By John Garnaut
October 9, 2011
China is heading into a new Mao-inspired epoch of socialism and nationalism, says the founder of China’s most powerful leftist internet platform.
Han Deqiang, who founded and retains behind-the-scenes control over the Utopia website, says most observers have failed to notice a profound shift in China’s ideological and political trajectory.
He recited an old saying about the Yellow River dramatically changing its course every generation to describe China’s swing from Chairman Mao to Deng Xiaoping and back again.
“The river runs to the east for 30 years, the river runs to the west for 30 years, and now it will run east for another 30 years,” said Professor Han, from Beijing Aeronautical University.
“The transition is already occurring but people are failing to notice.”
Professor Han’s confidence that the Chinese Communist Party is returning to its Mao-inspired roots comes as the country is once again awash with demands for democratic political reforms.
The current trigger for debate is the 100th anniversary of the fall of the Qing Dynasty, known as the Xinhai Revolution, which provided a moment of optimism about constitutional democracy.
Both the Communist Party and democratic activists claim the Xinhai Revolution as part of their historical ancestry.
“The left, in the sense of representing anti-democratic dictatorship, does not own revolutionary legitimacy in China,” said David Kelly, research director at China Policy in Beijing and a visiting professor at Peking University. “The anniversary of 1911 brings into play the fundamental decision between social democracy and revolutionary dictatorship.”
The anniversary has raised awkward comparisons between the dying days of the Qing Dynasty and corruption, social tensions and political uncertainty under the Communist Party today. Advocates of democratic reform have to tread carefully through China’s censorship controls and face state-driven harassment, imprisonment and sometimes violence if they venture too far.
Professor Han and his Utopia website, in contrast, have been given a free hand to push Maoist and extreme anti-Western ideas while launching blistering attacks on liberal opponents, including those who hold senior positions inside the party.
Professor Han concurs with the liberal diagnosis of China’s problems but rejects liberal political prescriptions and motivations.
At the top of his attack list are the leaders of China’s financial system, including Politburo member Wang Qishan, central bank chief Zhou Xiaochuan, sovereign wealth fund head Lou Jiwei, former China Merchants Bank chief Qin Xiao and outspoken liberal intellectuals such as Mao Yushi.
“I completely agree with their analysis of problems like crony capitalism and corruption but should we overthrow the current regime?” asked Professor Han. “Who will replace it if we do? They don’t care whether China turns into chaos or not because they can just withdraw their money from Swiss bank accounts and buy everything at bargain prices and make double the profits.”
Professor Han said he had been an enthusiastic participant in the student protest movement that ended in the Tiananmen massacres of 1989.
He dismissed speculation that his Utopia website received government financial support.
He said Utopia provided a home to the pan-leftist movement including ”liberal” leftists who were inspired by Western socialism as well as “revolutionary” leftists inspired by Mao.
He labels himself as a revolutionary leftist. Like many leftists, Professor Han places huge expectations on Bo Xilai, the Politburo member who has revived Maoist rhetoric and leftist policies in Chongqing city.
“The Chongqing model is the only hope for China’s future,” said Professor Han.
He said Mr Bo had merged the liberal and revolutionary streams of the Chinese left but would soon dispense with the liberal part. He predicted that Mr Bo would upset the pecking order at next year’s Communist Party Congress by being promoted to premier.
“Only Bo can save communism and save China,” said Professor Han.