The Red Book of Change
No. 1 2003 January/March
Alexander V. Lomanov

Doctor of History
Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences,
Moscow, Russia
Deputy Director for Scientific Work


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23 Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow 117997, Russia

Alexander Lomanov, Doctor of Science (History), is a leading
research fellow of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the
Russian Academy of Sciences, and a member of the Board of Advisors
of Russia in Global Affairs.

In ancient times Chinese civilization produced a unique
masterpiece which continues to fascinate intellectuals around the
world to this day. The Book of Change (I Ching) is an
elegant, self-sufficient body of universal laws which uses graphic
symbols, or hexagrams, to teach the Chinese that life is a set of
typical situations that are destined to return again and again. Fat
years give way to lean years, enlightened rulers are replaced by
despotic overlords, and the continuing recurrence of these
oppositional phases work their way back to the starting point only
to be repeated again. Opposition brings about attraction, slight
shifts cause avalanches and tremors, luck becomes the source of
misfortune – these ideas have shaped the Chinese cultural

The age when The Book of Change dominated the minds of
the educated Chinese has long passed. Nevertheless, today the
ancient dialectics may look surprisingly relevant. The 16th
National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), held in
Beijing in November 2002, did not bring about any radical
modifications to China’s political and economic development
strategy. This implies that the age of dramatic changes that began
in China in the late 1970s will continue.

At the National Congress, the Chinese leaders emphasized that at
the beginning of the 21st century the ‘Celestial Empire’ entered a
period of unprecedented prosperity and unshakeable stability. Yet,
the wisdom of their ancestors reminds us that when something has
reached its highest state, it should inevitably begin to gravitate
toward its opposing condition.

The political outcome of the Congress was absolutely
predictable. Nearly all of the professional forecasts about the
power handover and policy statements were seen through to fruition.
However, in the near future China is likely to face some serious
challenges, and the outcome of these are presently difficult to

“Little Emperor” Or “Fourth Generation Leader”?

During China’s National Congress, the world’s largest political
party running, unchallenged, the most populated country in the
world, successfully began the process of a formal handover of
power. For the first time in the half a century of the Chinese
Communist Party’s rule the change of Party leaders was complete and
peaceful. The septuagenarian members of the Chinese Communist Party
gave way to the younger sixty-year-olds in the Politburo, while
simultaneously handing over to them an ambitious plan for economic
transformation as well. The Congress opened the doors to power for
the so-called “fourth generation” of leaders (in the history of
Communist China, Jiang Zemin, 76, belonged to the third generation;
Deng Xiaoping, the second generation; and Mao Zedong, the

The formal relinquishment of political power in the Communist
Party and in the state in China has no parallels in the West: it is
not a singular event but rather a protracted process. The situation
that has emerged after the Congress is rather tenuous, as the new
and old leaders share the reigns of authority in the country. The
newly elected General Secretary, Hu Jintao (who turned 60 a month
after the Congress), has only begun his way toward real power in
China, which he aspired to all through the past decade. In the late
1980s and early 1990s, Deng Xiaoping secured a successor not only
for himself by nominating Jiang Zemin, but he also went one step
further by naming a successor for his successor – Hu Jintao.

The status of a Deng Xiaoping nominee only strengthens the
political positions of the new General Secretary since the
reputation of the “architect of the reforms” remains unquestioned
by the Chinese elite. However, Deng Xiaoping died in 1997, and his
historic decision to bring Hu Jintao to his present position of
power was a thing of the past, which actually works against Hu
Jintao now. In the 1990s, young leaders who closely cooperated with
Jiang Zemin made their way to power. Today, their connections and
professional qualities make them equal claimants (along with Hu
Jintao) to the position of the Party and government leader.

The newly formed Politburo Standing Committee (Hu Jintao is the
only remaining member of the previous Committee), which governs the
country, reflects Jiang Zemin’s continuing influence, as six of the
nine members of this body are known to be Jiang’s supporters who
are closely associated with the retiring leader. The only people
that do not belong to the Shanghai Clan (formerly, Jiang was a
Party functionary in Shanghai) are Hu Jintao, Vice Premier Wen
Jiabao and Luo Gan, a nominee of Li Peng, a conservative politician
who has already lost his influence. Currently, Hu Jintao can rely,
above all, on Wen Jiabao, whose interests lie outside the Shanghai
Clan. The coming March session of the Chinese parliament is
expected to appoint Wen Jiabao, a competent financier and renowned
advocate of economic reforms, as premier of the State Council of
the People’s Republic of China, while General Secretary Hu Jintao
is most likely to be appointed to the position of president, now
held by Jiang Zemin. The reinforced positions of both politicians
would balance the influence of forces in the new leadership of

The most powerful figure in the new Politburo Standing Committee
is Zeng Qinghong, who is known for his confiding relationship with
Jiang Zemin. He made a rather remarkable career leap in 1989, when
Jiang Zemin was in his political prime. When Jiang left his
position as the secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee
to become General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, he took
his deputy Zeng Qinghong with him to Beijing. For many years
Qinghong remained the Chinese leader’s personal aide, who advised
him on political matters, accompanied him as an ad hoc assistant
during his visits to other countries and helped him to remove
particular political rivals. In 1999, after a decade of work in the
Office of the Central Committee, Zeng became head of the Organizing
Department of the Central Committee. This position gave him the
opportunity to influence government appointments and promote his
personal allies.

