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HVK Archives: Marxism and Materialism

Marxism and Materialism - The Times of India

Manoranjan Mohanty ()
27 November 1996

Title : Marxism & Materialism
Middle Path in the Middle Kingdom
Author : Manoranjan Mohanty
Publication : The Times of India
Date : November 27, 1996

When China's President Jiang Zemin visits India shortly,
he comes as the leader of a team which is seriously
engaged in tackling social degeneration while leading a
strong and prosperous country into the 21st century. As
much became clear during the recently-concluded plenum of
the central committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

Rather than being a hardline assertion of puritanical
Marxists, the sixth plenum was a serious stock-taking of
social development during the past 18 years of reforms.
Being the last plenum before the 15th party congress
scheduled for the second half of 1997, it had a special
significance in admitting many adverse social effects of
China's economic progress. It decided to work towards
securing a balance between material prosperity and ethi-
cal and cultural progress.

Collective Effort

This plenum was the third major collective effort by the
successors of Mr Deng Xiaoping to build up a stable
framework of transition not only to the post-Deng era but
also to the 21 st century. At 92, Mr Deng can feel happy
that his guideliness are working almost according to the
script even though he has retired completely. Perhaps his
last major intervention was an informal meeting in
Shanghai over two years ago in August 1994 which he had
with Chen Yun and some of the current leaders of the
Politbureau Standing Committee. Chen Yun who died a few
months later had expressed concern about some of the
sociopolitical consequences of' the ongoing reforms. It
was probably in that meeting that the agreed framework
for the subsequent years was worked out.

Following it, the fourth plenum of the CPC, which met in
October 1994, reaffirmed Mr Jiang Zemin's leadership in
the party. Thereafter, we saw constant reference to the
leadership of the CPC with Mr Jiang Zemin "at its core".
Subsequently, Mr Jiang carried out several changes in the
party secretariat and, importantly, in the military
command of the various regions. In October 1995, the
next major decision was taken by the fifth plenum which
stressed on combining reform and development with politi-
cal stability and committed itself to continuing liber-
alisation and modernisation without interruption. It
announced the target of doubling the GNP of the year 2000
by 2010.

After these political and economic initiatives, the sixth
plenum has come now as a complementary step - a socio-
cultural initiative by the party to curb decadent trends
in social behaviour. Next year the party congress will
review and consolidate the entire package of transition
for which the work was initiated by the sixth plenum

itself. These three plenary sessions of the central
committee together have taken significant political,
economic and cultural measures to carry out a stable
framework of policies for the coming years, thus clearly
signalling to observers inside China and abroad that the
current leadership in Beijing headed by Mr Jiang Zemin is
not a transitional one.

The CPC organised this plenum to counter a host of social
trends such as corruption, crimes, drug use and growing
selfish behaviour among people. In 1993, a special con-
ference of the party had outlined a number of steps
ranging from checks and accountability of officials to
ideological education and tough punishment for those
guilty of corruption. Since then the Chinese press has
exposed numerous scandals involving many high-ranking
functionaries. Every month, there are instances of public
executions after summary trials. Drug trafficking has
been a big menace using the Myanmar-Yunnan-Hung Kong-Shen
Zhen route as well as central Asia channels. The plenum
resolution talks about the growth of rank selfishness
among people in recent years - a trend of crude individu-
alism without caring for neighbours, co-workers or even
elder members of the family.

Positive Elements

The plenum emphasised the need to promote spiritual
civilisation (jinghshen wenming) by invoking the positive
elements of Chinese tradition. In recent years, respect
for Confucianism has been growing in China's intellectual
circles. There are even theories propounded abroad link-
ing the east Asian economic "miracle" to Confucian values
of strict adherence to principles in life and work. The
CPC document dwells extensively on the values that should
be inculcated. It refers to the trinity of Satyam,
Shivam, Sundaram (Zhen, Shan, Mei), the Indian values
assimilated by Chinese culture through Buddhist in-

The growing material prosperity in China has come with
its own tensions in society. The question has been raised
whether socialism is only about national prosperity. The
CPC leadership is so alarmed by the magnitude of these
tensions that it as initiated a discussion about the
current trends in society. It seeks to combine socialist
market economy with socialist ethics, material progress
with ethical and cultural progress.

There is, however, a cleat reaffirmation of the fact that
the focus on economic construction must not be slackened.
The party's basic policies for the next 15 years "must be
upheld without wavering" declared the plenum. In other
words, the new morality drive must not be allowed to
derail the trend of economic growth.

That is where the paradox of contemporary China manifests
itself. On the one hand, the leadership is determined to
carry on the economic policies of modernisation to catch
up with the advanced western countries. On the other
hand, it has alerted itself about the social and cultural
degeneration that has appeared in the course of this

Drive Launched

The leadership has launched a drive for "education in
patriotism" to foster national spirit of greater self-
respect, self-confidence and self-support. This can be
interpreted both ways - one to continue to achieve higher
growth targets to surpass western levels, another to
affirm the cultural and political status of the Chinese
people. Similarly, there is a new appeal to promote
ideological and moral education among young people - the
strata who have been most vulnerable to westernisation
and capitalist values and there is even an attempt to
popularise "advanced collectives" and examples of "out-
standing people".

The media has been called upon to play a special role in
securing this balance of material and ethical progress.
Along with people in the fields of literature and art,
they have been assured of freedom of expression applying
the principle, "let hundred flowers blossom and let
hundred schools of thought contend". But that is to be
governed by a moral-political code of "serving the people
and socialism" which the party shall enforce.

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