Evolution of the Thought of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Xi Jinping

Presentations given July 31st, 2021 at the symposium “China’s Rise: Its Meaning to Humanity’s Strivings” as a part of the Saturday Free School and Church of the Advocate’s Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Communist Party of China

Mao Zedong, Dr. Anthony Monteiro
Deng Xiaoping, Saving the Party and New China, Jahanzaib Choudhry
Xi Jinping’s Leadership in a Turn of Epochs, Jeremiah Kim

Presentation on Deng Xiaoping by Jahanzaib Choudhry

As we learned from our reading of Du Bois’s unpublished masterpiece Russia and America, the Russian Revolution was a great experiment in social science. If we are willing to follow Du Bois in rejecting the anti-communism at the heart of American social and political science, we can attempt to understand the Chinese Revolution and the leadership of the CPC in the same way. With many successes as well as setbacks, the CPC’s record is a great body of knowledge for the study of people’s democracy. As we continue our theme of rejecting the anti-communism notion, we can work towards understanding DXP Thought in the period of Deng’s leadership and the years after, as a great experiment in socialist modernization in a very complex country.

Deng the man, was truly a remarkable figure. Like many of the party’s founding generation he was born to a prosperous peasant family during the years of Sun Yat Sen’s nationalist activities, in a home deeply invested in education. He was given the opportunity to go to France, which was thought of by many Chinese as most advanced country for education. Yet upon arriving there in post world war I period, he and his contingent of fellow students, were shocked to find economic downturn, very poor opportunities for immigrants to work, and became unable to afford French university. He worked difficult odd jobs where he learned first hand about the industrial factory system, exploitation of labor as well as white racism. His contingent of Chinese students, under the leadership of Zhou En Lai, founded a nascent Communist organization inspired by the Soviet Union. Deng had the opportunity to study Marxism Leninism in the Soviet Union and then was sent to serve in the Communist Party of China’s revolutionary efforts in the mainland. 

Initially, being responsible for work in urban areas, Deng saw firsthand the failure of the CP’s urban policy. In the aftermath of the KMT’s assault on the CP, he was deeply impressed by Mao’s rural strategy and his ability to build up a rural base. He became a loyal member of Mao’s faction in the struggle for leadership of the party, for which he faced his first punishment, a purge as well as abandonment by his first wife. His children would remember this was a period in which the happy go lucky Deng became hardened. He was restored to a leading position in the party as Mao’s faction came to take the lead after the 1935 Zuinyu conference. He worked side by side with Mao during the Long March, being put in charge of propaganda including editing a newspaper called the Red Star. When printing materials had to be abandoned, he was tasked with orally rallying the troops. He made the 6,000 mile trek half on horseback and half on foot, as he battled a severe case of typhoid. He went on to command troops in the Red Army against the Japanese and Kuomintang in many significant battles. He developed tough physical and mental discipline as well as an ability to think quickly and experiment with new tactics on the battlefield. He also developed a deep connection with the party cadre and an ability to communicate with and rally them in the most dire circumstances. After the founding of the people’s republic, he served in senior roles in the party including as General Secretary in the 1960.

He was purged by Mao twice during the Cultural Revolution, but Mao always left open the possibility he could return to the party due to his loyalty. However, he felt the chaos of this period firsthand, as members of the Red Guard brutally attacked his son, leaving him paralyzed for life. During his time away from the party, he reflected on the damage of the cultural revolution as well as how a creative understanding of Marxism could meet the needs of the Chinese people in a way that Mao’s policies were not.

As we have discussed regarding the cultural revolution, Deng inherited a country and a party on the brink. It is important to remember after Mao’s death in 1976 the party was under the leadership of the Gang of Four, led by Mao’s last wife, who were intent on continuing the disastrous policies of the cultural revolution. 