Many analysts are worried about a potential future conflict
between Hu Jintao and Zeng Qinghong. Whereas the former is backed
by the authority of the late Deng Xiaoping, the latter can rely on
Jiang Zemin, an active politician controlling the true levers of
power. “The future relationship between the two men will have a
direct bearing on the stability of China’s new leadership. If they
can work together, Hu, who has waited a decade for this day, could
have a chance of consolidating his power, and foreign investors
will be reassured. If their partnership fails, as many Chinese
political analysts fear that it might, policies could turn messy
and foreign investors could be badly unnerved.” [1]

Rumor has it that Jiang Zemin and the Shanghai Clan consider Hu
Jintao an “alien” and temporary figure, and therefore they would
try to use the 17th National Congress, scheduled for 2007, to lift
their protОgО Zeng Qinghong into the position of General Secretary
[2]. However, such a scenario is not viable since
Zeng is three years older than Hu, and by the next congress he will
have reached a critical age. Moreover, Zeng Qinghong does not enjoy
enough support within the Party: at the 15th National Congress,
Jiang Zemin failed to make his protege a Politburo member, while
during the elections to the Central Committee at the 16th Congress,
Zeng received the most negative votes of all the candidates. There
can be no doubt that the new General Secretary will be doing his
best in the coming years to prop up his position. The Shanghai Clan
may try to depose Hu before the next congress, but the risk of a
dogfight within the Party, and the danger of causing instability on
a nationwide scale, outweigh any potential advantages of getting
rid of a political rival.

The approval of the new state leadership, which was formally
launched in November 2002, is planned for the first half of March
2003, and is intended to officially finalize the process of turning
power over to the “fourth generation.” However, it is not
improbable that Jiang Zemin’s political powers will continue even
beyond this date. After the 16th National Congress, Jiang Zemin,
76, continues to be chairman of the Chinese Communist Party Central
Military Commission and is likely to retain the post for another
three to five years. And, perhaps most significantly, the official
listing of profiles of the CCP leaders elected at the 16th National
Congress places Jiang Zemin, who is no longer a member of the CCP
Central Committee, ahead of General Secretary Hu Jintao. In
December 2002 – which is more than a month after the Congress – the
Chinese mass media continued to refer to Jiang as the most
influential member of the country’s new leadership.

On the one hand, the former General Secretary’s strong political
position may help if Hu Jintao fails to cooperate with the Shanghai
Clan. Although Jiang Zemin is not as authoritative as was Mao or
Deng, he continues to be the most powerful and influential
politician in modern China. Jiang Zemin’s timely interference may
appear decisive should the new leader fail to offer an efficient
policy, or should the leadership begin to weaken. Jiang’s
behind-the-curtain influence would be an important signal for
Chinese businesses and foreign investors; it is a solid guarantee
against any drastic changes in the political course, as well as a
guarantee of political stability in the country.

On the other hand, any excessive guidance by the former leader
may actually hamper the reform process, especially if the “third
generation” leaders, who have collectively retired, continue to
actively interfere in politics. Chinese dissidents joke that after
the Congress Jiang Zemin took the post of “the father of a ruling
emperor” (tai shang huang). Skeptics believe that Hu Jintao
is destined to repeat the unfortunate fate of young Emperor Guang
Xu [Kuang-hsЯ] (1871-1908). In 1898, this 27-year-old ruler of the
Manchu Qing dynasty made an attempt to reform the political system
of the Celestial Empire. However, his innovations enraged the upper
class, as well as Dowager Empress Qi Xi (one more historical
allegory for Jiang Zemin’s present-day status), and they staged a
coup. The emperor’s associates – the architects of the reforms –
were duly executed, and Guang Xu was removed from power until his
premature and mysterious death.

There is also a possibility that Jiang Zemin will abandon all of
his current positions in the Party and within the government to
take on a prominent position in some new organization. This would
help him resolve the sensitive problem of finding positions for
influential and retired politicians of the older generation who, on
account of their advanced age, would no longer qualify for a
position within the Party’s new Central Committee. In a way, this
move would be reminiscent of Deng Xiaoping’s attempt, made some
twenty years ago with a similar purpose in view, to set up an
advisory commission at the Central Committee. The first half of
this year may herald the establishment of a National Security
Council (NSC) in China, to be chaired by Jiang Zemin, with Zeng
Qinghong acting as vice chairman and executive secretary. The move
would serve as a mechanism for ‘mutual deterrence’ between Hu
Jintao and Zeng Qinghong: as a deputy chairman of the CCP Central
Military Commission, Hu will gain control of military affairs,
whereas Zeng will implement foreign policy ideas put forward by
Jiang Zemin [3]. In the future, the NSC may
develop into an important political instrument of the state,
capable of shaping both foreign and domestic policies of the

Jiang’s efforts to promote the Shanghai Clan men into positions
of power have been met with opposition from other factions which
seek to reduce the Clan’s influence. Eventually, Party members, who
want the Shanghai Clan to gradually lose its influential positions,
may start sympathizing with and assisting Hu [4].
At this point, he will be able to rely on their support.

