Classicial References in President Xi Jinping’s Speeches

President Xi Jinping’s references to the classics is not being innovative for a PRC leader. He is in line with a trend of the past decade or more of praising Confucius and drawing lessons from him that serve the purpose of the Party. Ten years ago there was a TV series lectures on Confucius that was popular and later released as a book and DVDs. The name Confucius Institute is also a sign of this, naturally with a Party spin on Confucius.

That has a long tradition in China.   Mao Zedong discussed this use of Confucius with his nephew Mao Yuanxin during the Criticize Confucius campaign.   Mao said “If you look at history, you’ll see that revolutionaries all start by criticizing Confucius.  But when they get into power, they all invite him back.” Mao added that every dynasty and ruler dresses Confucius up in their own way to strengthen their rule.  Mao said that Confucius and other great thinkers of the past are the heart of Chinese culture and we should study them, but the idealism in his thinking especially as it has been distorted by past rulers for their own purposes, we must reject.  Mao said “We communists got started by criticizing Confucius.  But we must not follow the path of past rulers of criticizing but then praising him later.  If the day ever comes when we for the sake of strengthening our position bring out Confucius for thought work with the people, then we will have fallen into the old cycle.  That can’t work. If the Communist Party gets to the point where it cannot govern or runs into trouble, and invites Confucius back, that will mean that we’ll be finished soon.”

The quote I found on a Chinese website outside of China and it appears on a number of anti-communist websites.  That may be because it is true and censored in China.  Or because it makes a nice story and somebody made it up!  In any case the argument is plausible (one of my erudite Chinese friends made the same argument when I asked him about Confucius and Chinese politics a few years ago) even if the source is not reliable.

https://critiqueandtransformation.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/%E3%80%8C%E5%A6%82%E6%9E%9C%E5%85%B1%E7%94%A2%E9%BB%A8%E6%8A%8A%E5%AD%94%E5%AD%90%E8%AB%8B%E5%9B%9E%E4%BE%86%EF%BC%8C%E8%AA%AA%E6%98%8E%E4%BD%A0%E4%B9%9F%E5%BF%AB%E5%AE%8C%E4%BA%86%E3%80%8D%E2%94%80/

毛遠新說,國共兩黨的領導人孫中山也好,陳獨秀、李大釗也好,“五四”運動就是批孔開始的,是不是這樣?等到蔣介石坐上了寶座以後去尊孔、祭孔。蔣介石把孔家的後代請到臺灣,現在還在那裏。中國歷史不就是這樣嗎!當要起來造反的時候,都要批孔,用我們的話說,你是革命黨的時候是批孔的,當成了執政黨,鞏固地位時又要尊孔。中國的歷史就是這麼走過來的,為什麼?這是什麼道理?漢朝罷黜百家,獨尊儒術,主席說到現在孔夫子已經不是當年的孔丘本人,歷代的統治階級都給他梳妝打扮,根據統治者的需要,用魯迅的話說,後邊講的孔孟之道,是御用文人經過梳妝打扮過的孔夫子,他們就是以這套思想來束縛統治人,是思想專制的工具,回顧中國歷史是不是這樣

毛遠新說,你說蔣介石真正相信孔夫子嗎?對共產黨員寧可錯殺一千,也不放過一個,孔夫子什麼時候教過他這一條?孔夫子是和為貴,所以主席那個時候搞那個東西,為什麼主席提出要批孔,就是說,中國共產黨員要保持自己的革命性,一旦中國共產黨也尊起孔子來了,就說明你也到時候了,就說明你統治不下去了,要靠他來維持你的統治了。想想看,是不是這個道理?後邊這話沒有講,這是我悟出來的。主席說,你看看歷代,革命的時候都是從批孔開始,等到他掌權的時候,都要把他請回來,幹什麼呢?把他作為對人民統治的思想專制的工具,所以主席的結論是什麼的,他說孔子作為中國者古代傑出的思想家、教育家,和孟子、老子、莊子、韓非子、荀子和他們一樣,都值得我們尊敬,紀念,值得研究,因為他們的思想實際是中華民族文化的很重要的一個組成部分,作為每個人都值得我們尊重。但是作為孔子的這套理論,它是唯心的,主張政治倒退的,不能接受的,至於說我們現在說批孔(魯迅說)已經各朝各代梳妝打扮以後的孔,不是當年的孔夫子,孔子不是說過(唯女子與小人難養)?可是到了南宋以後,你讓婦女纏小腳,這是對人體的傷害,男尊女卑,不知道比孔子發展了多少倍,男女不平等,孔子那時還沒到這個地步,但是理論根據是孔夫子。

主席說我們共產黨人,是從批孔起家的,但是我們決不能走前面他們的路,批了再尊,等到我們為了鞏固自己的地位再把孔子的思想來與老百姓的思想時,落入歷史的一種迴圈,這是不行的。如果共產黨也到了自己沒法統治或者遇到難處了,也要把孔子請回來,說明你也快完了
How is the effort being viewed inside China?

Quoting Confucius or other wise sayings or literary references to make a point or settle an argument is common in China.  It is like bible-thumping in some parts of the US.  A clever unscrupulous person can use it to prove almost anything.

If this is part of a sustained strategy, what comes next?

Well, a long running propaganda strategy of identifying China with the so-called 5000 year old China and stressing the continuity between the various states that followed one another or co-existed in the Chinese territorial space.  I remember reading a book for training Chinese tour guides that made the point that stressing the continuity of Chinese history is an important aspect of patriotic education.   Reality is much more complicated; the PRC seems to have been founded twice Mao in ’49 and then Deng in ’78 with reform and opening.  Reconciling the first and second thirty years of the PRC is difficult.

Zheng Yongnian郑永年 of Singapore National University, a Beijing University grad and Princeton political science PhD  argues that Xi wants to create a synthesis from the Mao –  Deng contradiction (sounds weird but Marx pushed the  thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis idea, and he sees Xi trying to carve out his own space as the man of his era.  See  Zheng’s essay  Xi Jinping’s Political Road Map  郑永年:习近平的政治路线图

One special characteristic of Xi is the centralization of power (the new institutional arrangements to reduce the decentralization of power in China.   There was also much concern with corruption at the start of Hu Jintao’s term as Party Secretary.  The difference with Xi is that there is change in the institutional arrangements of the party investigative apparatus — plus up the numbers and stationing them at provincial and local counterpart agencies rather than working through those agencies — that are making possible the much longer-lasting quasi-permanent anti-corruption campaign underway since Xi took office.

How (if at all) will this approach affect China’s internal/external behavior?

The merging of the idea of cultural area and state stresses continuity — looking back on 5000 years rather than just the 60-odd years of New China PRC (handy for expansive territorial claims) and pride in one’s culture.

Many Chinese feel they have had a tough 150 years or so and finally things are getting back to normal, with China playing a major role.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s