Deng, despite his purges, was highly respected by the party cadre as well as the Chinese masses. There were large protests in Tianamen square and elsewhere against the Gang of Four, with many calling for Deng’s reinstatement. Ultimately, a power struggle within the party led to the defeat of the Gang of Four, who were subsequently tried for treason for their activities during the cultural revolution. 

Deng and other colleagues who had been part of the founding generation of the chinese revolution, but had opposed the Cultural Revolution came to power in a China that was on the brink. Economic growth had slowed to a standstill. Popular unrest led to a society at war with itself. Despite a rapprochement with the US in Mao’s last years, China still faced official diplomatic isolation and tensions on its borders. One can imagine that Deng faced this situation with serious anxiety. All the blood and tears of the past 5 decades of struggle to build a New China could have slipped away.

Deng’s study of the situation led him to believe that the great error of the Cultural Revolution was to emphasize the continuity of class struggle under socialism as well as to ignore the need to build productive forces. After becoming paramount leader in 1978, at the age of 74, he called for a program of “eliminating chaos and returning to normal”.

This meant the end to the policy of class struggle and for socialist construction and modernization. 

His basic points on this were two: a policy of reform and opening up of the economy and society along with adherence to four cardinal principles: 1. Upholding the socialist path 2. Upholding people’s democratic dictatorship 3. Upholding leadership of the CPC 4. Upholding Mao Zedong Thought and Marxist Leninism.

This was a unique program of simultaneously adopting market reforms and allowing for foreign investment while reasserting the political authority of the CPC and the Chinese model of democracy. Many observers at that time and to this day, misinterpreted Deng’s program as the restoration of capitalism in the western model and thought it was a matter of time before China would adopt the western model of democracy. In fact, there are antecedents for what Deng attempted. He was a student in the USSR, during the Soviet New Economic Policy, a period of about a decade in which the war torn nation allowed for a great deal of leeway for Russian entrepreneurs as well as sought foreign trade and investment while maintaining the Soviet Communist Party’s rule. Some thinkers in the Soviet Communist Party even argued for a continuation of this policy though it was defeated by Stalin’s proposal’s for collectivation. Similarly, Mao’s own program of New Democracy, on which the Chinese Revolution was won, called for giving the National Bourgeoisie who were loyal to the nation a role in society, but limiting their political power; something which was increasingly abandoned with the West’s isolation of China and with the ultra left policies of the Cultural Revolution. Additionally economics and the philosophy of markets has been a topic of study in China since ancient times, indeed some of the European Enlightenment study of political economy was inspired by translating Chinese texts on the topic. So, Deng and his colleagues, rather than be guided by foreign experts, were able to construct an economic model based on a creative understanding of Marxism and Chinese philosophy, and constructed to meet the needs of the Chinese people in that moment. This would form the basis of DXP Thought which would be added to MZT as one of the leading principles of the CPC.

 Deng himself attempted this opening up as a series of experiments. He realized the need to involve the masses in this change of policy in order to achieve a new national consolidation and consensus. In the rural areas it began with giving peasants living in agricultural collectives the right to experiment with new techniques to deal with food shortages. Many of the peasants, dissatisfied with the collective policies of the cultural revolution, to divide up the collectives into small family plots which brought about increased crop yields and helped deal with the discontent in the countryside. However, while individuals and some companies were given rights to land, this was on a leasing basis, with the state maintaining permanent ownership of land

Similarly, experiments were undertaken in urban areas with special economic zones. Rather than mass privatization, as would happen in the socialist states of Eastern Europe, Deng allowed SEZs beginning with the Shenzhen SEZ in Guangdong, neighboring Hong Kong. Seeing that many desperate Chinese were willing to risk life and limb to cross into Hong Kong during the slow years of the Cultural Revolution, Deng invited Chinese and other investors from Hong Kong as well as the surrounding areas of East Asia and eventually the from around the world to invest in industrial projects in this port area. The successes were replicated in SEZs in other regions of China. However, while small and medium private enterprises were encouraged in SEZs along with FDI, most large state enterprises were kept in tact. Additionally, while the foreign banks were allowed some activity in China, the domestic banking sector was highly regulated with most large banks remaining under state control. The party’s top leadership continued to set Five Year plans guiding the economy at all levels. This unique model came to be known as market socialism or socialism with Chinese characteristics. Deng proposed it would help China become a moderately prosperous society in the decades to come.

