The new and challenging phase of the Chinese Communist Party – 03/09/2021 – Jaime Spitzcovsky

It is possible to imagine the solemn tone used, on Wednesday (1), by the leader of China, Xi Jinping, in a speech to students of the Central School of the Communist Party, temple of ideological formation of the new mandarins. “The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has entered a fundamental phase, and the risks and challenges we face are visibly growing,” he said.

The statement at the beginning of the semester, released by the state media, contributes to the understanding of Xi’s recent offensive, designed to increase partisan control over sectors as diverse as technology companies, educational institutions and the media. The volley responds to the regime’s main concern: how to stay in power, as Chinese society becomes more complex as a result of deepening economic reforms and the expansion of urbanization and the middle class.

It’s called the “Chinese paradox”. After the meteoric rise of the last 40 years, the perception of the inevitability of maintaining economic growth is reinforced in the party leadership, in the strategy supported by technological advances and the increase of the middle class, as Xi made clear in his speech at the Chinese CP congress in 2017 .

Obviously, Xi’s options are based on the idea of ​​regime maintenance, that is, modernizing China, but always under the iron hand of the CP. The paradox then becomes evident: while inevitable reforms redraw the economic and social scenario, making it more complex and challenging for the one-party system, the shackles increasingly tighten in search of controls, with tentacles of strategy permeating such worlds. as diverse as big techs, school curriculum and media.

Three phenomena in particular challenge the masters of the Central School and the CP strategists: expansions of the middle class, education —in particular higher education— and urbanization. When Mao Tse-tung’s revolution triumphed in 1949, less than 15% of Chinese lived in cities. The index jumped, in 2020, to 64%.

Back in Maoist orthodoxy, the mere idea of ​​the middle class represented “bourgeois and counter-revolutionary views.” Today, estimates vary, but it would not be an exaggeration to speak of around 500 million Chinese, out of a universe of 1.4 billion, as part of the consumer world. More urban, more consumers and with more access to education. Released in May, the last census revealed an increase, in ten years, in the rate of adults reaching university: from 8.9% to 15.4%.

The profound redesign of Chinese society and its challenges make the PC sleepy. Its leaders, while aware of the inevitability of the terrifying economic changes, sigh with nostalgia for the social landscape of the Maoist era, when the regime’s iron controls were more easily implemented.

And books like “The Gorbachev Phenomenon,” by historian Moshe Lewin, also light a wake-up call in the Chinese government. The work showed, as early as 1988, the structural changes in Soviet society implemented by the Kremlin itself and which would be some of the factors responsible for the disintegration of the USSR in 1991. According to Lewin, in the Gorbachev era (1985-91), the rate of urbanization reached 65%, while the share of adults with a university education more than quadrupled compared to 1960.

Despite historical and cultural differences, the Sino-Soviet comparison is inevitable. And enough to drive Xi Jinping to tighten political and social controls while maintaining economic change. All this to escape the fate of Mikhail Gorbachev.

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