China's Leaders Laud Mao Acolyte in Symbolic Attack on Reformer Deng Xiaoping

2021-02-22
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China's Leaders Laud Mao Acolyte in Symbolic Attack on Reformer Deng Xiaoping Mourners hold photos of former Chinese premier Hua Guofeng at his Aug. 31, 2008 funeral in Beijing in a file photo.
AFP

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) commemorated former premier Hua Guofeng at the weekend in a move that could indicate the party under general secretary Xi Jinping is continuing to model his leadership on that of Mao Zedong, analysts said.

Hua was Mao's "designated successor," and briefly held the top jobs in the government, party, and military after Mao and premier Zhou Enlai died, but was soon forced out of office by Deng Xiaoping, who embarked on decades of economic reforms and "opening up" to the rest of the world.

The renewed lionizing of Hua by the CCP, which saw Politburo standing committee member Wang Huning and vice premier Han Zheng attend the Feb. 20 symposium, suggests that the party wants people to copy Hua's loyalty to Mao and commitment to "unswervingly follow" his diktats.

"Hua was an outstanding member of the [CCP], a long-tested and loyal communist fighter, and a proletarian revolutionary," state news agency Xinhua said in a Feb. 20 report.

The People's Daily carried Wang Huning's speech to the symposium on its front page on Saturday.

"Our commemoration of Comrade Hua Guofeng is to learn from his political character of firm party spirit and loyalty to the party," Wang told the gathering after meeting with Hua's descendants.

"No matter how the times change, loyalty to the party is always the first requirement," Wang said, calling on party members to "continuously improve their political judgment" in a manner "highly consistent with the Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core."

Political op-ed column Jibinfung commented on RFA's Cantonese Service on Monday: "What is the CCP trying to say by exhuming Hua Guofeng's corpse like this?"

"It tells us that Emperor Xi favors the whatever-you-say approach over [Deng Xiaoping's] idea that a thing is only true if it is true in practice," the column said.

"We are back in an anti-intellectual era where they're not interested in the truth any more; only in loyalty."

The column said it was significant that the CCP had chosen to honor the centenary of Hua's birth on Feb. 16 over the centenary of Deng's death on Feb. 19.

Making a political point

Former Tsinghua University politics lecturer Wu Qiang said the authorities were using history selectively to underscore a political point.

"This is basically a way to repudiate Deng Xiaoping's approach ... they may not have mentioned Deng by name, but this selective praise is actually a resounding rejection of Deng's approach," Wu told RFA.

"It's a symbolic negation [of Deng], and as such sends a very important message," he said.

Retired Guizhou University lecturer Wang Zhou, who lived through the political violence and mass persecution of both the Anti-Rightist Movement of the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), agreed.

"It's pretty simple: they are using to Hua Guofeng to attack Deng Xiaoping," Wang said.

"They are also saying that Mao Zedong and Hua Guofeng represent the authentic path of the CCP, while Deng led it down a crooked road into the wilderness."

"They are digging Hua up again ... to send a political signal."

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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