Certainly, the role of the United States in this story cannot be ignored. China had taken an increasingly anti-Soviet position under Mao and cooperation with the US had begun under his leadership after Nixon’s visit. However, it was under Deng in December 1978 that the Carter administration officially recognized the People’s Republic of China and conducted a full normalization of relations. The official communiques from this period stated that the US and the PR of China disagreed on everything in world affairs except the threat of “Soviet hegemony”. Though no official treaty or alliance was established between the US and China, in what has been termed by US officials as an “ideological armistice”, extensive cooperation occurred between the two nations against the common Soviet threat. Although Deng abandoned Mao’s policy of exporting revolution, he retained a role for the military on China’s borders. Some of the worst moments of the unofficial anti-Soviet alliance were hostility towards Vietnam, including support for the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia and ultimately Deng’s decision to mount a short-lived invasion of Vietnam as well as Chinese support for the anti-Soviet mujahideen in Afghanistan. These decisions earned Deng the ire of progressive forces around the world.

This cooperation with the US meant the lessening of tensions in the Taiwan straits. While the US did not end its defense treaty with Taiwan, a relaxation of tensions meant international shipping could travel to China’s western ports through the Taiwan straits. Additionally, the Asian Tiger economies such as Taiwan itself, Japan, and South Korea engaged in major trade, investment and technical cooperation with the PRC. In many ways this was a restoration of the trade and cultural links that had been suspended by Cold War hostilities. This also began a process of economic integration in these major economies of East Asia, that would lead to Asia becoming the center of the world economy in our time.

  While Western investment as well as the process known as globalization certainly played a role in making China industrialized, the proverbial workshop of the world, the contrast with how globalization has played out in the rest of the world is telling. Whereas globalization, especially in the years since the end of the Cold War has led to massive exploitation of labor in the third world, the penetration of third world economies by finance capital, and the weakening of state sovereignty; the uniqueness of the Chinese model as well as the strategic decisions on foreign policy have led to China becoming the fastest growing economy in history. Hundreds of millions of Chinese have been lifted out of poverty in a time in which neoliberalism has impoverished much of the global working class. Some of the credit for this must go to Mao, despite the mistakes of the cultural revolution, the first decades of Chinese socialism built a healthy, educated labor force of an immense scale. With the market socialism model, private enterprise was able to benefit from this extremely productive labor force, and while some have certainly gotten richer than others, much of the working class and peasantry was able to improve their standard of living as well. The surplus from this activity was also invested by the state in the four modernizations: agriculture, industry, national defense, science and technology. Creating not just a sovereign but a sophisticated and powerful Chinese state. These policies would be carried through even after Deng’s death in 1996, by his successors. Indeed, one can make a good argument that despite never earning PhD in economics, it was DXP, schooled in revolutionary Marxism and Chinese philosophy who has been the world’s most successful economist.

Perhaps, the most important lesson for the left, is the contrast between Deng’s actions as leader of the CPC and Mikhail Gorbachev’s as leader of the CP of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev’s reforms, perestroika and glasnost, not only opened the economy but also the political system to outside forces. He transitioned the USSR from socialism to social democracy, abandoning the principle of the democratic dictatorship of the people, and that weak social democracy gave way to the collapse of the USSR through the pressure of reactionary forces in the CP and Soviet society in alliance with the West. In contrast, to China’s path in the 1990s, the former USSR, broken up into the Russian Federation, Ukraine and several other nations experience an extreme increase in poverty and decline in life expectancy as Western finance plundered the economy in the name of free market reforms. It would not be until the rise of Putin in the year 2000 that this would be undone. Putin’s own visionary leadership would lead not just to a reversal of this economic crisis but also a renewal of Russia-China relations with the signing of the Russia China Treaty of Goodneighborliness and Cooperation in 2001.

