April 26, 2005

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Hu's History and China's Future

Enzo posted earlier on how Hu Jintao is anything but a reformer. But how did the leader of China become so seemingly out of sync with the global trend towards openness and liberalization? History gives an answer. For example, Philip Pan reports on how Hu uses his words:

The party's reformist wing has been especially alarmed by Hu's penchant for using hard-line rhetoric from the Cultural Revolution, the devastating political movement that rocked China in the decade before Mao's death in 1976. Hu joined the party as a college student shortly before the movement began and spent much of it as a low-level official in one of the country's poorest provinces.

Wikipedia has this to say about the “Fourth Generation” in the CCP leadership:

fourth generation - Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, Zeng Qinghong. These were promoted to top leadership at the 16th Party Congress and are expected to remain in power until the 18th party congress in 2012. Most of them were engineers whose educations were disrupted by the Cultural Revolution and unlike both their predecessors and successors have spent very little time overseas.

In such context, a lot of perplexing questions find their answers. Growing in the shadow of the chaos of the Cultural Revolution would certainly make someone very aware of the possible calamity of the loss of state control. For someone like Hu, political liberalization can very well lead down the path back to the Red Guards. While Enzo is correct in pointing out that Communist regimes don't do reform well (if at all), context is important in figuring out why exactly didn't the “Third Generation” oppress with such ferocity.

And yet, in an ironic twist, hints are showing that the atmosphere of the Cultural Revolution that Hu et al. fear so much is re-appearing. While the recent anti-Japanese demonstrations have nowhere near the insanity of the Red Guards, there is an eerie resemblance. And there's no debating that the CCP has done its part in promoting said demonstrations. The apparent lack of diplomatic dexterity that the 3Gs had mastered so well in recent months are also the direct results of the lack of international experience amongst the 4Gs. A lack of understanding in international relations was also a notable characteristic of the Cultural Revolution, although the results were somewhat different (self-withdrawal in the 1960s-70s, clumsy attempts at aggrandization in the 2000s).

Mao's long shadow extends further than anyone can imagine.

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posted by Kelvin on 04.26.05 at 04:52 AM in the China politics category.


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