Chinese human rights Wei Jingsheng is a pioneer in the Chinese democracy movement, and the author of the essay “The Fifth Modernization,” urging political reform which was posted on the Democracy Wall in Beijing in 1978. Wei was swiftly arrested and convicted of “counter-revolutionary” activities and spent a total of 18 years in different Chinese prisons before he was deported to the United States in November 1997 on medical parole. Wei, 70, and head of the Washington-based Wei Jingsheng Foundation, wrote a rare commentary for RFA’s Mandarin Service in response to the jailing this week of tycoon and Xi Jinping critic Ren Zhiqiang.
The trial of Ren Zhiqiang marks a major turning point in Chinese politics, and represents a huge crackdown on internal opposition within the ranks of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
It’s all about Xi Jinping maintaining his grip on dictatorship.
There is a long history of opposition within the party, going back to the capitalist roading of Liu Shaoqi and Peng Dehuai; all the way back to when the party came to power in 1949, in fact.
That opposition, anti-Mao faction grew into the liberal faction, even into a quasi pro-democracy faction.
Initially, neither Mao Zedong nor the CCP rejected the idea of democracy, because it had been the main ideal of Chinese intellectuals for a century or so.
Mao didn’t want to alienate the general public, so he had to play a political game, because he needed the people to support him against the capitalist roaders.
Once they were overthrown, a younger generation who had shifted from being royalists to anti-Maoists gradually turned into democrats, on the surface at least. Democratic awareness still took a very Marxist form back then.
They were classed as an active counterrevolutionary organization by the authorities, who suppressed them.
Interestingly, most of the rebels at the time were anti-communists under the banner of communism.
Mao Zedong and Jiang Qing successfully provoked their opposition and eliminated them one by one. That was one of the main reasons they stayed in control of China [until 1976].
By the end of the Cultural Revolution, the rebels within the party had been eliminated.
But the anti-dictatorship and anti-Mao Zedong factions of the Red Guards didn’t flourish, [even under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, who was treated as a rebel by Mao],
A lot of them were the sons and daughters of party officials, and the rebel leaders within the party had also had outspoken offspring of their own.
The rebel faction of the Red Guards were the elite of their generation, and they were getting promoted towards leadership positions during the 1980s and 1990s, at which point the party leaders started to take note.
While some of these younger people were allowed to get rich first [under Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms], and became part of vested interest networks, many of them still held strong democratic ideals, and were bolder than your average intellectual.
Deng Xiaoping was very vigilant against potential threats from these people. It was Deng and vice chairman Chen Yun who came up with the rule that only one person in any family can hold official office.
Today, the latest online public opinion guidance program under the dictatorship still tries to lure anti-communists to their doom.
It actually foments anti-communist feeling, so as to maintain the one-party authoritarian regime.
The Communist Party leadership has always relied on its ability to divide the political opposition, although its propaganda methods have moved with the times.
Modern agents are very good at disguising themselves as anti-communists, and they assume these false identities to manipulate … online public opinion.
There has been a huge reduction in the number of 50-cent pro-communist commentators and a large increase in the number who pretend to be anti-communist so as to bring down the pro-democracy faction.
Anyone in favor of freedom and democracy should stay vigilant for these [agents provocateurs] and not fall for the Communist Party’s divide-and-rule tactics.
The current crackdown by Xi Jinping on opposition within party ranks uses exactly the same tactics that were used to target the threat of ‘peaceful evolution’ outside it.
This is because the best hope for peaceful evolution towards democratic development lies at the confluence of the grassroots democracy movement and the opposition factions within the ranks of the party.
Don’t let the 50-cent army divide the political opposition, or China could lose an opportunity to evolve peacefully towards democracy.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.