Ideological work in the new era of socialism in China

We are pleased to publish this important and well-researched article by Gabriel Martinez on ideological work and struggle in China since the beginning of ‘reform and opening up’ at the end of the 1970s. Gabriel is a postgraduate student from Brazil, currently finishing his studies in Marxist Philosophy at Beijing Normal University. He has lived in China for the last five years.

He notes that the important changes in the country’s economic sphere have been accompanied by a series of ideological changes, with both positive and negative aspects and bringing new challenges for the development of socialism in China. Noting the emergence of a trend of bourgeois liberalization, the author stresses that this has always been opposed by successive generations of Chinese leaders. “However, while recognizing that the Party has always called attention to the need to strengthen ideological work, one cannot fail to recognize that Xi Jinping’s coming to power represents a turning point in the Communist Party of China’s political line… Xi Jinping has been paying close attention to this problem, aiming to restore and consolidate the authority and leading role occupied by Marxism as the theoretical basis guiding socialist construction and modernization in China.”

Analyzing the effects of the existence of capitalist relations of production in the primary stage of socialism on the ideological sphere, Gabriel notes that “it is necessary, therefore, to differentiate between what are the positive effects that capitalist private property can create for the development of the productive forces, from what is the ideology it inevitably produces, and the negative effects generated by capitalist relations of production in the most varied domains of social life.”

A great deal of other important material is covered in the article, which we consider well worth careful study and discussion. It was previously published in Chinese on the website of Kunlunce, a Chinese think tank that publishes articles by Marxist professors and researchers, and in Portuguese on the website Resistencia, which is associated with the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB).

The Reform and Opening policy, initiated by the Communist Party of China in 1978, has produced important transformations in the economic sphere of the country. The transformation in the structure of property, little by little, caused the basic structure of property relations in the country to change to a system where the state public economy was considered its backbone, but coexisting with multiple forms of property, which exist and develop together (including domestic and foreign private property). These transformations were accompanied by a series of ideological changes, changes that have an influence on the most varied sectors of social life. This influence can be seen in the way of life of the population, in the economy, in culture, in the arts, and also in politics. Chinese society, from an ideological point of view, has become more “diversified”, and such diversification, obviously, not only has positive aspects, but also produces negative consequences and brings new challenges for the development of socialism in China. In this article I will try to outline some aspects of the formulations of the Communist Party of China on ideological work and how this work is acquiring a new role in China led by Xi Jinping.

The struggle against bourgeois liberalization in the new era of socialism

After the beginning of the reforms, an ideological trend emerged in China called “bourgeois liberalization. The phenomenon of bourgeois liberalization, to this day, exerts a pernicious influence on China’s development process and the building of a socialist culture. How does the Communist Party define this liberalization? According to Deng Xiaoping:

Since the fall of the Gang of Four an ideological trend that we call bourgeois liberalization has emerged. Its exponents idolize the “democracy” and “freedom” of Western capitalist countries and reject socialism. This cannot be tolerated. China must modernize, but she must not promote liberalization or take the capitalist path, as Western countries have done. [1]

Deng Xiaoping’s quotation clearly shows us that, from the very beginning, the problem of bourgeois liberalization has always been the object of attention by the leaders of the Communist Party of China. Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yun, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, etc., dealt with this problem several times. However, it is not wrong to say that over the years, far from being solved, it still exists and exerts considerable influence. Faced with the new political line approved after the 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the CCP held in 1978, which established a break with the previous line of “taking class struggle as the main link,” placing economic construction and socialist modernization at the center of the Party’s activity, a very active political tendency arose, which defended the idea that besides reforms in the economic sphere, it was also necessary to carry out reforms of a political nature, calling for more “democracy” and “freedom. This ideological current became quite politically active, especially from the 1980s onwards, seeking to divert the Reform and Opening from its original path and direction of perfecting the socialist system, to the path of restoring capitalism and the bourgeois-type political system, as happened in the Soviet Union.

At first, especially among intellectual circles, an anti-Mao Zedong wave swept the country, leading to an open contestation of the resolutions presented by the CCP in its historic document On Some Problems in the History of Our Party from the Founding of the PRC to the Present Day in 1981. The document, while stating that Mao Zedong made some mistakes at the end of his life, is quite clear in its recognition and exaltation of the Chinese leader’s historical role in the history of Party and Republic building. The document clearly states that Mao Zedong’s successes far outweigh his mistakes. Says the resolution:

Comrade Mao Zedong was a great Marxist and a great proletarian revolutionary, strategist and theoretician. It is true that he made serious mistakes during the “cultural revolution,” but if we judge his activities as a whole, his contributions to the Chinese revolution arguably outweigh his mistakes. His merits are of the first order and his mistakes of the second order. He rendered invaluable service in founding and building our Party and the People’s Liberation Army of China, winning victory for the cause of liberating the Chinese people, founding the People’s Republic of China, and advancing our socialist cause. He made great contributions to the liberation of the oppressed nations of the world and the progress of humanity. [2]

The advocates of bourgeois liberalization, taking advantage of the debates started all over the country on how to evaluate the first thirty years of China’s socialist construction process, used it as an excuse to put forward their anti-communist ideas. The problem of bourgeois liberalization reached alarming levels and ended up resulting in the counter-revolutionary riots of 1989, showing that even though the Party had carried out campaigns to fight the so-called “spiritual pollution”, at that time, several mistakes and failures were committed by the Party in terms of the way it conducted the work of political and ideological education of the Party cadres, and of the population in general. Such a mistake was recognized by Deng Xiaoping himself, who stated at that time, “Our most serious mistake was in education – we did not provide enough education for the youth, including the students.” [3]