Hu’s high repute is also due to his successful work as a Party
functionary in remote and poor regions (Gansu, Guizhou and Tibet),
as opposed to the rich maritime provinces whose leaders had given
their allegiance to the Shanghai Clan. The authorities of the less
developed provinces may support Hu as a potential ally who would
defend their interests.

Any meaningful answer to the question “Who is Hu?” can hardly be
expected anytime soon. Until now, the cautious Hu Jintao has
neither said nor done anything detrimental to his career. Inside
China, he has inspired the hopes of both the reformers and the
conservatives who expect Hu to adopt a stronger language in his
dialog with the United States and give up the “groveling” attitude
toward Washington, allegedly characteristic of Jiang Zemin. In the
West, the scarce information about Hu Jintao is usually limited to
reports about his participation in the suppression of riots in
Tibet. These reports were largely responsible for describing him as
an advocate of repressive measures. Meanwhile, “the Communist Youth
League faction,” to which the late General Secretary Hu Yaobang
belonged (Hu Jintao is also believed to belong to it), is famous
for its liberal and reform traditions, thus strengthening the hope
that the new leader is a champion of reforms.

To become a full-fledged “fourth generation leader,” Hu Jintao
will need at least 18 to 24 months. He will have to take into
account the interests of both Jiang Zemin and the representatives
of the Shanghai Clan in the Politburo Standing Committee. He has no
ideological opponents, nor are there any political ‘factions’ of
the former type inside the Chinese leadership – they have been
replaced by groups advancing various interests.

There is little chance that the new-generation leaders of China
will include neo-Maoists who would hinder the market-oriented
reforms in order to conserve the last vestiges of the former
egalitarianism. In a potential rivalry between Hu Jintao and Zeng
Qinghong, none of them will be able to claim the role of a “reform
champion.” Even if Zeng replaces Hu, such a changeover of one
capable manager by another would not drastically affect the
strategic course of the Chinese reform plans. What would really be
dangerous for the country is a political brawl that would
inevitably accompany such a changeover, since even short-term
slackening of centralized power and loss of control may plunge
China into chaos. Hu Jintao’s policy of reform may rather be
challenged from an organizational point of view, as opposed to an
ideological one. He would be required to demonstrate, above all,
his ability to establish good relations with various groups inside
the elite, smooth over conflicts between the elite and the masses,
and resolve pressing social and economic problems.

Under The Banner Of “Three Represents”

The conditions for turning Hu Jintao into a new Chinese leader
are very favorable at this time. Leaving the position of General
Secretary, Jiang Zemin presented to his comrades a remarkable list
of achievements. During the 13 years of his rule, the average
annual economic growth reached 9.3 percent. These were also the
years when China overcame the problem of inflation, successfully
withstood the pressure of the Asian financial crisis, entered the
WTO and started integrating itself into the world economy. “General
understanding is that these 13 years were years of tremendous rise
in the country’s total might, a period that gave the nation many
advantages, a period of long lasting stability and social
consolidation, when rule was successful and people lived in
harmony; a period of remarkable growth of our international
influence and of exceptional increase in national cohesion”
[5] – this is how Jiang Zemin evaluated the
results of his rule. Moreover, he introduced a new reference date
for the initial enactment of Chinese reforms. Instead of the
traditional reference point of 1978, when Deng Xiaoping declared
for the first time a new policy of reforms, he suggested June 1989
when, following the tragic events on Tiananmen Square, Jiang Zemin
was elected General Secretary at the Central Committee’s plenary

Jiang’s political triumph was immortalized by the decision of
the National Congress to enter his name into the Party’s Charter
alongside those of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Now the Party’s
Charter states that after 1989 “in the practice of building
socialism with Chinese characteristics, the Chinese Communists,
with Comrade Jiang Zemin as their chief representative, have
acquired a deeper understanding of what socialism is, how to build
it and what kind of a party to build and how to build it,
accumulated new valuable experience in running the Party and state
and formed the important thought of Three Represents.” [6]

The official endorsement of Three Represents as the official
Party ideology became the second most important event at the
Congress, yielding in importance only to the changeover in the
Party leadership. The content of this “important thought,” however,
appears as rather unsophisticated: the CCP seeks to develop “the
advanced productive forces and culture in present-day China” and
“safeguard and realize the fundamental interests of the
overwhelming majority of the people.” Since November 2002, the CCP
has been using this “important thought” as its guidelines alongside
Marxism-Leninism, the ideas of Mao Zedong, and Deng Xiaoping Theory
which was canonized in 1997.

