CCP moves away from Maoism
Revised Chinese Communist Party charter will usher in political reforms
HONG KONG - The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) convenes it seventh plenum today with a bold move to take Maoism out of the party's Constitution.
The meeting's main agenda is to iron out the details of the leadership changes which had in the past year been the focus of international attention.
An equally important task is to revise the party's charter: One possible change is that communist China's founding father Mao Zedong's thought may no longer be a guiding principle of the party. This would be an extremely important change for China.
Xinhua news agency reported last week that the Politburo held a meeting to adopt revisions to the Constitution and issued a statement saying: "The party should hold high the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, be guided by Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thoughts of the 'Three Represents', and thoroughly carry out the Scientific Outlook on Development."
This statement shows that Mao Zedong Thought may no longer be a guiding principle.
The Politburo statement said: "The party Constitution should be updated so as to reflect the party's latest theoretical achievements in localising Marxism and practical experience." It added that the revision will help all party members to better study, obey, support and carry out the charter.
It is noteworthy that the party considered skipping Maoism as "the latest theoretical achievement in localising Marxism".
Since the full text of the revised charter has not been made public yet, it is impossible to tell whether there is any reference to Mao or Maoism elsewhere.
In all previous party charters, Mao and Maoism would have their place in the preamble.
Deleting Maoism would lead to changes in the four cardinal principles prescribed by late paramount leader Deng and encoded in the current party and state Constitutions. Since the very first of the four is upholding Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, it follows that the cardinal principles might have to be re-worded to make it consistent with the new omission of Mao.
For that matter, it is also unsure yet what place the revised Constitution would accord to Marxism and Leninism.
On the basis of the Politburo statement, it can be deduced that the CCP has finally started the long overdue process of de-Maoisation. This is important in several respects.
First, it is the first time since 1945 that reference to Mao has disappeared. Mao's thought first crept into the party charter at its 7th congress that year and has remained there until now.
Second, the decision to knock out Maoism from the charter required courage, strength and determination, given the strong, vocal, diehard Maoist community. Vice-President Xi Jinping should be given credit for this bold move, for, as the incoming head of the party and state, it could not have been done without his consent.
Third, the current CCP leadership could have been forced by the Bo Xilai saga into taking this resolute action. Mr Bo's plot to unseat Mr Xi disturbed the party, and the Vice-President in particular. Since Mr Bo derived his popularity through flying the flag of Maoism, the best way to undermine his support is to de-Maoise.
Fourth, Mao's thought and Deng's theory are inherently contradictory in almost every aspect. In the past, they were put together for the sake of preserving the façade of unity and continuity and for pacifying the strong pro-Mao lobby.
The Bo crisis shows this way of "saying Mao" while "doing Deng" is potentially unstable.
Finally, by deleting Maoism, it might usher in a Xi-era of political reform, now that the biggest ideological obstacle is removed.
This article was first published on Nov 1, 2012 in The Straits Times.