The founding leaders of the People’s Republic of China have always paid great attention to the problem of ideological education. Mao Zedong, in the classic work How to Correctly Solve the Contradiction Among the People draws attention to the protracted character of the ideological struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. According to Mao Zedong:

A long period is still needed to decide the outcome of the ideological struggle waged in our country between socialism and capitalism, since the influence of the bourgeoisie and the intellectuals who come from the old society will persist in China for a long time as a class ideology. If we do not understand this situation well, or if we do not understand it fully, we run the risk of making the gravest of mistakes, that of ignoring the need to conduct the struggle on the ideological plane. [4]

The CCP has over the years developed a very consistent ideological political line to deal with the problem of bourgeois liberalization. Jiang Zemin, for example, stated, “The practice of ideological work confirms that if proletarian thought does not occupy its position, it will be occupied by non-proletarian thoughts. We must pay attention and learn from these lessons.” [5]

However, while recognizing that the Party has always called attention to the need to strengthen ideological work, one cannot fail to recognize that Xi Jinping’s coming to power represents a turning point in the Communist Party of China’s political line. Particularly important for us to understand the political and ideological content of Xi Jinping’s thinking is the analysis of his speech delivered at a conference on propaganda and ideological work on August 19, 2013. In this speech, while remaining faithful to the principles established by previous leaders (Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao), Xi Jinping advances important reflections and formulations on how to develop political and ideological work in China. Although at that time the Communist Party of China had not yet coined the term “new era of socialism,” it is clear that the ideas contained in this important document are the compass that will guide the Party in what they call the “new era of socialism,” an era that officially begins as of the holding of the 19th Congress, held in 2017. In this speech, Xi Jinping says:

Economic construction is the central work of the Party, ideological work is extremely important work of the Party. Everyone clearly understands the positions of both areas of work, but in some localities and departments, it is clear that there is the phenomenon that in words the importance of both aspects of work is recognized, but there is no clarity when it comes to applying this principle. Doing the ideological and propaganda work requires that, first of all, this problem be solved. [6]

Economic construction of the country is still the central work of the entire Party. This important definition, first put forward during the 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Communist Party of China in 1978, starts from the understanding that China, being a still backward country (especially when compared to the developed emphasising central capitalist countries), needs to put economic construction and the promotion of the development of the productive forces at the center of its attention. As Marxist economist Zhou Xincheng recognizes, establishing economic construction as the central work is “the result of the main contradiction of society,” so it cannot be understood as a subjective decision. [7] In emphasizing that ideological work is an “extremely important work”, Xi Jinping calls attention to the need for the entire Party to have a correct understanding of this work, recognizing that in many respects it has not been correctly performed, and has even been neglected.

Wang Qishan, current Vice President of the People’s Republic of China and a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China, in an article published in the People’s Daily, emphasized that Xi Jinping has “clarified confused ideas, recovering lost positions, reversing the wrong path, establishing the authority of the Central Committee, basically reversing the situation of weakening Party leadership.” [8]

The statements made by Wang Qishan are a recognition, by a senior Party and government leader, that many things need to be corrected if the cause of socialism in China is to continue advancing along a correct path. The weakening of the Party leadership is something that is closely related to ideological and educational work. Ideological work is precisely one of the main fronts on which the Party must exercise its leadership role, making sure that the mistakes made in this area are rectified, and the cause of socialism in China continues to advance in a healthy way. Ideological work, being a “work of utmost importance,” cannot be neglected under the excuse that “developing the economy” is the central aspect of Party work. As former leader Chen Yun stated:

If we promote socialist material progress and not socialist cultural and ideological progress at the same time, we will deviate from the correct path. If institutions or leading cadres forget or slow down their efforts to build socialist civilization, culturally and ideologically, they will not be able to do a good job in building socialist civilization materially and will even turn away from socialist and communist ideals. This is very dangerous. [9]

In this sense, the events in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are the most concrete example of what are the results produced by the underestimation of political and ideological work, as well as of a mistaken political line, in which the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, especially after the death of Josef Stalin, began to gradually distance itself from Marxism-Leninism. To illustrate with an example: American professor David Kotz, in an article where he recounts his experience in the Soviet Union, talks about an episode where he allegedly asked an official if he was a member of the Communist Party. According to Kotz, the officer replied, “Yes, I am a member of the Communist Party, but I am not a Communist. [10]

Experiences such as those reported by Professor David Kotz help us to understand what was the internal ideological environment prevailing in the PCUS and in Soviet society itself, already on the eve of its dissolution. The Soviet example should also serve as a lesson for the Chinese Communists, since this phenomenon is not uncommon in country either. Here we are facing a problem closely related to the question of political and ideological convictions that should guide the activity and action of Party members. As for this problem, the Chinese have been aware of its existence from the moment it began to manifest itself in an acute way.