According to the Chinese researcher Kang Xiaoguang, Three
Represents has become a “political manifesto amongst the alliance
of the elites,” showing a definite trend toward the
institutionalization of the union of the political, economic and
cultural elites [7]. The ruling political elite
learned a lesson from the 1989 events when oppositional liberal
intellectuals made an attempt to challenge the CCP’s monopoly on
power. In the 1990s, the Party leaders succeeded in making the
Chinese intellectual elite their allies, with bribery and
intimidation playing only a secondary role in this process. The
intellectuals themselves chose the nationalistic-conservative
ideology due to the influence of the Party’s economic successes,
hardships in the former U.S.S.R., a widespread mistrust toward
democratic countries of the West, and the fear of potential
political upheavals inside the country.

Now the Communist Party is to formalize and consolidate its
alliance with the business community, a transition that would prove
impossible if the ideology remains unchanged. The Three Represents
doctrine admits that in modern China the most advanced and
efficient “productive forces” are privately owned. The CCP,
however, cannot officially abandon the slogan of “class struggle”
and its status of “the working-class vanguard,” for fear of
sparking a crisis over its legitimacy of power. Yet, the CCP has
openly declared that it wants to govern both the poor Chinese
(industrial workers in the public-owned sector are suffering from
massive unemployment, while the growth of income amongst the
peasant population is lagging dangerously behind that of the urban
population), as well as the wealthy Chinese.

The National Congress officially authorized the representatives
of new social entities into the CCP, which have emerged and
consolidated their positions during the market reform. This gives
the Party the possibility to formally institutionalize its alliance
with the new economic elite. The CCP is hoping this would prevent
the consolidation of the ‘bourgeoisie’ outside of the framework of
the existing political system; this would probably prove to be a
potentially dangerous oppositional force. In a more distant future,
however, the merging of the political and economic elites within an
authoritarian system may result in the development of crony
capitalism in China. This phenomenon became a hindrance to further
development of Southeast Asian economies in the late 1990s.

Although Hu Jintao has taken over the reins of a quickly
developing and economically healthy country from his predecessor
Jiang Zemin, the CCP is now more vulnerable than ever to economic
crisis. The Party held on to power after a severe famine caused by
the disastrous “Great Leap Forward” movement and following the
chaos of the Cultural Revolution. This was due to the rigid
political and ideological control which is largely based on China’s
social homogeneity. During the economic reform years, the Party
staked their power on the continuation of economic growth, while
presenting Chinese society a proposal nobody could refuse – full
freedom to make money in exchange for loyalty to the authoritarian
government. Since then, the country has shifted so far to the right
that socialist China is now threatened by an outbreak of protests
of the “new poor.” These numbers include the disenfranchised
industrial workers from the urban areas who have lost their jobs,
as well as the newly arriving migrants from the countryside who are
dissatisfied with their low social status.

The social base of the CCP has been turned on its head. Under
Mao, the stability of the regime was guaranteed by the ranks of the
workers and peasants, while the threat to the CCP’s hold on power
came from the landlords, entrepreneurs and the “bourgeois
intelligentsia.” Paradoxically, the threat now derives from the
lower strata, while the entrepreneurs and intellectuals,
incorporated into the new brotherhood of elites, strongly support
the current power. The CCP hopes that the ongoing economic growth
will create enough benefits for both the masses and the elites, and
will thus prevent social upheavals in the country and a split at
the top. However, a social or economic crisis can upset this
volatile balance if the CCP can no longer ensure economic stamina.
China may then find itself entering a period of painful hardships
because the CCP has lost much of its former power levers which
helped it mobilize society through tough ideological and political

An appeal to the people of China to cease the discussion on the
‘capitalistic’ or ‘socialistic’ nature of reform initiatives had
been first voiced by Deng Xiaoping almost a decade before Jiang
Zemin, in February 2000, came up with the theory of Three
Represents. However, Deng Xiaoping’s appeal was meant to support
the premise that the Chinese should not reject market reforms due
to their ‘capitalistic’ nature, which glaringly contradicted the
fundamentals of a socialist state. Since then China has changed,
and the private economy has shot deep roots into the country. Today
the authorities appeal to the people not to question why a country
with a market-oriented economy continues to be governed by a party
which came to power through a communist revolution, which rode
under the banner of socializing private property and fighting
against the exploitation of man by man. The theory of Three
Represents implies that from now on the Party aims at developing
productive forces and that in the name of this goal the people must
be prepared for hardships and deprivation; these hardships would
include growing rates of unemployment, social inequality and the
privatization of public property by more efficient private

To an outside observer, the present-day ideology of the CCP
seems to be contradictory and eclectic. The key theoretical
guidelines in Jiang Zemin’s report to the 16th National Congress
were formulated to appease every part of society. The CCP continues
to name itself a Marxist party, but it is now open to broad
innovations in its theory. The Party remains the “vanguard of the
working class” but simultaneously declares itself the “vanguard of
the Chinese people and the Chinese nation,” while opening its doors
wide to the capitalists. The Party respects the average working
person, while providing guarantees for all citizens regardless of
the source of their incomes. The Party assigns the public sector
the leading role in the economy, but is doing its best to encourage
the development of the private sector at the same time.