This is not to say there were not forces in Chinese society and indeed within the CPC itself who wanted China to move towards Gorbachev’s vision for Russia. Indeed, perhaps Deng’s greatest accomplishment was to maintain the unity and integrity of the nation and party from challenges within and without.

In a May 1985 speech, Deng stated: “Since the downfall of the Gang of Four an ideological trend has appeared that we call bourgeois liberalization. Its exponents worship the “democracy” and “freedom” of the Western capitalist countries and reject socialism. This cannot be allowed. China must modernize; it must absolutely not liberalize or take the capitalist road, as countries of the West have done.” Indeed Deng would embark on an anti-liberalization campaign in this period. However, many elements of the CPC thought China should embrace full liberalization.

The most controversial period of Deng’s leadership in the West were the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. In fact they coincided with Gorbachev’s visit to China as well as the death of Hu Yaobang, the General Secretary of the CPC perceived as a reformist. While the opening up had certainly brought new prosperity as well as new contradictions into China namely inequality and corruption, seen in the context of Gorbachev’s policies as well as the contemporary counter revolutionary protests in socialist nations such as Poland and East Germany, we can see the path that anti-party protests would have led China down. Despite, allowing the protesters weeks to express themselves, their refusal to disperse and increased militancy led Deng to take more drastic actions. Although, elements in the party, most notably premier Zhao Ziyang wanted to give into the protesters demand that the party abdicate in favor of a liberal democratic setup, Deng insisted on sending in the PLA. Though Western media accounts claim this was a massacre, wikileaks cables show that the Western embassies did not seriously believe there were mass killings. In fact, much of the western media reported that the initially PLA soldiers killed by protesters were dead student protesters. Since then, the correspondents covering the protests for CBS News and the Washington Post have admitted that Western media manufactured a story of a massacre to defame the CPC. Similarly, information has been revealed about American and British intelligence contacts with the protest leaders, many of whom subsequently sought asylum in the US or UK. Though admitting that some protesters were misguided people motivated by real issues, Deng argued that a decisive move had to be taken to isolate the elements that called for the overthrow the CPC and the socialist system and its replacement with a Western bourgeois republic. He also made a decisive move against the liberal elements in the party including Zhao Ziyang. Similar, to the his taking the helm at the end of the Cultural Revolution, one can imagine Deng’s, by then in his 80s, feeling that the People’s Republic and the sacrifices he made for it had to be saved.

Significance to the Rise of Asia

All of this leads us to today. In analyzing Deng’s record, we must see it in the context of the rise of Asia.

Through the lens of Du Bois and his vision of a world beyond the domination of the West, we can see the temporary nature of the Western world order. Whatever strategies the US ruling elite took to divide and rule, whatever the ideology of the ruling party in any Asian country and whatever tensions exist between them, the logic of history is for Asia to move towards unity and combined development. The speed and scale of this may vary, and the craven war policies pursued by the West to slow it down may vary but the logic of history points Asia towards undoing the legacy of 500 years of colonialism. 

The ongoing rise of Asia must have many features, cultural, political, and of course it must represent a shift in moral values. Economics is certainly not everything but it is certainly a strong base on which a future can be built. Economic growth in societies deeply underdeveloped by colonial relations gives dignity to those have been thrust into poverty, representing many unfulfilled dreams. Economic integration between states, whose borders hav often been drawn by the colonizers’ hand, increases the possibilities of growth and reduces the possibilities of conflict. One part of Deng’s legacy is not just the opening of China’s economy to the West but more importantly creating conditions for economic cooperation between Asian states that were previously hostile such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia Singapore, and Vietnam. The sustained growth from these relationships has laid the foundation for what many are calling the Asian century. In fact the phrase Asian Century is believed by some to originate from a 1988 meeting with People’s Republic of China (PRC) leader Deng Xiaoping and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in which Deng said that ‘[i]n recent years people have been saying that the next century will be the century of Asia and the Pacific, as if that were sure to be the case. I disagree with this view.” Deng was right to say that this is not inevitable, many contradictions and questions remain, yet the possibility is today stronger than it has ever been.