Thus, the reasons that made the dissolution of the Soviet Union possible are the subject of constant reflection by the leaders of the CCP. Xi Jinping also went so far as to explicitly refer to the Soviet example to issue a warning to the CCP. According to Xi Jinping, by starting with the denial of Lenin and Stalin, the Soviet Union embarked on the path of historical nihilism, something that prepared the ideological ground for the justification of the “peaceful evolution” from socialism to capitalism. According to Xi Jinping:

Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party fall from power? One important reason was that the struggle in the field of ideology was extremely intense, completely denying the history of the Soviet Union, denying the history of the Soviet Communist Party, denying Lenin, denying Stalin, creating historical nihilism and muddled thinking. Party organs at all levels had lost their functions, the military was no longer under Party leadership. In the end, the Soviet Communist Party, a great party, dispersed, the Soviet Union, a great socialist country, disintegrated. [11]

It was on the ideological terrain and the lack of vigilance in the face of forces hostile to socialism that the Soviet Union was defeated. Mao Zedong, many years earlier, analyzing the importance of ideology in the process of seizing political power, whether from revolutionary or reactionary classes, stated: “Anyone who wants to overthrow a political regime must first create public opinion and do some ideological preparatory work. This goes for the counter-revolutionary classes as well as the revolutionary classes.” [12]

As soon as this problem appeared before the socialist camp and the Communist Parties, the Communist Party of China was in the front line of its denunciation, going on to develop a constant ideological struggle against the revisionist ideas which were propagated by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, ideas which in practice contributed to the strategy being put forward by US imperialism. However, especially after the beginning of the Reform and Opening, at various levels the Party let down its guard in the face of the danger of peaceful evolution, which gave free course to the strengthening of imperialist cultural influence and the propagation of bourgeois liberalization. The anti-communist protests, which peaked in 1989 in the events in Tiananmen Square, prove such a thesis. Deng Xiaoping himself, commenting on the end of the Cold War and the general crisis of the socialist camp, recognized that:

It seems that one Cold War has come to an end, but that two others have already begun: one is being waged against all the countries of the South and the Third World, and the other against socialism. The Western countries are staging a third world war without firearms. By this I mean that they want to promote the peaceful evolution of socialist countries to capitalism. [14]

The beginning of the trade war against China, the fierce campaign promoted by imperialism on the issue of Xinjiang and the attempt to politicize and blame China for the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, are nothing more than aspects of this ideological struggle promoted by US imperialism against Chinese socialism. To face this new challenge, it is essential that the Party and society strengthen ideological work and strengthen their understanding of Marxist theory. The question of ideological work and education, far from being something trivial, is a vital issue for the continuity and permanence of the Communist Party of China as the leading force of the Chinese nation and the cause of building socialism in China. The fact that such a problem has been recognized by the highest leaders as something pressing reveals how serious the ideological situation was in the country before Xi Jinping came to power.

The struggle against the marginalization of Marxism and the reaffirmation of its actuality

One of the main evidences of this problem in the ideological realm is the marginalization suffered by Marxism in recent years. Xi Jinping has been paying close attention to this problem, aiming to restore and consolidate the authority and leading role occupied by Marxism as the theoretical basis guiding socialist construction and modernization in China. To warn about the problem of marginalization of Marxism, far from being an exaggeration, is something quite clear to anyone minimally familiar with the internal situation of the country and with the prevailing ideological environment within Chinese society. The Marxist economist Liu Guoguang, in analyzing the ideological situation in theoretical circles – especially in the field of political economy – in China stated:

For some time, in the field of economic science research and teaching, the influence of western economics has increased and the guiding position of economic science of Marxism has been weakened and marginalized. In the field of economic theory research and teaching, it seems that nowadays Western economics has become the dominant trend; many students consciously or unconsciously take Western economics as the dominant economic trend in our country. Some people consider Western political economy to be the guiding thought for development and reform in China, some economists openly advocate that Western political economy should be seen as the dominant trend, replacing the guiding position of Marxist economics. Western bourgeois ideology permeates both economic research work and the work of formulating economic decisions. I am very concerned about this phenomenon. [15]

It is not only in the realm of the study and teaching of economics that Marxism undergoes a process of marginalization. Also in the fields of history, philosophy, arts, etc., Marxism has been marginalized to various degrees. The Party uses the term “historical nihilism” to describe all sorts of ideas that seek to explain Chinese history, especially the history of the CCP and the construction of socialism, in a distorted way. In the ideological realm, the main target of “historical nihilism” is precisely Marxism, the official state ideology that should theoretically guide and direct all activities and sectors of the country. Historian Gong Yun, a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Scientists, explaining the influence of historical nihilism in today’s China, said:

In the last two decades, although historical nihilism has been criticized in academic circles, the effect of these criticisms has not yet been obvious. The views advocated by historical nihilism have a wide social influence, especially in the new media, some newspapers, and among ordinary people. Historical nihilism has formed a certain social soil and created serious consequences of division and antagonism. [16]

Since the 18th CCP Congress, several internal ideological campaigns to combat historical nihilism have been carried out, and Xi Jinping himself even analyzed such a phenomenon in one of his speeches. At the February 20, 2021, in a Party history study conference, Xi Jinping said, “We must take a clear stand against historical nihilism, strengthen ideological orientation and theoretical analysis, clarifying the vague and one-sided understandings regarding some historical events in our Party’s history.” [17]

It is precisely because the situation has reached such a critical level that Xi Jinping pays close attention to the problem of the need to consolidate the leading position of Marxism in the ideological field. It is also for this reason that in recent years there have been repeated calls for Party cadres to raise their ideological-political level and deepen their study and knowledge of the classics of Marxism. Speaking specifically about the marginalization of Marxism, Xi Jinping said that:

Some people consider Marxism outdated, that China currently does not follow Marxism; some people consider Marxism to be just ideological “preaching” without rationality and scientific systematization. In practical work, in some fields Marxism has been marginalized, turned into something empty, symbolic. [18]

The strengthening of the guiding role of Marxism is fundamental to ensuring that the Party cadres have a correct view of the trends of social development, understand the fundamental differences between capitalism and socialism, and increase their political, ideological and cultural confidence in the political system of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Only by mastering Marxism can one correctly understand the real goals of the Reform and Opening up policy, and ensure that it continues to move in the right direction. This is the reason why Xi Jinping insists on the need to consolidate the position of Marxism as the guiding ideology of the Reform and Opening up process, as well as of all the political work undertaken by the Communist Party of China. As Xi Jinping stated:

At the present time, the environment, target, scope and methods of ideological propaganda are undergoing great changes, but the main task of ideological and propaganda work has not and cannot change. Ideological and propaganda work must consolidate the guiding position of Marxism in the ideological sphere and consolidate a common ideological basis for the united struggle of the entire Party and people. [19]

Consolidating the guiding role of Marxism, making it increasingly a real material force guiding the process of building socialism in China, is a mandatory condition for the Party to strengthen its leadership and governance capacity, as well as to continue achieving new successes in the process of building socialism with Chinese characteristics.

The existence of capitalist relations of production in the primary stage of socialism and their effects on the ideological sphere

As we stated at the beginning of the article, the restructuring of the property system in China has given rise to capitalist-type relations of production, so they produce a certain type of ideology that corresponds to the character of these relations. Economist Wu Xuangong defends the idea that currently “there are a large number of economic phenomena and problems in China that did not exist in the past and are contrary to the nature and principles of socialism. Such problems stem from the fact that in present-day China, in addition to the “main contradiction of socialist society, there is also the main contradiction of capitalism.” [20]

It is therefore correct for us to analyze what role the ideology produced by these new capitalist relations of production play in the general set of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and how the Party will deal with this contradiction in the medium and long term. The recognition of the contradictions and problems that have appeared in the country in the last 40 years – and their effects in the realm of ideology – reveals a great concern on the part of Chinese Marxist theorists to seek and find the appropriate explanations to correctly solve the problem. To do so, one must keep in mind the basic principle of Marxism that existence determines consciousness, or the economic base determines the superstructure; therefore, it would not be correct to consider that the increased dangers presented by bourgeois liberalization are works of chance, or that they arise magically. They manifest themselves ultimately as ideological representations of new petty-bourgeois and bourgeois social classes that are bound by multiple ties to capitalist private property, and are also the product of the increased ideological infiltration promoted by Western countries, especially the United States and all its ideological apparatus of political and cultural domination, to the extent that there has been a certain loosening of ideological and class education, as well as an advance in the penetration of foreign capital in the country. As Wu Xuangong stated, “The belief in socialism gradually weakened, so that Marxism was marginalized; the emphasis on self-interest, as well as the pursuit of material interests, became a trend.” [21]

In the 1990s, Deng Xiaoping and many Party cadres considered the idea of explaining the problem of bourgeois liberalization through the analysis of economic relations to be mistaken, because they saw it as an attempt to put a brake on the advance of reforms. Under those conditions it was not wrong to put the problem in those terms. However, today this problem presents itself in a completely different way than it did in the 1980s and 1990s. At that time a new bourgeoisie had not completely formed, and the problem of class struggle manifested itself basically only as a struggle against the remnants of backward ideologies and elements directly linked to imperialism working to sabotage socialist construction. Today capitalist private property has acquired an infinitely more important position and role than it did in the past, which has resulted in a significant change in the economic and ownership structure in China. This has fundamentally changed the way in which the Chinese working masses relate to the means of production, a fact that poses serious risks to the Party and the very cause of socialism in the country. Without taking into account the influence that the relations of production originating in capitalist private property and the pressure they exert for the reforms as a whole to take the direction of bourgeois liberalization, it is impossible to understand the essence of the problem. This is a question that needs to be observed by all those who wish to make a realistic analysis of the current stage of development of socialism in China. As the economist Liu Guoguang warned:

Bourgeois liberalization occurs not only in the political field, but also in the economic field. Privatization, liberalization, and marketization; opposition to public ownership, government intervention, and opposition to socialism, these are all things that are all related to the economic field. It is not enough to oppose bourgeois liberalization, politically. To prevent bourgeois liberalization in the economic field is to prevent the economic field from deteriorating. If the economic field deteriorates (is privatized, turned into capitalism), the political field will also deteriorate. This is a basic common principle of Marxism. [22]

Capitalist private property, even though in the primary stage of socialism it may play a positive role as an accessory element in the development of the socialist economy, ultimately represents the relations of production of a capitalist type, possessing objectives and laws of operation distinct from socialist property in its most varied forms. It is necessary, therefore, to differentiate between what are the positive effects that capitalist private property can create for the development of the productive forces, from what is the ideology it inevitably produces, and the negative effects generated by capitalist relations of production in the most varied domains of social life. It is natural that, as private property increases in importance and influence in the overall economy, its laws start to influence the various levels of Chinese social-economic formation (including influencing and exerting pressure on socialist public property), broadening and expanding its capacity for political, economic and ideological intervention. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that the most serious economic and social problems that exist in China today are the direct result of the intervention of the contradictions produced by the capitalist relations of production.