The latter provision is known in the Chinese political slang as
“the two ‘without-hesitation’ theses.” At the congress, Jiang Zemin
called on the Party to “consolidate and develop without hesitation
the public sector of the economy” and, at the same time, to
“encourage, support and guide without hesitation the development of
the non-public sectors of the economy.” He warned against “setting
the public sector and the non-public sectors against each other” as
“all sectors of the economy can very well display their respective
advantages in market competition.” Although all
the sectors of the economy were declared equally important, the
number of public-owned enterprises in China continues to be
shrinking. In the meantime, the country’s leaders evasively forward
the need to “improve the quality” of the public sector.

The creation of Three Represents into the official ideology of
the CCP aroused opposition from inside of the Party. The “old left”
(orthodox Maoists) openly condemned Jiang Zemin’s “capitulation”
before the new Chinese bourgeoisie, and permitting their admission
into the Party. However, all the attempts of the opponents to
launch a critical discussion of Three Represents were stopped with
the help of administrative levers. In the first half of 2001, two
scholarly journals, which had dared to doubt the compliance of
Jiang Zemin’s ideological views with traditional Communist theory,
were shut down. Jiang scored a victory, but his critics continue to
argue that the theory of Three Represents was imposed on the Party
from above by non-democratic methods, and without a broad
inter-Party discussion.

Retiring from his position as General Secretary, Jiang Zemin
bequeathed to his comrades “to keep up with the times” and not to
be afraid of abandoning obsolete views. His calls for bold
innovations and to “excel the predecessors” will probably make life
easier for the new generation of leaders, as it will save them from
having to adapt, in vain, outdated dogmas to the modern situation
in China. Unlike the socio-economic sphere, political institutions
in China are still closed for any large-scale “innovation.” In
time, this scenario may cease being a stabilizing factor and become
an actual impediment to further reforms.

The few Chinese liberals who participated in the democratic
movement of the late 1980s criticized the results of the 16th
National Congress for being unable to start a reform of the
political system. Su Shaozhi, former director of the Institute of
Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought of the Chinese Academy of
Social Sciences, famous in the mid-1980s for his plans for radical
reforms, said that the CCP “is moving more and more away from
democracy.” [9] In his opinion, the Congress was
under Jiang Zemin’s complete control and the delegates obediently
approved all the proposals forwarded by their leaders. This
circumstance leaves little room for hope that extra democracy
inside the Party will speed up political transformations on a
nationwide scale.

Representatives of the “new left,” who castigate the social
injustices of the current policies of the Chinese authorities, have
also expressed their doubts about the legitimacy of the ongoing
“revolution.” Noted scholar and publicist, He Qinglian, who was
known in the late 1990s for her criticism concerning the social
disadvantages of the reforms, wrote that the 16th Congress of the
CCP put forward the theory of Three Represents in order to overcome
the constitutional hurdle, as the Chinese constitution
unequivocally proclaims that power in the country is the
“democratic dictatorship of the people implemented under the
leadership of the working class and on the basis of the union of
workers and peasants.” In the years of the reforms and open-door
policies, workers confronted marginalization, lost jobs, while for
many their social status declined. The Communist Party was
compelled to find a new base in order to remain in power. That was
the reason for putting forward the Three Represents theory: the
political Establishment allowed the economic and intellectual
elites to participate in the distribution of benefits to the
people, thus creating a new union of the elites. However, the
position of the economic and intellectual elites in this union is
weak, and they can only rely on a certain number of places in
parliament or in the People’s Political Consultative Conference,
without any right to participate in the actual political
decision-making process. [10]

The CCP has enough power and economic potential to ignore such
comments, but the proclaimed goal of sustained development demands
coordination of the interests of the elite and the masses.
Remarkably, Hu Jintao made his first speech as the General
Secretary in late 2002 not in the capital, but at the Communist
revolutionary base of Xibaipo (Hubei province). He filled the
speech with courteous references to Mao Zedong and called for a
modest life style and selfless struggle. He said that “whether
every party member, especially leading cadres, can resist the
temptations of power, money, beauty and sex is a practical test.”

Hu’s deference to the revolutionary enthusiasm of the 1940s
seemed to be intended to calm down the rank-and-file of the
Communist Party who are deeply concerned with the corrupt merging
of Party functionaries and businessmen, as well as with the CCP
losing its original working-class essence. Referring to the Party’s
Three Represents ideology, the new General Secretary emphasized the
need to “serve the people” and “take care of the interests of the
masses,” but said nothing about the “advanced productive forces”
which the man-on-the-street associates with a capitalist economy.
Well-informed sources explain the populist verbiage in Hu Jintao’s
speech as his desire to be seen as a defender of the people’s
interests; he wants to be recognized as a leader who is capable of
stopping the social stratification of China, while forcing the CCP
to consider the problems surrounding the marginalized segment of
the Chinese population [12].

