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Home  /  Inside China  /  Communist Party censorship against Communism and the different implications of Maoism
Communist Party censorship against Communism and the different implications of Maoism print version
Recent events in Chongqing and the secretive dismissal of Bo Xilai have created a landscape where Maoism has become a target of suppression by the Chinese leadership.
Censorship and authoritativeness measures implemented by the Chinese government are in many aspects a continuation of the state power exercised during the Mao years (1949-1976). Although the days of severe suppression, which reached their peak during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), are distant past, the Communist Party is still at the driver's seat. The CP has a constant potential to limit economical reforms, carry out immediate policies, mobilize the army and censor information.

The Chinese leadership regards the Maoist past in an ambivalent way, emphasizing the importance of modern economical reforms while still appreciating the legacy of Mao Zedong and the communist revolution. The targets of censorship and aggressive suppression are most often voices that call for democratization and undermine the communist foundation. Since the spirit of Maoism does still exist in symbols and slogans, and furthermore, since Mao was the pioneer of modern censorship and political authoritativeness, it is ironic and almost unthinkable that Mao supporters can also be the oppressed side, as it is happening in Chongqing of the last weeks.

Disputes within the Communist Party have always existed, but the conservative anti-reform side was normally the one encouraging suppression of rivals more than the other way around. Except for historical facts, the Chinese public and foreign observers see censorship and suppression as an extension of Maoism. Many people are surprised by the suspicion that the Chinese leadership is now expressing towards Maoism, while tall Mao statues still stand at the gates of every second public institution in China.

Focusing on Chongqing, the latest drama began after the escape (and later the detainment) of deputy mayor and chief of police Wang Lijun. Secretary of the CP in Chongqing, Bo Xilai was dismissed from his post by the central leadership shortly after and at present there is still no official reports on this matter.

Observers found this development surprising; in the last few years Chongqing is developing economically and Bo Xilai succeeded in his extensive battle against corruption in the city. The local government is widely incorporating 'red' themes, both in policies and in symbols (encouraging the elderly to sing patriotic Maoist songs at the local parks). Things seem to prosper and ambitious Bo Xilai, the son of former Maoist pioneer Bo Yibo, was a promising candidate to become one of the nine members of China's Politburo Standing Committee in the coming autumn.

However, Bo's ambition has also put him in political risk, in light of the concern of the leadership regarding the upcoming season of political changes. Bo's Maoist views and his yearning for the Cultural Revolution days have put him in a potential clash with the central leadership. A behavior that is good for Chongqing can become politically dangerous when starting the quest for an office in Beijing. A day before Bo Xilai's dismissal, premier Wen Jiabao carried a speech about the importance of deepening the economic reforms and striding forward from the Cultural Revolution days. The timing was hardy coincidental and Bo was indirectly labeled as a potential threat to China's progress.

boxilai_chongqing_494
Shortly after the dismissal of Bo Xilai, new signs were installed in parks in Chongqing, asking people to avoid from singing patriotic songs in order not to disturb the neighbors. This symbolic request is a very dramatic shift from the Maoist activities that Bo had been promoting during his post in Chongqing.


Additional details of the plot are currently still very vague. Rumors mention the abrupt deterioration of the relationship between Bo and Wang Lijun, the possibility that Bo's family was under investigation and even evidence that Bo was organizing his private army.

Theories are countless, but what is clear is that in 2012, economic reforms are not only branches of action extending from a socialist framework, but rather a default agenda which corresponds to the interests of many powerful personnel in and outside the CP. While Maoist themes and symbols still decorate every CP event, there seem to be an immense difference between referring to Mao as a force that legitimizes the current leadership and looking up to Mao in order to criticize the permissiveness of the current leaders. According to the Chinese leadership, Mao is necessary to affix the CP position once in a while and ascertain its limitless authority, but when Maoism is used for possible coup attempts, then 'red' needs to make room for the 'greens'. This incident is not expected to change the usage of such symbols dramatically, but it does put more weight of suspicion on the Maoist aficionados.

The forces working in the Chinese political realm and the different agendas that try to guide China's development are complex and dynamic. Latest oppression of Maoism in Chongqing illustrates that the power of the Chinese leadership is exercised against any political threat, regardless whether such danger criticizes the CP legacy and calls for democratization or if it actually supports the past communist dictatorship. Another conclusion is that while many communist symbols have not changed throughout the last decades, the economic and political position of the Communist Party has developed significantly. The element that still stands firm is the authoritative exercise of power.

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