the dilemma will exist for some time - at least some compromise could be made to solve compelling issues in economic development rationally and efficiently," Li said.