“When We Say The Party, We Mean Confucius”

The Chinese Communist Party continues to assert that its
ultimate goal is the building of Communism. Discussing the day when
all of China – or even its individual provinces – would enter the
bright future was one of the favorite pastimes of Mao Zedong; he
believed that building a classless society was a matter of several
years or decades at most. Now the CCP is only referring to “an
initial stage of socialism” which they say will last at least a

The deficit of truly attainable program objectives was made up
for in the 1970s by Deng Xiaoping who called on the Chinese to
build a “modestly prosperous society” (xiaokang), an idea
going back to ancient Chinese thought and Confucius. The building
of a “modestly prosperous society” became central to the documents
of the 16th National Congress. Even in the title of Jiang Zemin’s
report xiaokang stands symbolically above “socialism with
Chinese characteristics.”

Xiaokang was first mentioned in Shi Jing (Book of Poetry)
which emerged in the 10th-6th centuries B.C. “Pity the overworked,
let them have a break (xiaokang)!” In the modern Chinese
context this phrase can be understood as a call for people to have
a rest from “barracks-style socialism.” However, China’s 20th
century ideologists (apart from Deng Xiaoping, the idea of
xiaokang was used by the leader of Kuomintang, Chiang
Kai-shek, as well) were inspired by the famous fragment from the
ancient classic book, Li Ji (Book of Rites, the 4th-1st
centuries B.C.) [13].

Li Ji contains the description of China’s move from
prosperity to decline in earlier times. Originally, people lived in
an ideal society of “Great Harmony” (datong), “when the
Celestial Empire belonged to all.” At that time people treated each
other as their own flesh and blood; they did not accumulate
property, nor did they ever lock their doors when they went out of
their homes. Such was the ancient Chinese dream of a utopian
egalitarian system which knew no private property, and where
everything was the shared property of the community.

Over a period of time, “the great path faded away” and the
Celestial Empire became possessed by individual families. People
came to love only their relatives and children, “things and efforts
they spared for themselves,” and they began to acquire property and
fence it off from others. To harmonize relations between people,
rites and ethics were devised to lay the foundations for
hierarchical moral relations between all people: the ruler and his
subjects, parents and their children, seniors and juniors, as well
as between spouses. This is a stage of a “modestly prosperous” or
“modestly tranquil” society (the character kang can be
translated both ways). The result was that society was no longer a
single unity, and while property was divided between the people,
ethic restraints existed which prevented people from inflicting
harm on each other.

In the late 19th century, Chinese reformers elucidated this
system in the spirit of utopian socialism. They set upon the task
of building a society of “Great Harmony” through a “modestly
prosperous society.” In modern China, the Communist Party initially
interpreted xiaokang in terms of material well-being and per
capita income. In 1987, Deng Xiaoping offered the following
three-step plan: in the 1980s, the per capita GDP should be
increased from U.S. $250 to $500; in the 1990s, this figure would
grow twofold to reach $1,000, and thereupon the poor and miserable
China would finally develop into a nation of modestly prosperous,
average-income earners (xiaokang) [14].
The third step, to be implemented in the 21st century, provides for
increasing the per capita GDP fourfold to $4,000 within 30 to 50
years, thus bringing China closer to the world average.

The National Congress reiterated the Communist Party’s loyalty
to Deng Xiaoping’s “three-step plan” and called for making the
third step and raising the per capita GDP to $3,000 by the year
2020. The existing level of the society’s well-being was described
at the National Congress as inadmissibly low, not universally
acceptable, and unequal. The National Congress declared the goal of
building a “xiaokang society” in the realm of the economy, politics
and culture, which could not but remind one of Soviet ideologists
deliberating about “developed socialism.”

Nevertheless, the continuing stratification of the Chinese
society makes more relevant the ancient interpretation of
xiaokang as a society of private owners. Chinese social
scientist, Jiang Guanghui, has offered the following modern
interpretation of xiaokang: “First, a xiaokang
society has private property. Labor is no more a conscious and
collective effort, it is becoming a means to achieving personal
benefits. Second, ‘the Celestial Empire belonging to all’ has
become ‘the Celestial Empire belonging to families.’ Third, the
life of people is no longer so peaceful and tranquil. However, a
xiaokang society has not lost its attractiveness as it has good
institutions – rites (Li)ѕ The so-called xiaokang stands for a
human society only entering an age of private property, in which
the state, relying on rites and ethics, maintains order using legal
institutions and moral standards.” [15]

The two decades of reforms have demonstrated that Deng
Xiaoping’s projection of ancient utopia superimposed onto the
actual realities of modern China was profoundly metaphoric, thus
confirming the ancient Chinese’ belief that history is cyclical in
nature. Mao Zedong’s attempt to build a utopian Communist society
of “great communion” proved ill-conceived. People no longer place
the public realm above the private, and the Great Dao of Communist
ideology has faded away in the eyes of the people. While making no
attempts to reverse the flow of time back to the age of
“barracks-style Communism,” Chinese authorities are trying to keep
society at least at the level of “modest tranquility,” and
preventing it from losing the last moral values from an
unrestrained drive toward individual gain. It must be said that the
traditional and nationalistic tendencies of the new policy slogans
can consolidate the split Chinese society more effectively than the
old “class and internationalist” verbiage which has lost its

