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China’s top graft-buster delivers rare warning against sliding too far left

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 December, 2016, 7:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 December, 2016, 7:00am

The national graft-buster has delivered a rare warning about the country sliding too far ­towards the left – comments that analysts said suggested the leadership was aware of the dangers that extremism posed to its rule.

“During the course of ... strengthening party discipline ... one can have a dream but don’t be idealistic,” Wang Qishan said in a speech published in Communist Party journal Qiushi.

“The key point in guarding against ‘the left’ is to prevent an excess of [the left].”

He made the comments before hundreds of political advisers with the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in late October, days after the party wrapped up a key meeting of senior cadres.

The authorities have intensified censorship and tightened their grip over civil society in the past few years. A campaign that began in July last year swept up hundreds of rights lawyers, including many of the most prominent on the mainland. Although most have been ­released, four leading figures of the movement were jailed for up to 7 ½ years in August.

Meanwhile, the original editorial team behind political journal Yanhuang Chunqiu was ousted in July after a 25 years. Publisher Du Daozheng was sacked and replaced with a figure appointed by the party.

Political analysts said Wang’s speech pointed to a realisation by the leadership that a swing into the extreme would harm its ­legitimacy.

“What Wang has said may signify that the top leadership has realised that leaning too much to the left ... could adversely affect economic development,” said Chen Daoyin, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

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“In case the economy slows down rapidly, the legitimacy of the Communist Party’s rule could be placed under threat.”

Zhang Lifang, a Beijing-based political analyst, said Wang’s warning could signal the leadership was aware of the danger posed by spreading extreme leftist ideology in recent years and was considering making a course correction.

“The leftist-leaning atmosphere has triggered immense disappointment among quite a number of domestic political, financial and intellectual elites, which, in turn, can pose a threat to the regime,” Zhang said.

Wang’s comment is related to a famous saying that late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping made during a visit to the south 1992.

“Guard against the right, but guard primarily against the left,” Deng said.

Ching Cheong, a Hong Kong-based veteran China watcher, said that as the whole party was left wing by nature, what Deng opposed was nothing more than “the left” with a bracket on it.

“Wang’s remarks have effectively made a new category of ‘ultraleft’ which [the party cadres] oppose without question, but for time being they can tolerate ‘the left’ mentioned by Deng,” Ching said.

Meanwhile, Wang also revealed that two unnamed senior party members were absent from the key meeting in October because they had been held accountable for “systemic ­corruption” uncovered in an unnamed ­department.

The timing of the absences coincided with the sacking of Li Liguo, the minister of civil affairs, and the appointment of a former deputy anti-graft chief as the new head of the ministry.

Additional reporting by Kristin Huang