The spirit of communism requires that the government does not put its people under undue distress. But in the short history of CCP rule, the government has never hesitated to use violence and oppression whenever its authority is challenged. So, beyond the ideologies of Left and Right, the ideology of power has remained the dominant operant in Chinese domestic affairs. With this understanding it is easy to see that Deng’s remark was not out of line with the pattern of events in recent history. For example, following the disastrous Great Leap Forward program, the second rung leadership of the party came to the conclusion that before embarking on such large-scale projects the country needs to develop technology. But, the rational technocratic tendencies of sections of the party was seen as a push to the Right and eventually toward capitalism. Irrespective of the validity of these perceived threats to communism, Mao unleashed a slew of harsh measures to bring the party under his unitary command. The Four Modernizations policy that followed the failed Great Leap was the brain-child of the technocratic elite of the party, and as a result Mao sought to dismantle the program. This move on part of Mao was born as much of personal insecurity as any other purported logical flaws in it.
“Mao’s solution was a return to active, violent revolution. It’s tool: luan, or chaos. And it worked, for a while. The chaos of student demonstrations, mutual denunciations among Party cadres, and orchestrated purges and public trials stopped the technocratic reforms dead and tossed the Party leadership that handled them out of office, into the streets and, ultimately, sent them down to the farm to starve or reform themselves according to the Great Leap goals of faith in Mao and Mao alone” (Creek, p.40)
Repression in China has taken on an added dimension in the period of economic liberalization. As author Yuezhi Zhao notes in his book, use of brute force has been partially replaced in the last two decades by censoring of public discourse. By controlling the range of thoughts the general public is allowed to have and express, a great deal of discipline is instilled in the population. This pre-empts any need for deployment of police and the military as was usually the case during the time of Mao, and more recently during the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.
“As the post-1989 Chinese leadership unleashed the power of the market and entrenched a pragmatic notion of socialism as economic development, they further reinforced their coercive and discursive disciplinary powers in the political, ideological, and cultural spheres. More importantly, the heightening of state censorship is a response to deepening social tensions and intensifying political, ideological, social, and cultural struggles resulting from accelerated market reforms and global reintegration.” (Yuezhi Zhao, p.49)
The period of economic reforms has seen the rise of new social tensions and issues. Inequalities in the distribution of wealth has been on the ascendency, causing distrust of public policy and increasing the propensity for popular demonstrations. The heightened restrictions within the news media and the Internet are a reflection of these growing tensions, as government agencies work overtime to curb subversive thoughts and ideas. And the cause of the Left is the most affected in this stifling atmosphere, as without the ability to communicate and organize mass movements, ideas representing an idealistic socialist society does not get necessary support. And censorship in communication within the country is part of the policy to ‘Guard against the Right, but primarily against the Left’.
Timothy Cheek, Living with Reform: China Since 1989 (Nova Scotia: Fernwood Publishing; London and New York: Zed Books, 2006). ISBN: 978-1842777237. Page: 32-53
Yuezhi Zhao, Communication in China: Political Economy, Power, and Conflict (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008). ISBN: 978-0742519664. Page: 47-57