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Lack of education helps Xi stay in power

Lack of education helps Xi stay in power

Lack of education helps Xi stay in power

When Xi Jinping visited France, he again made a book list. He gave a bunch of books to the French president and Mrs Macron, including Chinese translations of French authors such as Madame Bovary by Flaubert, The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and The Lady of the Camellias, Ninety-Three by Victor Hugo, Red and Black by Stendhal, Le Père Goriot de Honoré de Balzac etc. This is of course a way to bring the two countries closer and also shows Xi’s love and understanding of French culture. Mrs. Peng Liyuan, Xi Jinping’s wife, also said during the trip that she and Xi Jinping “read these books when we were young.”

As a young man, Xi Jinping was sent to the country for labor reform during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and was a member of the “five black categories”—Chairman Mao’s political classifications during the Cultural Revolution that ranked people in these categories. groups together class enemies: landlords, rich farmers, counter-revolutionaries, evil and righteous elements. It is doubtful that he had the time and energy to read so many masterpieces of world literature when he had to “carry 100 kilograms of wheat on his shoulders and walk 10 kilometers up the mountain”, but we have no evidence to say that he did not he did, so let’s leave it open to doubt for now. However, it is a fact that after coming to power, he liked to compile book lists and talk about his vast knowledge of books. I’m also a reader, and I think most people in the world who like to read agree with my judgment: those who really like to read don’t go around making book lists and bragging to others about how many books they have they read. If this is indeed the case, then the books have in fact been read in vain. Therefore, those who make book lists to show that they are knowledgeable are usually the least knowledgeable or even uneducated. The bottom line is: Xi Jinping is actually a “badly educated” person.

I don’t want to look down on those who are less educated. My point is that being less educated is one of the reasons why Xi Jinping was chosen to be the successor to the ruling group of the Chinese Communist Party. I am afraid foreigners do not quite understand this point, or may find it inconceivable. But if you know the history of the Communist Party, you will know that this is a fact.

Chen Boda was Mao Zedong’s organist and the theoretical authority of the Chinese Communist Party, and his understanding of Mao Zedong was unparalleled in the Party. His son Chen Xiaonong published a book titled “The Last Oral Memories of Chen Boda” in Hong Kong in 2005, which stated that Mao Zedong gave an internal speech about his successor before the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution and when it coming to the criteria for selecting his successor, he explicitly said, “He should be young, less educated, and politically conservative” (page 264). Of course, it is understandable that they should be young and politically conservative: the successor cannot be someone old and who does not support the prevailing interests of the Communist Party. But the criterion of “someone who is less educated” is quite intriguing.

The reason he emphasized the need to be “less educated” illustrates his distrust and wariness of “the educated”. An educated person usually has the ability to think independently. Such an “educated person” can not only break the monopoly of totalitarian ideology, but also challenge official public opinion and propaganda, and it is certainly not an insurance policy for an authoritarian regime to have such a person as a successor to the leadership the Communist Party. It cannot be denied that Mao Zedong, who read voraciously about the ancient art of emperors and kings, had his own unique way of choosing his successor.

The successors Mao Zedong began to carefully groom after overthrowing his first chosen ones, Liu Shaoqi, Lin Biao and other founding fathers, be it Wang Hongwen, who was promoted directly from factory worker to the Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, or Hua Guofeng, who was a mediocre and incompetent hack, all, upon close examination, fit the characteristics of “young age, little education, and politically conservative.” The Communist Party has superficially recapitulated the lessons of the Cultural Revolution, but essentially still adheres to Mao Zedong’s way of doing things. Chairman Mao’s longtime secretary Li Rui once said, “Chairman Mao’s problem remains unchanged.”

Deng Xiaoping’s chosen successors, Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, had some education, or at least had a lot of “educated” people around them, but they were all eventually overthrown. Jiang Zemin, although he likes to show off his knowledge of languages, arts and culture, is far from “educated”. And Hu Jintao is famously uneducated and apparently only has storybooks from the former Soviet Union on his shelf. Obviously, even though Mao Zedong is no longer with us, it is still a tradition within the Chinese Communist Party to make “little education” one of the criteria for selecting a successor. The reasoning behind this continuity is the same as Chairman Mao’s thinking, that an educated person is not so trustworthy. Let’s take a look at Xi Jinping. When he was chosen as his successor, did he meet the criteria of “young age, little education and political conservative”? All! Obviously, Xi Jinping has been able to rise to the top and maintain his power to this day because he truly meets the criteria set by Mao Zedong for the successor to the Communist Party. From this derives the legitimacy of his leadership within the Communist Party.

Only with this understanding can we see why Xi Jinping, with such a low level of knowledge and education, can sit firmly on the throne as the supreme leader. Only by truly understanding the past history of the Chinese Communist Party can we understand the reality of the Communist Party today.

Wang Dan is the director of the think-tank Dialogue China.

Translated from the Chinese by Scott Savitt.