Old-Style Politics Drive China Purge Communists Reinforce Claim on Power

Article excerpt

BEIJING -- China's ruling Communist Party is celebrating 50 years in power with a preanniversary housecleaning reminiscent of political purges of the past.

The grand celebrations marking the Oct. 1, 1949, founding of modern China trumpet the party's progress in transforming an impoverished, semi-feudal society into a modern state.

Looking ahead to the Central Committee's annual policy-setting plenum that convenes today, millions of senior bureaucrats and party officials in state-run factories, banks and other institutions spent weeks this summer in political study and criticism sessions.

The aim is to ensure loyalty among the party's 61 million members and to root out the corruption that permeates virtually every aspect of life in China.

"In a purge like this, you see a reliance on extremely anachronistic methods," said Geremie Barme, a China expert at the Australian National University.

He said such campaigns, which occur roughly every two years, are "a normal part of the political biorhythm of China."

"Party leaders at all levels should improve their study of Marxism, Leninism, Mao Tsetung thought and particularly Deng Xiaoping theory so as to sharpen their political consciousness," Vice President Hu Jintao, a member of the party's powerful Politburo, told students recently at the Party School, a university devoted to instilling those beliefs.

By invoking the revolutionary icons, including the late leader Deng Xiaoping, who launched the current era of economic and social reforms, the Communist leadership seeks to reinforce its claim to power.

"The party has lost its ideological appeal and its spiritual hold over the people. But as an organization it has to keep going, to pretend that it works, to try anything to keep going rather than surrender," said Dali L. Yang, a China specialist at the University of Chicago.

The discovery this spring that many party members belonged to the since-banned Falun Gong meditation movement was further evidence of its waning influence. …