In view of this inevitability, it is of utmost importance that the Party be very clear that the goal of the Reform and Opening-Up is to perfect the development of the socialist system, to promote the development of the productive forces and gradually consolidate and broaden the influence and extension of the public sector of the economy, the sector that represents the socialist relations of production. The existence of private property in China is justified by the relative backwardness of the level of development of the productive forces. With the advance and development of the productive forces, with the advance of modernization, the duty of the reforms is to adjust the role of the socialist relations of production, in a first moment expanding the influence and the scope of action of the public ownership of the means of production, gradually putting an end to the tendency that has persisted since the beginning of the Reform and Opening policy, namely, the tendency of much faster increase and development of private property and the gradual decrease of the participation of the state and public sector, creating the economic and material conditions to overcome the primary stage of socialism. Obviously, such changes and adjustments will be accompanied by a sharp ideological struggle, which is also one of the forms in which class struggle manifests itself.  Thus, the theories and ideas that seek to present capitalist relations of production as “socialist,” or ideas that say that, in the Chinese case, “private property is not synonymous with capitalism,” are not correct.

The advance towards a more advanced stage of socialist construction is not yet completely on the agenda (the new era of socialism is situated in the scope of the primary stage of socialism), but it is clear that the problems and contradictions that China is facing today are already quite different from the problems that confronted the country in the preceding decades, something recognized by the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China, which defined that there is a “new principal contradiction” in the new era of socialism. The old definition, which said that the main contradiction in China was the contradiction between the low level of development of the productive forces and the growing demands of the masses, has given way to a new main contradiction, this being the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the growing needs of the people for a better life.

Many Marxist intellectuals in China consider that, at the present stage, in order to overcome the negative effects of unbalanced development, the most important mission facing the Communist Party is to struggle to effectively build a harmonious society, to combat the negative effects produced by the expansion of private property, and to regain certain positions lost by the public economy in recent years. For such a major operation, it is more than necessary to strengthen ideological work and prepare public opinion. Objectively, this is a problem that places in opposition two projects of society that correspond to distinct worldviews and class interests. The attacks on Marxism and the tendencies that seek to diminish its role – or even deny it – are evidently expressions of the class interests of those social groups and actors who do not want to advance along the path of socialism. Many of these groups use the banner of reform and openness to justify their reactionary ideas and their opposition to the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, although they often do this in a veiled way.

Ideological work and class struggle

The struggle between bourgeois ideas, with all their effects, and the ideas of the proletariat, represented by Marxism, is a long-lasting struggle, which will exist intensely throughout the period of the primary stage of socialism in China (and even afterwards), a context where China still needs to promote its development in a hegemonically capitalist world. In the primary stage of socialism, even if within a determined scale, class struggle still exists and it obviously exerts its influence in the ideological field. On the need to keep guard and initiative on the ideological front, pointing out that in socialism there is still class struggle, Jiang Zemin, in his speech commemorating the 78th anniversary of the Party’s founding, stated:

Class struggle is no longer the main contradiction in our country, but for a certain period it will continue to exist within a certain limit, moreover under certain conditions it may intensify. This kind of struggle expresses in a concentrated way the opposition of bourgeois liberalization to the four fundamental principles. The core of this struggle is still a problem of political power. This type of struggle is closely connected with the struggle between infiltration and anti-infiltration, subversion and counter-subversion, peaceful evolution and fighting the peaceful evolution that exists between us and hostile forces. [23]

The Communist Party of China’s position on class struggle under socialism has always been very consistent and has not changed much since the beginning of the Reform and Opening-up policy. After criticizing the conception of class struggle that was in force during the period of the “cultural revolution”, the Party started to defend that the class struggle in socialism does not occupy the position of main contradiction, but that it still continues to exist within certain limits. However, some figures, already completely influenced by revisionism and imperialist ideas, allege that the Marxist concept of class struggle is “outdated” and when any mention is made of this basic concept of Marxism, they immediately claim that there is a danger of the resurgence of a new “cultural revolution”. It is important to point out that there is a significant difference between saying that the “class struggle continues to exist within certain limits” and saying that “the class struggle does not exist” or that such a theory would be something “outdated”. As Xi Jinping stated:

We must adhere to the political position of Marxism. The political position of Marxism is primarily a class position, which implements class analysis. Some people say that this idea no longer corresponds to the present era, which is a mistaken point of view. When we say that the class struggle in our country is not the main contradiction, we are not saying that in our country the class struggle within certain limits no longer exists, or that in the international sphere it doesn’t exist either. After the Reform and Opening, our Party’s ideas on this problem have always been quite clear. [24]

The definition, which recognizes that class struggle exists within certain limits, takes into account the concrete reality of China today, a reality where the various contradictions that exist can be resolved within the framework of the socialist system. The Communist Party of China, being the leading force of the state, has in its hands the political, economic and institutional instruments that enable it to adjust, modify and apply policies that help solve the problems and contradictions that exist between the various social classes, including the contradictions between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. This does not mean that, also in this sphere of work, there are no errors and shortcomings, almost always produced by errors in the sphere of political and ideological work. Without a firm Marxist vision the Party cannot correctly exercise its role as the vanguard of the working masses in China, nor can it firmly defend the interests of these classes.