We must see Deng’s successes and flaws. The CPC is not a perfect party and nor was Deng a perfect man, nor is the Chinese nation without contradiction. Yet in commemorating their monumental achievements, we are not calling them perfect or condemning them for their sins, but pointing out the significance in this great democratic project, which despite its shortcomings has achieved something superior to what the US has. A rising people’s democracy, whose few border conflicts notwithstanding, has risen peacefully without military expansion, imperialism, or an all out war policy. Certainly, its sins can never be equivacted with that of the racist, imperialist, and anti-people United States government.

DXP thought has guided the nation since the death of Deng. While the US waged the global war on terror from 2001 onwards, China engaged in trade and constructive work within its own borders and throughout the world. While the US spent trillions on wars of occupation and destruction, immense nuclear and conventional weapons buildup as well as 800 military bases,  Chinese leaders guided by DXP thought spent their precious funds on peaceful construction in the new millennium. That is something very significant. DXP’s thought succeeded in bridging the nation from the crisis in found itself in in 1977 to the rise of Xi Jinping in 2012.

Presentation on Xi Jinping by Jeremiah Kim

Perhaps more so than any other figure alive today, the leadership of President Xi Jinping in the People’s Republic of China reflects the shape of a new epoch that is struggling to be born across the world – that is, a common future defined by peace, friendship and cooperation between nations, and the freeing of the oppressed from the shackles of poverty and war. Yet it is fair to say that most Americans do not view Xi Jinping this way. Mainstream media has cast Xi, along with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, as a brutal, power-hungry dictator and an enemy of everything Americans hold dear. President Joe Biden is fond of saying Xi Jinping “doesn’t have a democratic bone in his body,” and has declared more broadly that the great conflict of the 21st century is the battle between “democracy vs. autocracy” – with the United States representing democracy, and China assigned the label of autocracy. As the organizers of this conference have stated, we in the Free School reject this formulation; we believe that the true dividing line of the 21st century is between humanity and war. Nevertheless, the question still remains: What kind of society is China building? What form of governance has it chosen? What role does China seek to play in the world? Is China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China, truly an oppressive, authoritarian regime – or, is China in fact developing a new type of democracy, one that marks a new chapter for humanity as a whole?

To address these questions, I’d like to begin by talking about Xi Jinping’s vision of the Chinese Dream – an economic, political, cultural, and spiritual rejuvenation of China’s 1.4 billion people that advances their 5,000 year long history and contributes to the progress of humanity. This dream gives vibrant color and meaning to China’s century of revolutionary struggle and steady development toward its long-term goals of socialism and the continual improvement of the livelihood of the masses of people. It is appropriate, then, that when he articulates the Chinese Dream, Xi insistently draws upon the moral wisdom and rich traditions of Chinese civilization. These traditions and values serve as a common touchstone for China’s younger generations to embrace their role in pushing China toward a bright future. Such forward-looking optimism and confidence stands in stark contrast to the pessimism, nihilism, and confusion afflicting young people across the Western world.