In the year 2000, the CCP acquired a fundamental category of the
ancient culture; the symbol de, meaning ‘virtue’ or
‘goodness,’ was introduced into the official state vernacular.
Jiang Zemin introduced the idea of combining the “rule of law” with
the “rule of virtue” (yi de zhi guo), thereby demonstrating
a respect for the traditional Confucian belief in the importance of
moral norms. This was believed essential for the establishment of
harmony between rulers and subjects. Confucius believed that
guiding the people through virtue and rites was more effective than
by measures involving the use of law and punishment (cf. Lun
, II:3 [16]). Although the Chinese leaders
have long been speaking of the need to counter the
“pursuit-of-wealth” ideology, characteristic of the market economy,
with the ideas of socialist “spiritual civilization,” it is only
now that their program contains easily recognizable Confucian
principles. The Congress called for building “socialist ideology
and morals” that would meet the requirements of the market economy
and acting legislation, and inherit “the best ethical traditions of
the Chinese nation.” [17]

Building A Multipolar World Without Hegemony

Although the ideological innovations of the CCP leadership are
intended mostly for the domestic situation, the CCP’s rapprochement
with the economic elite, together with the imitation of being a
social-democratic party, are helpful in its communication with the
rest of the world. The implementation of the ambitious goals set by
the Chinese authorities in their domestic policies is impossible
without the cooperation of foreign countries. The Celestial
Empire’s economic prosperity is becoming increasingly dependent on
the development of its foreign trade: its fourfold growth in
proportion to the GDP must bring it by the year 2020 to
approximately two trillion U.S. dollars. The attainment of this
goal would make China a powerful trading nation closely integrated
into the world economy.

For these plans to materialize, China needs stability both
inside and outside the country. The Communist Party has decided not
to repeat the mistakes of the U.S.S.R. and not to assume the
ruinous burden of rivalry with the West and of assistance to the
“international working-class and Communist movement.” The CCP has
therefore declared that its foreign policy priorities are the
“defense of peace all over the world and the promotion of mutual
development.” It also favors a stable multipolar world, together
with economic globalization. Among the negative global trends,
Jiang Zemin mentioned “hegemonism,” government policies related to
the use of force, terrorism and the growing gap between rich and
poor countries. The old idea of peaceful coexistence has developed
into a concept of all-around cooperation, which has acquired a
distinct cultural and civilizational hue: “Ours is a colorful
world. Countries having different civilizations and social systems
and taking different roads to development should respect one
another and draw upon one another’s strong points through
competition and comparison and should develop side by side by
seeking common ground while shelving differences.” [18]

Although not a single country, Russia included, was mentioned in
Jiang Zemin’s report, the Communist Party emphasized, in a special
paragraph, its desire to strengthen friendly ties with its
neighbors: “We will continue to cement our friendly ties with our
neighbors and persist in building a good-neighborly relationship
and partnership with them. We will step up regional cooperation and
bring our exchanges and cooperation with our surrounding countries
to a new height.” [19]

Beijing has officially declared that it is interested in a
stable and predictable situation along its frontiers. The same idea
would apply to Russia. For this large bordering nation, its quickly
developing Asian neighbor is, as the Chinese would put it, both a
challenge and a source of new opportunities for economic
cooperation. China’s increasing strength will also help Russia and
China to coordinate their efforts on the international stage, such
as uniting against the terrorist threats in Asia. China’s pragmatic
approach to contacts with Russia comes from its growing need for
new sources of raw materials and armaments (although it plans to
reduce arms imports in the future), and long-term interest in the
new promising market for Chinese goods. Although the strengthening
of China may cause public unease in Russia, chaos in China would be
of even more concern.

First, any political turmoil and weaker centralized power in
China may spur economic migration to neighboring countries,
including Russia, which may become more attractive to those Chinese
seeking a better life. Under such circumstances, the present-day
speculation about millions of Chinese living illegally in the
vastness of Siberia could become a reality.

Second, any chaos in China may lead to the seizure of power in
the outlying areas by separatists, which would be a direct threat
to Russia’s security. While the destinies of Tibet and Taiwan are
only abstract notions for Moscow (Beijing treats Chechnya
likewise), the potential transformation of China’s Xinjiang region
into an Islamic “Eastern Turkestan” would immediately destabilize
the whole of Central Asia. This would force Russia to spend
additional funds and effort to ensure its security on its southern

Third, the current moderate pragmatists in the CCP may be
replaced by nationalists who would attempt to strengthen their
power inside the country by kindling emotions and setting people
against an outside enemy. Populist demands to revise the legacy of
the Communists’ “criminal regime” would fairly quickly lead to
territorial revanchism directed, above all, against Russia.