The fundamental error of the Communist Party of China view’s of class struggle in the period of the “cultural revolution” was precisely that it broadened the scope of class struggle, which in practice contributed to the Party’s treating certain contradictions that existed within the people as if they were antagonistic contradictions. It was a view that did not correspond to the concrete situation of the Chinese society at the time; today the main mistake regarding the theory of class struggle is committed by those who deny its objective existence. The historical experience of the history of the construction of socialism at a world level teaches that class struggle continues to exist in socialism – even though it is not the main contradiction in socialist societies -, therefore, it is not correct to deny or underestimate its action.

To deny the existence of class struggle in socialism is as serious an error as trying to artificially broaden its scope. The errors of the “cultural revolution” do not alter the fact that class struggle is an objective reality, and that it continues to exist in the primary stage of socialism. In the Chinese case, given the expansion of capitalist relations of production, it is obvious that class contradictions, including the contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, can intensify again. Without recognizing the existence of class struggle, it is impossible to adopt measures to resolve the various social contradictions that exist in Chinese society, which in the medium and long term would result in the amplification of social contradictions, causing contradictions that are currently non-antagonistic in character to quickly become antagonistic contradictions.

Without Marxism and the October Revolution there would be no “Chinese miracle”: a short critique of certain conceptions of the “China’s rise”

The success achieved by the CCP in leading the Chinese nation along the path of socialism has shown the world the vitality and scientificity of Marxist theory. In view of the undeniable successes achieved by the Party, given the intense political and ideological struggle going on, it is to some extent inevitable that abroad certain figures who follow the Chinese development process try to explain it by turning a blind eye to the most important and essential elements that define such process. Quite popular are the ideas that China’s development would be the result produced by a “developmentalist” state in the style of Taiwan, Singapore, or South Korea, or a “civilizational state,” emphasizing here the “civilizational superiority” of the Chinese nation. To give an example of the confusions, Martin Jacques, an author who plays a very important role in investigating the Chinese development process, and openly opposes attempts to launch a new cold war against the Asian country, in an article published by the Global Times, stressed that “it is impossible to understand China in terms of traditional Marxism,” adding that the CCP is “deeply influenced by Confucianism” and that the best way to understand it would be to describe it as a “hybrid between Confucianism and Marxism. Also in the article the author makes a point of highlighting the fact that the CCP is quite different from the former Communist Party of the Soviet Union and that they would have “very little in common.” [25]

We recognize that in all these statements – with the exception that the Communist Party of China and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union have very little in common” – there is a portion of truth, however, we believe it is not unreasonable to say that the author does not address the crux of the problem, which is precisely to analyze how the sinicization of Marxism is the main element that explains the success and rise of China, and that the ideological system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is not an eclectic mix between two philosophies with completely different bases and goals (Marxism and Confucianism). Confucianism, of course, is an important pillar of the millennial traditional Chinese culture, and obviously the Communist Party of China recognizes and incorporates its progressive elements. However, it cannot be denied that throughout its century-old history, the Chinese progressive and revolutionary movement, of which the Communist Party of China is a direct product, has always been very critical of Confucianism, and all this long before the “great proletarian cultural revolution” emerged on the scene of history in the late 1960s. Martin Jacques’ statement that the Communist Party of China is “rooted and deeply influenced by Confucianism” is a “half-truth” turned into an “absolute truth,” for it denies another basic fact that needs to be taken into consideration, namely, that the Communist Party of China was born amidst an intense ideological and political struggle against Confucian ideology and all that it represented and still represents in the developmental history of the Chinese nation. That there are Chinese authors and personalities – including within the Party – who advocate a “new Confucianism,” or who try to explain Chinese success within the framework of “Confucianism,” is another problem, very much related to the ideological confusion generated by years of a relatively uncontrolled development of bourgeois ideas, something we have already discussed in this article.

In fact, the problem of the relationship between traditional Chinese culture and Marxism in China is a topic that deserves a separate article, such is the complexity of the subject. However, this is not to say that for the Communist Party of China, Confucianism and Marxism are two philosophies on the same footing, or, in Martin Jacques’ own words, a “hybrid between Confucianism and Marxism. As Hou Weimin, a member of the Institute of Marxism of the Chinese Academy of Social Scientists, put it:

Since the Reformation and the Opening-up, there have been two types of anti-Marxist thinking. One is the ideological tendency to promote the restoration of feudalism; cultural conservatism and neo-Confucianism belong to this category. This trend of thought is characterized by advocating the “Confucianization of China “and “Confucianization of the Communist Party” under the banner of carrying forward traditional culture by establishing “Confucian colleges” in which Confucian scholars familiar with Confucian classics rule China. Supported by some people abroad, this thinking prevailed for some time. However, its absurdity is obvious if a more proper investigation is made. Its main points have the smell of feudal zombies, so it is hard for it to get a response from the masses. The other thought is the tendency to promote the restoration of capitalism, called bourgeois liberalization by Deng Xiaoping. [26]

About the “few similarities” between the Communist Party of China and the former Communist Party of Soviet Union, it is evident how the way Martin Jacques throws such information into his article misleads the reader into confusion. Which Communist Party of the Soviet Union is he referring to? The Party of Lenin and Stalin or the Party of Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Gorbachev? Superficial statements such as those made by the author open much room for confusion and misinterpretation regarding the history of the Communist Party of China and its evolution over the years. It is necessary to point out that between the Communist Party of China and the former Communist Party of the Soviet Union there is the difference that the former was able to integrate Marxism to the Chinese reality, avoiding committing the same mistakes that the Soviet Party committed in the past, due to its complete abandonment of Marxist theory; the latter, on the other hand, gradually distanced itself from Marxism and capitulated before the ideological offensive promoted by the capitalist countries. However, it is undeniable that the Communist Party of China learned many things from the Soviet experience, so that it is correct to state that there were “great similarities” between both parties, and that the Soviet experience was, from the beginning, a source of inspiration and study for the Chinese communists. As Zhou Xincheng noted:

