warns successors over 'peaceful
evolution' By Wu Zhong, China
HONG KONG - The Chinese Communist
Party (CCP) greeted 2012 by publicizing a speech
by its general secretary, President Hu Jintao that
called for effective measures against "ideological
and cultural infiltration" by "hostile forces".
Hu's remarks on cultural infiltration
appeared in a lengthy speech given to a party
plenum in October, with the unusually
toughly-worded rhetoric taking many in and outside
China by surprise. Some foreign media saw it as a
declaration of war against Western culture.
The speech reminded some Chinese
intellectuals of campaigns
against "(Western) spiritual
pollution" and "bourgeois liberalization" in the
1980s that eventually led to the Tiananmen
protests and subsequent crackdown in 1989. Some
have read Hu's statement as a signal that Beijing
will tighten ideological controls to suppress
Hu's speech was
published by Seeking Truth, the CCP's flagship
magazine run by the Central Party School, in its
first issue of 2012. The warning was contained in
the following text (translated and highlighted by
Internationally, a remarkable
feature of the competitiveness of a nation's
comprehensive strength is how prominent its
cultural status and role would be.
countries, especially big countries, all set as
an important strategy to strengthen their
cultural soft power. In today's world, as
exchange, integration and confrontation between
all kinds of thoughts and cultures become ever
increasingly frequent, whoever can take hold of
a cultural commanding point obtains strong
cultural soft power and thus will gain the
At the same time, we must
clearly see that international hostile forces
are stepping up their strategic attempts to
Westernize and divide our country, and
ideological and cultural fields are a focus of
their long-term infiltration. We must be clearly
aware of the seriousness and complicatedness of
struggles in ideological fields, always remain
alert and always heighten our vigilance, and
take effective countermeasures ...
This is perhaps the first time since
Hu took power nine years ago that he has openly
expressed Beijing's concern about a so-called
"peaceful evolution". The concept was formulated
during the Cold War by John Foster Dulles, former
US secretary of state, in the 1950s. It envisioned
a "peaceful" transition from autocracy or
dictatorship to democracy in a communist country.
Since the Mao Zedong-era, the CCP has
resisted a "peaceful evolution", viewing such a
transition as the biggest threat to its continuous
rule. For CCP leaders, nothing is more important
than safeguarding party rule. This is why led Deng
Xiaoping ordered People's Liberation Army troops
to evacuate Tiananmen Square in 1989. Hu is simply
reiterating the party line.
statement is read as a declaration of cultural
war, then obviously that war on China's part is
defensive. Hu's warning is directed domestically.
Having survived the "domino effect" of the
collapse of the former Soviet bloc in late 1980s
and early 1990s, the CCP was once again reminded
of the threat of "peaceful evolution" by the
Jasmine Revolution and last year's Arab Spring
movement in Middle East and North Africa.
After more than 30 years of
capitalist-style economic reforms, China has
become a more open society than ever before. The
CCP may also be finding it increasingly hard to
justify the legitimacy of its continuous rule as
calls for democratization become louder.
However, Hu's warning is better understood
against the backdrop of the CCP's 18th National
Congress, which when held later this year will
endorse a new central leadership.
It is a
long-term task for the CCP to fight against
"peaceful evolution". But Hu will step down as
party general secretary. So his statement could
also be read as: "During my tenure, I have
successfully safeguarded party rule against the
threat of 'peaceful evolution'. I hope the new
leadership will continue to do so."
CCP needs to maintain political and social
stability ahead of the 18th congress to ensure
that the power transition goes smoothly. It has
been reported that Beijing has ordered regions to
take all necessary measures to prevent any
incident from happening before and during the
congress that could cause instability.
Beijing has tightened Internet controls in
the name of curbing rumors - in the CCP's history,
rumors have always flown during a power
transition. In this regard, the party's secrecy
policy must take some blame. In the absence of
official information, people chase after hearsay.
But Beijing apparently believes that some rumors
will be deliberately fabricated overseas in an
attempt to influence the party congress.
Ahead of the congress, many
Chinese-language books have been published in Hong
Kong - and more are expected - about who will be
the new leaders and their background, or about
fierce power struggles among different factions.
Not many local residents are interested in reading
such books. Such publications mainly cater to the
taste of mainland Chinese visitors, who arrive in
their tens of thousands daily. Needless to say,
much of the writing is based speculation. But now
Chinese customs have stepped up checks to prevent
travelers from taking such books back to the
This is an example of how
Beijing has stepped up efforts to fight against
ideological and cultural infiltration by
"international hostile forces".
this, fears that Hu may launch a nationwide
campaign to tighten ideological control may not be
based on fact; times have changed.
many people, including party members, would be
interested in such a campaign nowadays. So it
would be hard for Hu to do it even if he wanted.
More importantly, he will step down as general
secretary some months later. It is unlikely he
would want to upset the political and social
atmosphere before his retirement, as any radical
change in major policy would be deemed
"unharmonious" for a smooth power transition.
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