Indicative in this respect are the views of Yan Jiaqi, former
director of the Institute of Political Science of China’s Academy
of Social Sciences, who had actively advocated a democratic reform
of the political system in China on the eve of the “Beijing Spring”
in 1989. Currently, Yan lives in the United States, and spends much
of his time harshly criticizing the CCP and its leadership. Shortly
before the opening of the National Congress, he said that over the
13 years of Jiang Zemin’s rule the latter made a big mistake in
relations with Russia: Jiang “actually recognized the unequal
Sino-Russian agreements signed 150 years ago” and agreed to
demarcate the frontier on their basis, thus “waiving officially
China’s right to return lands occupied by tsarist Russia.” [20] The emotionally charged revanchist statement of
this Chinese ex-liberal and well-educated intellectual arouses much
more concern than the presence of Chinese vendors at Russian street
markets. “The more I compare the treaties and the ways used to
demarcate the frontiers between China and Russia today and in the
last years of the Qing dynasty, the more infuriated and indignant I
become. I’m indignant: on what grounds did the great Qing dynasty
yield lands to Russia without war? I’m infuriated: how could Jiang
Zemin, of his own free will, surrender China’s rights without war
and without defeat?” exclaimed Yan Jiaqi.

Yan explains the rapprochement between China and Russia in the
1990s by Jiang Zemin’s “corrupt political power” and by the
influence of the “pro-Soviet faction” in the Politburo (Jiang
Zemin, Li Peng and former Foreign Minister Qian Qichen) on foreign
policies. Explaining the “concession,” Yan says that after the
events of June 4, 1989, Beijing found itself somewhat isolated in
international affairs, and, in a bid to break this isolation,
sought rapprochement with the U.S.S.R. at any cost. Now Yan Jiaqi
demands that the Chinese parliament “take Jiang Zemin to court for
the damage inflicted by him on China concerning the Sino-Russian
border.” He also calls for revising and rectifying the border
treaties now in effect and for raising before Moscow the issue of a
“just” solution to the territorial problem on the basis of the UN
Charter and other “universal norms of international law.”

The implementation of this scenario would hardly help China
expand its borders, but would only result in the resumption of
mutual suspicion – which has already waned over the past decade –
and in a military buildup in border areas. In fact, Jiang Zemin has
added security to fast-developing China, saving it from having to
keep a powerful military contingent along its northern border. The
current situation compels Moscow to sincerely support official
Beijing. Therefore, contacts with anti-Communist opposition forces
in the name of “the triumph of democracy” are tactically unwise
since they only provoke the irritation of the Chinese leaders; it
would also remain strategically dangerous since any power change in
China would be detrimental to Russia’s security interests. Moscow
is objectively interested in Jiang Zemin retaining his backstage
influence on Chinese policies for as long as possible, thus
guaranteeing the stability of their bilateral relations.

1 Lawrence S. A Power Crisis
Looms. The Far Eastern Economic Review. Dec. 26, 2002 – Jan. 02,

2 Willy Wo-Lap Lam. The New
Deal in Beijing. China Brief. Vol. II, Issue 23. Nov. 21, 2002

3 Kanwa News, Dec. 20,

4 Willy Wo-Lap Lam. Signs of
Anti-Jiang Backlash Are Growing. China Brief. Vol. II, Issue 24.
Dec. 10, 2002.

5 Jiang Zemin. Build a
Well-Off Society in an All-Round Way and Create a New Situation in
Building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics – Report delivered
at the 16th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.
Beijing. Renmin chubanshe. 2002, p. 6.

6 The Charter of the Chinese
Communist Party. Beijing, Renmin chubanshe. 2002, pp. 2-3.

7 Kang Xiaoguang. An
Analysis of Political Stability in Mainland China in the Next Three
to Five Years. Zhanlue yu Guanli. 2002, No. 2 (52), p. 10.

8 Jiang Zemin. Build a
Well-Off Society in an All-Round Way and Create a New Situation in
Building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics – Report delivered
at the 16th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.
Beijing, Renmin chubanshe, 2002, p. 25.

9 Wen Mei. Prospects of the
Political Situation After the 16th Congress – Theoretical
Conference Marking the 25th Anniversary of the Zhengming Magazine.
Zhengming, Jan. 2003 (No. 303).

10 The 16th National
Congress of the Chinese Communist Party and China’s Prospects.
Beijing Zhi Chun, No. 116. Jan. 2003.

11 Xinhua. Jan. 2,

12 Willy Wo-Lap Lam. Hu
Jintao: Playing by the Rules. China Brief. Vol. III, Issue 1.
January 14, 2003; Murphy D. Hu Steps Out. The Far Eastern Economic
Review, Jan. 23, 2003.

13 Lisevich I. Old Chinese
Philosophy. Vol. 2. Moscow, Mysl, 1973, pp. 100-101.

14 Deng Xiaoping. Major
Issues of Modern China. Beijing. Foreign Language Press (Russian
edition), 1987, p. 188.

15 Beijing Ribao. Nov. 19,

16 Perelomov L. Confucius:
Lun Yu/Study, Translations from Chinese, Comments. Moscow, Oriental
Literature Publishing House of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
1998, p. 306.

17 Jiang Zemin. Build a
Well-off Society in an All-Round Way and Create a New Situation in
Building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics – Report delivered
at the 16th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.
Beijing. Renmin chubanshe. 2002, p. 39.

18 Ibid, p. 48.

19 Ibid, p. 48.

20 Yan Jiaqi. It Is
Necessary to Discuss the Issue of the Sino-Russian Border Again.
Dongxiang. No. 207, Nov. 2002.