What China Reformers? What China Doves?

May 10, 2019 Updated: May 13, 2019

Commentary

Yesterday on Fox News I heard a voice from the past. The elderly American China watcher was attempting to explain why the trade negotiations with China seemed to be breaking down.

Why was China reneging on certain provisions of the U.S.-China trade agreement that it had already agreed to, asked the host, who shall remain unnamed.

It was a result of the ongoing struggle between “the hardliners” and “the reformers” in Beijing, the China watcher explained.

In his view, “the reformers” had made certain concessions to the United States during the trade negotiations, but ran into trouble back home with “the hardliners,” who thought they had given away too much.  That’s why “the reformers” were attempting to renegotiate the deal.

I have a news flash for this news analyst. His analysis is at least six years out of date.

The battle between the hardliners, who want a state-controlled economy, and the reformers, who wanted to move in the direction of the free market, is effectively over. The reformers have lost.

They lost when a hardliner by the name of Xi Jinping seized power six years ago.  Shortly after taking over in late 2012, Xi set a new ideological course. It was, in political terms, a case of back to the future. The clock was turned back to the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology and economic policy of the fifties and sixties.

We know this to be the case, because in April 2013 the Chinese Communist Party published a secret  “Communiqué on the Current State of the Ideological Sphere.” This Directive No. 9, as it is known, urged Party members to guard against seven political “perils.”  It was clearly the handiwork of “core leader” Xi Jinping himself.

The seven “perils” listed were “constitutionalism,” “civil society,” “nihilistic” views of history, “universal values,” the promotion of “the West’s view of media,” and something the Party called “neoliberalism.”

“Neoliberalism,” was defined by Directive No. 9 as an attempt to change China’s Basic Economic System along free market lines.  It is condemned, along with the six other “perils,” as one of the “false ideological trends, positions, and activities [that] all deserve note” because they threaten continued Party rule. Neoliberalism, the Party writes,

… advocates unrestrained economic liberalization, complete privatization, and total marketization and it opposes any kind of interference or regulation by the state. Western countries, led by the United States, carry out their Neoliberal agendas under the guise of “globalization,” visiting catastrophic consequences upon Latin America, the Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe, and have also dragged themselves into the international financial crisis from they have yet to recover.

This is mainly expressed in the following ways:

[Neoliberalism’s advocates] actively promote the “market omnipotence theory.” They claim our country’s macroeconomic control is strangling the market’s efficiency and vitality and they oppose public ownership, arguing that China’s state-owned enterprises are “national monopolies,” inefficient, and disruptive of the market economy, and should undergo “comprehensive privatization.” These arguments aim to change our country’s basic economic infrastructure and weaken the government’s control of the national economy.

To combat Neoliberalism and the other “perils,” Party members were told, they must strengthen their resistance to “infiltration” by outside ideas, renew their commitment to work “in the ideological sphere,” and handle with renewed vigilance all ideas, institutions, and people deemed threatening to unilateral Party rule.

In other words, not only did so-called economic reformers lose the ideological struggle six years ago, their views were officially declared a danger to the Communist dictatorship. Worse yet, Party members were explicitly instructed that those who continued to promote a market economy after this point were to be attacked and silenced.

And that is exactly what has happened.

The crackdown against advocates of economic reform (as well as human rights lawyers, media outlets, academics, Catholics, Christians, Falun Gong adherents, and anyone else who refuses to march in lockstep with the Party) that began at that time has continued unabated over the years. Not only have the reformers lost, their ideas are being censored, and some have even lost their positions.

Last December, the former Chief Economist of the Agricultural Bank of China, Professor Xiang Songzuo of Renmin University criticized the Party for statements like “private property will be eliminated,” and for its “high-profile study of Marx and the Communist Manifesto.”  His prominence probably saved him from arrest, but his speech was immediately censored.

In March, another one of China’s leading academics, Tsinghua University Professor Xu Zhangrun, was stripped of his positions and is under investigation for criticizing the regime for its unjust expropriation of private property, among other things.

The list goes on.

The only reformers who dare to speak out now are those who have escaped from China and are living abroad. And their influence within China itself is effectively … zero.

My advice to aging American China Watchers: Don’t try and explain China’s broken promises on trade, security, or anything else as the result of some sort of ongoing clash between China’s hawks and its doves, or a dust-up between Maoist ideologues and mythical reformers.

The hawks—like Xi Jinping himself—long ago had the doves for dinner. And now they are looking at us as their next meal.

The best hope for reform in China now is Trump’s newly announced tariffs. The economic earthquake that will follow will send shock waves through the current system and could possibly cause its collapse.

Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute and the author of “Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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