How does China seek to make its vision a reality? It would be impossible for China to achieve its goals if its 1.4 billion people did not believe in the ability of their leaders to govern responsibly and intelligently. A recent study by Harvard University found that the proportion of Chinese citizens who are satisfied with their national government steadily increased from 86% in 2003 to 93% in 2016. Another study by Canada’s York University in 2020 found that 98% of the Chinese people trust in their government. In the Free School, we have often discussed the crisis of legitimacy in America, in which the masses of people have lost faith in their ruling institutions. Our own domestic disillusionment, however, should not prevent us from recognizing the fact that China’s own unique system of governance between the Party, the state, and the people enjoys widespread support. This naturally raises the question: What have Xi Jinping and the CPC’s 95 million members done to win the trust of the Chinese people? It is important to note that Xi Jinping is not an isolated individual. As the first Chinese leader born after the founding of the PRC, Xi represents the children of China’s revolutionary generation. Moreover, as a product of the training, discipline, and scrutiny undergone by every Party cadre, Xi is also a testament to the health of the CPC as a true communist party – one whose mission is to cultivate and promote principled, effective leaders who can achieve genuine victories among the people.

Xi Jinping began his career as a volunteer at the age of 16 in the countryside of Shaanxi, toiling alongside villagers and learning from revolutionary veterans and the common folk of the area. He then spent the 1980s working in some of the most poverty-stricken regions of China, before going on to lead three provinces – Fujian, Zhejiang, and Shanghai – which in total encompassed 120 million people and an economy close to the size of India’s. In each place where he served, he helped to develop effective approaches to economic uplift that fit the particular qualities of a region or community, and always called on the people to rely on their own strength while also fostering cooperation between various provinces. When Western media declares that China is undemocratic, they ignore the fact that Xi, like every Party official, has had to prove his qualities as a responsible, capable leader at every stage of government – with the ultimate litmus test being the high standards of the Party and the trust of the people themselves. Forged by his grassroots experiences across a wide swath of society – from the rural countryside to major cities – Xi has emerged from the people and is thus vitally attuned to the people. This process of producing and testing leaders, which combines the broadest possible democratic base with China’s long-running tradition of meritocracy, is scarcely imaginable in the West.

When Xi Jinping became General Secretary of the CPC in 2012, China was at a crossroads. The country was developing quickly from Deng Xiaoping’s period of reform and opening up, but China was still viewed as inferior by the West and easy to manipulate if necessary. China faced the danger of its leadership, the CPC, losing its way by becoming subservient to the West and thus divorced from the Chinese people. This situation was heightened by genuine problems like corruption in the Party and a growing wealth gap in the country. Xi has devoted much of his energy to ensuring that all Party cadres cultivate high moral conduct, embrace political responsibility, and build closer ties with the people. In his speeches, Xi often stresses that the moral authority of the CPC comes from the people; if the Party ever ceases to hold itself accountable to the people, then it will have abdicated its moral authority to govern. With the country’s centenary goals in view, there is no room for corruption, for empty promises, or for Party officials who are not committed to serving the people.

Western media paints this effort to combat corruption and cement unity among the CPC as a “brutal crackdown” by Xi. But we should understand China in the world context: since World War II, the U.S. has launched countless regime change wars, coups, and color revolutions against other nations, assassinating a generation of principled leaders in the world anti-colonial movement and sowing chaos in places like Eastern Europe. The strategy of imperialism against progressive nations and movements is to exploit internal divisions among leadership, to divide the leadership from the people, and to divide the people against each other. The information age has only made imperialism more sophisticated in its approach; fake progressive movements can sprout, seemingly from nowhere, and advance the agenda of the U.S. deep state under the veneer of slick marketing and well-crafted slogans. The recently attempted color revolution in Cuba, rapidly circulated on social media and aimed at destroying the Cuban revolution, is an immediate example. Keenly aware of these developments around the world, Xi Jinping has undertaken the crucial task of consolidating the CPC to prevent imperialism from destroying the internal unity of the Party and the social contract between the Party and the people. To allow brazen disunity would, in essence, give free reign to imperialism to wreck the monumental, century-long project that China has embarked upon to revitalize its civilization and uplift its people. This is a project which the Chinese people have every right to pursue under the leadership they have chosen and without the threat of imperialist intervention.

