China Party Issues Call to Respect Maoist Past Before Plenum

Forces hostile to China’s Communist Party shouldn’t use mistakes made in its first 30 years of power to question its right to rule, an article in the flagship People’s Daily said on the eve of a leadership meeting.

Party members should study remarks by President Xi Jinping about the country’s past and “advance firm confidence in our party’s history, confidence in the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics, confidence in theory, confidence in the system,” the full-page article by the party Central Committee’s history research office said.

The article fits with broader efforts to unite the party before the Nov. 9-12 Third Plenum, where leaders may debate reforms designed to guide the economy for the next decade. State media have compared the plenum’s significance to one held in 1978, when Deng Xiaoping spurred changes that led to 30 years of economic expansion.

Today’s editorial also reflected challenges of reconciling economic growth after 1978 with the previous years, when Chairman Mao Zedong led the country through the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Millions of people died in those periods as the economy stagnated and young people turned on their elders with accusations that they weren’t sufficiently loyal to Mao.

“The commentary is designed to get cadres to read from the same script,” Russell Leigh Moses, dean of academics at the Beijing Center for Chinese Studies, said by e-mail today. “The fact that it’s appeared shows that not all of them are doing so.”

Mao’s Portrait

The article focused on remarks made by Xi in January, when he said China’s 1978 reforms shouldn’t negate what came before. At the same time, the article said leaders shouldn’t ignore or cover up mistakes of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution or the period before.

Mao’s portrait still hangs in front of Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, and over the last decade there have been calls to return to many tenets of his thinking amid rising inequality and corruption.

In recent months, Xi has led self-criticism sessions with party cadres, echoing meetings from the first days of the party in the early 1940s designed to strengthen unity around central leaders.

“The plenary session will play a very important role in the process of China’s reform and opening up,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a briefing in Beijing today. “We believe this meeting will achieve full success.”

— With assistance by Henry Sanderson

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