Initially, we had no experience in how to build socialism. We could only learn from the Soviet Union, which had decades of experience in socialist construction. The basic experience of socialist construction in the Soviet Union was to be studied, including its political adherence to the Communist Party leadership and the dictatorship of the proletariat; economic adherence to the system of public ownership of the means of material production, distribution according to labor, elimination of exploitation and elimination of polarization; ideological adherence to Marxism as a guide, etc. This reflects the basic principles of scientific socialism, its common law, possessing universal value. Therefore, we have always regarded our socialist cause as a continuation of the October Revolution. [27]

Even today many elements in the Chinese political system bear great similarities to the model that was gradually established in the Soviet Union in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The political model that establishes the Communist Party’s direction over the activities of the state and society – a system that today even some bourgeois theorists sympathetic to China tend to defend – is a direct influence of the Soviet-type political system, even if between them there are some differences (e.g. in the Chinese case there is at the same time a system of political consultation that allows the existence of other parties). Although perhaps this is not his intention, in practice Martin Jacques ends up establishing an opposition between two historical phenomena umbilically connected -the Russian and Chinese revolution- diminishing the position of Marxism-Leninism and concealing the direct link that the process of building socialism with Chinese characteristics has with the struggle of the international proletariat and also with the Russian revolution itself, in the name of the idea that the Communist Party of China “is different from all the other parties in the world.

Still on the relationship between socialism with Chinese characteristics and Soviet socialism, it is interesting to note that Xi Jinping, when analyzing the various stages of the development of the history of socialist thought and movement, divides it into six stages, citing precisely Lenin’s experience and his leadership in the October Revolution as an integral part of these stages, as well as the gradual formation of the Soviet system already in the Stalin period (respectively, the third and fourth stage of the development of the history of socialism). In other words, Xi Jinping highlights as an integral part of the development of socialist thought – in which, obviously, socialism with Chinese characteristics is included – the experience of the construction of socialism in Russia, from the victory of the October Revolution to the formation of the Soviet system with the foundation and construction of socialism in the Soviet Union, an experience led by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.


[1] Deng Xiaoping 邓小平. “Gao zichan jieji ziyou hua jiushi zou ziben zhuyi daolu 搞资产阶级自由化就是走资本主义道路 [To engage in bourgeois liberalization is to take the path of capitalism],” Dengxiaoping wenxuan, v.3, Renmin chuban she 人民出版社,2008, pg.123.

[2] Communist Party of China. Resolution on Certain Historical Issues in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China – Adopted by the Sixth Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, 1981. Accessed at:

[3] Deng Xiaoping 邓小平. “Women youxinxin ba zhongguo de shijian hao chengji 我们有信心把中国的事情做得更好 [We are confident that we can handle China’s affairs well],” Dengxiaoping wenxuan, Renmin chubanshe 人民出版社,2008,pg.327

[4] Mao Tsetung. On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People: Selected Readings from the Works of Mao Tsetung, Foreign Language Press, 1971, pg.

[5] Jiang Zemin 江泽民. “Zai jinian zhongguo gongchandang chengli qishiba zhounian zuotan hui shang de jianghua 在纪念中国共产党成立七十八周年座谈会上的讲话 [Speech commemorating the 78th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China],” 1997. Accessed at:

[6] Xi Jinping 习近平. “Ba xuanchuan sixiang gongzuo zuo de geng hao 把宣传思想工作做得更好 [Do ideological and propaganda work better].” Lun jianchi dang yiqie gongzuo de lingdao 论坚持党一切工作的领导, Zhongyang wenxian chuban she 中央文献出版社, 2019, pg. 23.

[7] Zhou Xincheng 周新城. “Guandu zhongguo thesis shehui zhuyi de ruogan lilun wenti 关于中国特色社会主义的若干理论问题 [On some theoretical problems of socialism with Chinese characteristics],” Jingji ribao chubanshe 经济日报出版社,2015, pg. 357.

[8] Wang Qishan 王崎上. “Kaiqi xin shidai, ta shang xin zhengcheng 开启新时代,踏上新征程 [Starting a new era and embarking on a new journey],” Renmin Ribao 人民日报, 2017, November 7, 2017. Acessado em:

[9] Chen Yun 陈云. “Bixu jiuzheng hushi jingshen wenming jianshe de xianxiang 必须纠正忽视精神文明建设的现象 [We should correct the tendency to neglect the establishment of spiritual civilization],” Chenyun Wenxuan 陈云文选, v.3, Renmin chubanshe, 2015, pg. 354.