It is in this light that we must recognize the great victory of the CPC and the Chinese people in eliminating extreme poverty, a landmark achievement not only for China but for humanity. It is the kind of vast project of social science, centered on humanity, that WEB Du Bois envisioned in his unpublished work Russia and America and which he first saw attempted in the Soviet Union: “If I could study what man had done, why not investigate thoroughly and scientifically what he is doing now and what he might do in the future? In other words, I was seeking a science of human action which could be used not only for studying the Negro Problem, but for all the problems of the poor and ignorant… This land should and could know accurately the income of all citizens and its source and kind… We could measure sickness and death, education and occupation far more accurately than our hit or miss census methods now accomplish. With this body of knowledge and a mass of other data concerning life and deeds of men, we could act and legislate with some accuracy and not by guess work, without infringing any privacy to which men have an essential right.”

Humanity will have much to learn from how China lifted 800 million people out of the depths of poverty in four decades. This was a revolutionary struggle – not to expel foreign imperialists, but to defeat the evil of poverty. Contrary to the American belief that socialism entails ubiquitous handouts removing the drive for hard work and innovation, China’s poverty alleviation campaign has been premised on targeted approaches and a faith in the masses of people to work hard and lift themselves out of poverty. As such, Xi Jinping has called upon Party members to dedicate themselves to the creation of opportunities for China’s poor, opening the floodgates of creativity, industriousness, civilizational unity, and scientific knowledge among the poorest regions of the country. Under the broad umbrella of this campaign, children who have never traveled outside their hometown village gain access to a quality education; new jobs are created and local industries encouraged; families in remote, resource-deprived areas are given the chance to move to newly built towns; wealthier regions of the country join hands with poorer regions to achieve mutual prosperity; and Party members work closely with ordinary people to help them solve problems. Such an ambitious project gives weight to Xi Jinping’s statement at the CPC and World Political Parties Summit this year that, “There are multiple ways and means to realise democracy, instead of a single stereotype.” China’s way of building democracy, though it may seem foreign to Western eyes, is so successful because it actively responds to the needs and strivings of the people and mobilizes them to contribute to the forward progress of society.

Going beyond the poverty alleviation campaign, China’s recent achievements in economic and social life are no less astonishing: the Chinese people enjoy 90% homeownership; public utilities are rapidly building clean, hyper-modern infrastructure across the whole country; Chinese scientists are breaking ground in cutting-edge fields like quantum technology; state-owned banks fund social development and productive enterprises; and tech companies are allowed to grow but never allowed to consolidate control over China’s economy. This is in stark contrast to the United States, where Wall Street and Big Tech have fused with the national security state to exercise complete dominance, gutting the real economy in favor of financial speculation and increasingly degrading the American people. If we lived in a healthier ideological climate, China’s long civilizational trajectory – in which it went from a world-leading economic power for much of human history, to one of the poorest nations on the planet, before ascending into the world’s second-largest economy with a strong industrial base and zero extreme poverty – would merit genuine respect and close study.

It is for all these reasons that the U.S. ruling elite are concentrating their energies to propagandize for war and conflict against China, inflaming the American psyche to view China as an existential threat to democracy. This is an attempt not only to stop the rise of China, but the rise of humanity. Xi Jinping has concretely intertwined China’s upward development with that of the rest of the world through the Belt and Road Initiative, the largest infrastructure and development project in human history. While American elites seek to preserve the old world order of Western domination and endless war under the banner of wokeness, China has actually learned from history and is building the foundations for humanity’s uplift through peaceful coexistence and cooperation. And while American officials wave around their so-called “rules-based international order” – in which the U.S. unilaterally makes up rules for the rest of the world – China and other nations like Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, and North Korea are upholding the principle of multilateralism under UN international law. In a speech from 2014, Xi Jinping said:

“China needs peace as much as human beings need air and plants need sunshine. Only by pursuing peaceful development and working together with all other countries to uphold world peace can China realize its goal and make greater contributions to the world as a whole. Dr Sun Yat-sen, the pioneer of China’s democratic revolution, had this to say: ‘The trend of the world is surging forward. Those who follow the trend will prosper, whilst those who go against it will perish.’ History shows that a country, for its prosperity, must recognize and follow the underlying trend of the changing world. Otherwise, it will be abandoned by history. What is the trend of today’s world? The answer is unequivocal. It is the trend of peace, development, cooperation and mutually beneficial progress. China does not subscribe to the outdated logic that a country will invariably seek hegemony when it grows strong. Are colonialism and hegemonism viable today? Absolutely not. They can inevitably lead only to a dead end, and those who stick to this beaten track will only hit a stone wall. Peaceful development is the only alternative.”

This statement fundamentally agrees with the message of King when he voiced his opposition to the Vietnam War, telling America that we face the existential moral choice between “nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation”. On a philosophical level, Xi has anchored China’s foreign policy in the concept of Building a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind. This too echoes King’s ideas of the Single Garment of Destiny and the Beloved Community, not just in word but in deed. China’s partnerships across the Belt and Road are based on mutual agreement and respect for sovereignty. We should not be surprised that so many nations across Asia, Africa, Latin America, and even Europe are joining partnerships with China and rejecting the status quo of neocolonialism, in which Western “aid” to poorer countries comes with extreme political and economic conditions of regime change and neoliberal austerity. China tells no other country how to govern its people but instead offers a hand to build common prosperity and peace together. At the Bandung conference in 1955, India’s Jawaharlal Nehru encouraged the nations of Asia and Africa to “make good” on the promise of their anti-colonial revolutions. China’s rise today presents a chance for darker humanity to do so.

America, still the main purveyor of violence in the world, has a great deal to learn from China. Joe Biden and the forces he represents are determined to block the rise of China while churning out parodies of Chinese projects, including a giant domestic infrastructure bill to mirror China, and the G7’s “Build Back Better World” plan to mimic the Belt and Road Initiative. These hollow imitations, created out of a sense of desperation and a zero-sum Cold War mentality, will never meet the needs of the American people or humanity. This is because America is governed by a corrupt ruling class and a set of values that choose war, degradation, and destruction over human uplift. As Americans, we are chronically dissatisfied with our decaying, decadent society, but we have yet to put forward the new principles that should serve as the foundation for our country’s renewal. We have yet to complete King’s revolution of values. To do so, we should follow the legacy of the Black Freedom Movement and look East: toward the dawning of a new type of people’s democracy in China. We in America should look to China not as a threat to suppress or as a competitor to imitate in bad faith, but as a source of inspiration for our own struggle to bring forth a new stage of civilization in our country. The American people have the potential to create a synthesis out of the best of our civilizational traditions. We have the responsibility to contribute to a world where every civilization is free to determine its own destiny while interrelating with others on the basis of democracy and equality. We face the moral choice of seeking peace and common ground with the people of China so that each country can focus on uplifting its citizens from poverty and building societies in which all people can flourish. Either this, or we can be swept backward by the tides of reaction and remain trapped in the war propaganda of our ruling elite who are fixated on dragging humanity toward destruction. To that end, I would like to read one final quote from Xi Jinping:

“Victor Hugo once said that there was a prospect greater than the sea – the sky; and there was a prospect greater than the sky – the human soul. Indeed, we need a mind that is broader than the sky as we approach different civilizations, which serve as water, moistening everything silently. We should encourage different civilizations to respect each other and live in harmony, so as to turn exchanges and mutual learning between civilizations into a bridge promoting friendship between peoples around the world, an engine driving human society, and a bond cementing world peace. We should draw wisdom and nourishment and seek spiritual support and psychological consolation from various civilizations, and work together to face down the challenges around the globe.”