Rome (AsiaNews) - Since yesterday, Communist Party leaders and their many aides and experts are in Beidaihe (Hebei), a resort town on the Bohai Sea, to discuss ways to deal with the country's main problems, such as its stuttering economy, rampant corruption, and the coming trial of Bo Xilai. Behind a strong security ring, as in Mao's time, Chinese leaders will also have to address the issue of political reform in the country or at least within the Party.
Reforms, such as greater democracy inside and outside the party, as well as laws that apply to Party member, have often been mentioned by those in power, whether Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and even current president and party secretary, Xi Jinping. So far, nothing has come of it.
In fact, state media have been recently involved in a campaign against the dangers that democracy and the rule of law ("constitutionalism") pose for the country.
Yesterday, the People's Daily published an editorial warning against "constitutionalism", and the idea that laws should guarantee and protect the rights of citizens.
According to the Communist Party's official newspaper, this idea is actually part of a Western plot to destroy socialism and impose capitalist ideals on China.
Financed by US intelligence agencies, this campaign is said to have been underway since the war and is blamed for the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union.
Xinhua published a similar article, but with a much a greater punch, on 1 August, titled "If unrest comes to China, it will be worse than in the USSR" penned by a certain Wang Xiaoshi.
The 5,000-character piece warns China that following in the footsteps of the USSR, i.e. making democratic reforms, would lead to misery and poverty. The author blames activists and bloggers for spreading discontent among the population with "false news".
China has always looked at the end of the Soviet empire with dread. The Party blamed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 on Poland's Solidarity (Solidarność) trade union and Pope John Paul II. This is why Beijing has been especially harsh on would-be free trade unions, regional autonomy, religion in general and Catholicism religion in particular.
Wang Xiaoshi's analysis is one of a kind. For him, the Soviet Union was some kind of heaven on earth. But now, "people truly awakened to 'democratization' and 'universal values of happiness'" discovered that "GDP had fallen by half; access to the sea achieved through the centuries was gone, along with a fleet that aged, corroded and finally fell into a pile of scrap metal; where new domestic oligarchs plundered state assets; Russians lined up on the street in supply shortages; and veterans had to sell their medals in exchange for bread."
For Wang, China could end up the same way, if not worse, because many bloggers espouse the same ideals that led to the collapse of the USSR.
"Every day," he wrote, "microbloggers and their mentors in the same cause pass rumours, fabricate negative news about [China's] society, create an apocalyptic vision of China's imminent collapse, and denigrate the existing socialist system-all to promote the European and American model of capitalism and constitutionalism."
In a burst of fury, Wang said, "Coldly look at you Western world's slaves! You cheat people on the internet every day, you deceive Chinese people and allow others to bully China, making China poor and its military weak! You are dogs of the US. You bring shame and disaster to China".
Ending in a patriotic note, the article goes on to say, "Anglers, mentors and well known people who have malicious motives, if you want to provoke turmoil in China by controlling public opinion, you'll have to step over my body. I won't let you succeed as long as I live!"
Trashed online because of its typical Communist style, Wang's article tends to project onto the victims the traits of their executioners. Hence, bloggers and activists are accused of spreading "false news", but it is in China that media can erase facts, like medical and natural disasters (SARS, earthquakes fatalities, investigations into corruption, etc).
Post-Soviet poverty is not that different from exists China where "oligarchs" can get away with not paying loans back, stealing workers' wages, grabbing land from farmers, thus widening the gap between rich party members and the poor.
Indeed, the article was not spared serious criticism. "Let's talk about who will lead China into unrest first," said Yu Jianrong, a well-known academic and the director of the Social Issues Research Centre at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "Isn't it the bigwigs that made the gap between rich and poor larger? Isn't it the uncontrolled political power that creates injustice in society? Isn't it corrupt officials that ruin morality? You don't look at these, but only criticize people's speech. What's your motivation?"
Wang's these, it is worth noting, is not that much different from what President Xi Jinping said last December during his visit to Guangdong.
Xi, who has a reputation as a moderate and a reformer, warned the party that the People's Republic might go the way of the Soviet Union.
"Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse? An important reason was that their ideals and beliefs had been shaken," Xi said. "To dismiss the history of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Communist Party, to dismiss Lenin and Stalin, and to dismiss everything else is to engage in historic nihilism, and it confuses our thoughts and undermines the Party's organizations on all levels."
On that occasion, Xi Jinping did not say anything on the country's much vaunted "political reforms". On the contrary, "Only socialism can save China," he said. "Only (economic) reform and opening-up can develop China, develop socialism, and develop Marxism."
In practice, this means more Deng Xiaoping, who led China's technical and economic modernisation without its "fifth modernisation", namely democracy, a transformation that brought China to its current state of widespread corruption and entrenched oligarchy.
Almost as a way to allay Wang Xiaoshi's concerns, Chinese authorities have intensified their violent crackdown against activists and bloggers for reporting "false news" about the China's state of affairs, just like in the Soviet Union before Gorbachev came to power.