[10] David M. Kotz 大卫-科茨. “Sulian jieti yuanyin shi jingying jituan zhuzhang ziben zhuyi 苏联解体原因是精英集团主张资本主义 [The reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union was that elitist groups advocated capitalism].” Zhongguo jingji wang 中国经济网, 2013. Accessed at:

[11] Xi Jinping 习近平. “Guanyu jianchi he fazhan zhongguo thesis shehui zhuyi de ji ge wenti 关于坚持和发展中国特色社会主义的几个问题 [Some questions on maintaining and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics],” Qiushi 求实, n.7, 2009. Accessed at:

[12] Mao Zedong. Speech At The Tenth Plenum Of The Eighth Central Committee, 1962. Accessed at:

[13] Liang Zhu 梁柱. “Mozedong fanfa sixiang yong bu tuishai 毛泽东反腐思想永不褪色 [Mao Zedong’s thoughts on corruption will never dissipate],” Zhongguo shehui kexue bao 中国社会科学报, 2014. Acessado em:

[14] Deng Xiaoping 邓小平. “Jianchi shehui zhuyi, fangzhi heping yanbian 坚持社会主义,防止和平演变 [Adhering to socialism and preventing peaceful evolution],” Dengxiaoping wenxuan 邓小平文选, v.3, Renmin chubanshe 人民出版社, 2008, pg. 344.

[15] Liu Guoguang 刘国光. “Zhongguo shehuizhuyi zhengzhi jingjixue de ruogan wenti 中国社会主义政治经济学的若干问题 [Some problems of the political economy of socialism with Chinese characteristics],” Jinan chubanshe 济南出版社, 2017, pg. 33.

[16] Gong Yun 龚云. “Zai lishi xuwu zhuyi zhong jianchi lishi weiwu zhuyi 在历史虚无主义中坚持历史唯物主义 [Criticizing historical nihilism by persisting in historical materialism].” Accessed at:

[17] Xi Jinping 习近平. “Zai dang shu xuexi jiaoyu dongyuan dahui shang de jianghua 在党史学习教育动员大会上的讲话 [Speech at the mobilization and study conference on Party history],” 2021. Acessado em:

[18] Xi Jinping 习近平. “Zai zhexue shehui kexue gongzuo zuotan zhong de sikao 在哲学社会科学工作座谈会上的讲话 [Speech at the philosophy and social science workers seminar],” 2016. Acessado em:

[19] Xi Jinping 习近平. “Ba xuanchuan sixiang gongzuo zuo de geng hao 把宣传思想工作做得更好 [Do ideological and propaganda work better].” Lun jianchi dang yiqie gongzuo de lingdao 论坚持党一切工作的领导, Zhongyang wenxian chuban she 中央文献出版社, 2019, pg. 23.

[20] Wu Xuangong 吴宣恭. “Yunyong lishi weiwuzhuyi jianshe zhongguo thesis shehui zhuyi zhengzhi jingji xue 运用历史唯物主义建设中国特色社会主义政治经济学 [Use historical materialism to build the political economy of socialism with Chinese characteristics].” Fujian shifan daxue xuebao (zhexue shehui kexue ban) 福建师范大学学报 ( 哲学社会科学版), 2017.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Liu Guoguang 刘国光. “Zhongguo shehuizhuyi zhengzhi jingjixue de ruogan wenti 中国社会主义政治经济学的若干问题 [Some problems of the political economy of socialism with Chinese characteristics],” Jinan chubanshe 济南出版社, 2017, pg. 33.

[23] Jiang Zemin 江泽民. “Jiāngzémín zài qìngzhù jiàndǎng qishi zhōunián dàhuì shàng de jiǎnghuà 江泽民在庆祝建党70周年大会上的讲话 [Speech at the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the party],” 1991. Accessed at:

[24] Speech by Xi Jinping at the School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. February 17, 2014. Quoted in Zhou Xincheng 周新城,”Jianchi jiqiao jiben yuanli fenxi shehui wenti坚持运用马克思主义基本原理分析社会经济问题 [Adhere in using the principles of Marxism in investigating economic and social problems].” Jingji ribao chuban she 经济日报出版社, 2016, pg. 228 .

[25] Martin Jacques. Why there has been an overwhelming failure to understand CPC in West, Global Times, April 6, 2021. Accessed at:

[26] Hou Weimin 侯为民. “Pipan yu chuangxin- Zhou xincheng jiaoshou jingji sixiang sumiao 批判与创新–周新城教授经济思想素描 [Critique and Innovation: an outline of Professor Zhou Xincheng’s economic thought]”,Guanli xue kan 管理学刊, 2014.

 [27] Zhou Xincheng 周新城. “Jianguo qishi nian shi qingzhu shehui zhuyi lishi fazhan, jinian zhonghua renmin gongheguo chengli qishi zhounián 建国70年是庆祝社会主义历史发展, 纪念中华人民共和国成立70周年. Accessed at:

6 thoughts on “Ideological work in the new era of socialism in China”

    1. The article you linked is very weak and does not go into detail. It is way too short and superficial to prove any one of its claims which are quite huge.

  1. I am from Vancouver,Canada and i wanted to say that Fidel use to say that Socialism in Cuba won’t be overthrown from the outside but that it can be overthrown from within.
    In the early 1980s Fidel and other people in the Communist Party realized that there was some corruption in the Party and did something about it.That saved the Communist Party.I think Xi Jinping is doing something similar in China and that will improve the Communist party of China.
    Also in Nicaragua Daniel Ortega has greatly improved things in Nicaragua by getting rid of former members of the FSLN who were getting paid by USAID and NED and putting them in Prison.The US Gov’t didn’t like that but they couldn’t do anything about it. The saying: Yankees Go Home is familiar in Latin America and could apply to China as well.Long Live Socialism in China.

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