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    Greater China
     Oct 13, 2011

New leftists salute Wall Street brethren
By Wu Zhong, China Editor

HONG KONG - As the Occupy Wall Street protests targeting corporate greed and political corruption spread from coast to coast in the United States, China's new leftists - socialist critics of the country's capitalist-style economic reforms - are beginning to lend support, declaring the demonstrations as a "great revolution" that sounds the death-knell for capitalism throughout the world.

Supporters of the new leftists have staged street protests in at least two cities of Henan province, Luoyang and Zhengzhou, in the past few days to show their "firm support" for the "Great Wall Street Revolution".

The Occupy Wall Street campaign in the United States has spread from a single protest on Wall Street to more than 70 cities

including Los Angeles, Tampa and Portland, Oregon and Boston. Demonstrators, inspired by the Egyptian Tahrir Square uprising and anti-austerity rallies in Spain, have camped out in New York's financial district since September 17.

Chinese authorities seem to have closed their eyes to unauthorized public gatherings in Henan. In recent years, unauthorized street protests against social injustice have happened so often that China's propagandists have invented the face-saving term "mass incident" to describe a protest with 100 or more participants.

And when such a "mass incident" occurs, the authorities promptly mobilize heavy anti-riot forces to deal with it. Perhaps the demonstrations in support of the "great revolution" in the US caught Henan authorities so much by surprise that they did not know how to categorize it.

Since the Occupy Wall Street protest movement began, coverage by China's state-run media has largely remained neutral, reporting its development without much fuss.

However, new leftists who have in past two decades or so been sharply criticizing of what they call Beijing's pro-capitalist and pro-US policies apparently see the US protest movement as strong evidence in support of their faith.

On October 1 - China's National Day - blogger Sima Pingbang uploaded a lengthy article entitled "Support American People's Great Wall Street Revolution". It said events in the US herald a global revolution that will bury capitalism. [1]

Forty-two other new leftists including party elder Ma Bin, known scholars Zuo Dapei, Kong Qingdong and Han Deqiang, signed on to support Sima's article. But it immediately met harsh satirical criticism by netizens: "Sima - you must treat China and foreign countries equally, in your support of people's fights for their rights with peaceful means," said one. "Don't you see they can stage street demonstrations? They are much better than our country! So why are you making a fuss?"

Utopia, a flagship website of new leftists, opened a special page to discuss the "Wall Street Revolution" and the "Death of Capitalism".

Apparently incited by Sima's article, several hundred people in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of Henan, gathered in front of the city's Working People's Cultural Palace on October 6 to show their support for the Wall Street protests, Utopia said in a report. Quoting participants, the report said what happened in the US was proof that only socialism can save the world as it had saved China. "Chairman Mao passed away, but the internationalism he taught us is still with us," Utopia concluded. [2]

Based on Karl Marx's view that the "the proletariat cannot liberate itself without liberating the whole of humankind", Mao's internationalism holds that Chinese people must support anti-oppression movements worldwide. Mao used to organize massive demonstrations at Tiananmen Square and issued statements to show Chinese people's support for "revolutionary" movements across the world.

Then on October 8, an unknown number of people in Henan's Luoyang gathered at the city's Zhouwangcheng Square. Participants put up a big picture of Mao and displayed a huge banner with the slogan "To Staunchly Support American People's Great 'Wall Street' Revolution!" The wording of the slogan, obviously copied from the title of Sima's article, somehow reminds people of Mao's "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution".

Utopia said that participants condemned the US for instigating "color revolutions" in Middle East and North Africa, for trying to contain China after the collapse of the Soviet Union, supporting Japan to occupy the Diaoyu Islands (called Senkaku in Japan), for staging war games on South China Sea with Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as for selling weapons to Taiwan. [3]

From the photos on Utopia, participants in the Luoyang and Zhengzhou gatherings were mostly aged in their 50s or older. People in that age group are more nostalgic for Mao and his era of greater social equality, particularly as gaps in society widen today.

While the new leftists excitedly dub the Occupy Wall Street movement a "great revolution", there's little sound theory or evidence to back the claim.

In contrast, cool-minded Chinese scholars of the US point out that Occupy Wall Street can hardly be called a "revolution" as it is not politically motivated and lacks coherent goals, given that participants hold a variety of political positions. Tai Wenzhao, a senior research in Sino-US relations with Tsinghua University, holds that Occupy Wall Street should not be likened to the Arab Spring, because of the great differences in their root causes and backgrounds. Hence "movement" is a more proper word for the protests. This is despite expressions of concern among some scholars that if the movement lasts for long, it may end in riots such as those in Britain this year.

One may also add that the American people do not need a revolution, if revolution is defined as the replacement of a government through violent means, since every four years they get to choose their government through the ballot box. From this perspective, though hardly a revolution, Occupy Wall Street will have a profound impact on American politics as US politicians must appeal to voters in the 2012 presidential election campaign.

The new leftists have had a presence for more than two decades. But until recently, their activities were limited to writing articles critical of Beijing's policies and organizing forums to discuss current issues. Their voices have been largely ignored by most Chinese people, who support the capitalist-style reforms and opening up. Despite a raft of emerging difficulties, they feel they benefit more from reform than socialism.

With the street demonstrations in Zhengzhou and Luoyang, the new leftists no longer seem content to be verbal critics alone. In this way they hope to become a more assertive force in Chinese politics. This is happening in the run-up to next year's 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and as so, there is a suspicion that the new leftists may have gained support from a faction in the CCP that is maneuvering for a greater say in China's politics after the party leadership is reshuffled at the all-important congress.

For one thing, as is evident in Utopia articles, the new leftists hold in high esteem the efforts of Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai to restore Mao-style ideology and to seek "common prosperity" by helping the poor through a redistribution of social wealth. A column in Utopia holds that the success or failure of Bo's efforts concerns "the life and death" of CCP rule in China. Bo, a princeling, is expected to move up another rung to become a member of the party's Standing Committee of the Politburo.

If the influence of the new leftists really reaches the top CCP leadership, Beijing's approach toward reforms and opening would inevitably become more conservative, analysts say.

But right now, it seems the CCP and the government should be more concerned with the new leftists' campaign in support of Occupy Wall Street, since the movement is likely to draw Chinese people's attention to their own domestic problems.

For example, in reaction to Sima's article, many netizens are satirized the Zhengzhou and Luoyang supporters of Occupy Wall Street. "This is a naked intervention in another country's internal affairs," said one. And among other comments: "Oh, American people are living in an abyss of suffering and awaiting for our people in Henan to liberate them" or "it is sad to see people who have no say in affairs of their own country to bother about what happens in the United States!"

The implication between the lines is that it is clear what would happen in China if one day people launched a campaign to "occupy" financial districts of Jinrong Street in Beijing or Pudong in Shanghai. How would the Chinese authorities deal with such a "mass incident" - or "revolution", as the new leftists might call it?

It is a good thing to see that people in Zhengzhou and Luoyang can freely take to the streets to express their views, regardless of whether one agrees with them or not. But does every Chinese citizen have the right to such freedom?

1. Click here for Sima Pingbang's article (in Chinese).
2. Click here for Utopia's report (in Chinese) and photos about Zhengzhou demonstration.
3. Click here to see Utopia's report (in Chinese) and photos about Luoyang demonstration.

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