Chinese Communist Party: Ancestor Worship as Criticism of the Regime

Chinese Communist Party: Ancestor Worship as Criticism of the Regime

A wave of admiration for ex-CP leader Deng Xiaoping swept through China’s social networks. It was a symbolic act of protest against Xi Jinping.

Worship for Deng Xiaoping

Deng Xiaoping still has many fans Photo: ZUMA press/imago

Ancestor worship, it seems, is often a touchy subject in the West, particularly in Western democracies, especially when it alludes to something that many equally feel embarrassed about. For example: an SPD supporter suddenly raves about Willi-Brandt because of his kneeling in Warsaw; and another, just as suddenly, sings about Helmut Schmidt, who begged Ronald Reagan to station Pershing II missiles on West German soil.

Both are silent about Olaf Scholz dead, his “Zeitenwende speech” to underline German support for Ukraine against Putin’s war of aggression, and his silence about Putin’s dear friend Gerhard Schröder, who is a much more direct ancestor for Scholz to follow, but which Scholz died coalition could cost. On the other hand, publicly criticizing Schröder could endanger the already weak SPD in the electoral favour.

For ten days, Xi Jinping, the incumbent party leader, was staunchly avoided

It’s something like this in China at the moment – only much more blatant: For ten days in August, the swelled in China’s social networks Waves of admiration for Deng Xiaoping while hardly anyone dared to praise Mao Zedong. Both are sacred ancestors – in the statute of the CPC as well as in China’s constitution.

The point of pain: Mao drove China to the wall with the Cultural Revolution, while Deng with his opening and reform policy, according to the officially permitted reading, corrected Maoist mistakes and granted China prosperity. For ten days has been Xi Jinping, the incumbent party leader, was staunchly avoided. Ten days earlier, that would have bordered on insult to majesty. In authoritarian China, homage to the majesty should not be missed on a single day.

Criticism of the head of the Communist Party forbidden

In democratic Germany, on the other hand, nothing happens to the SPD members, regardless of whether they worship Brandt or Schmidt as their ancestors, even if they were doing Olaf Scholz in the Berlin Chancellery a disservice one way or another. Yes, they should have said to the incumbent’s face, if they shouldn’t, where to go: Kneel again, this time possibly in Moscow, in the name of world peace or a Cold War 2.0, in the service of justice?

Telling the all-powerful CCP leader where to go is an absolute no-go in contemporary China. For a long time, however, ancestor worship was strictly restricted: any positive statement about Deng was censored, also because Xi Jinping revived what Deng had forbidden in view of mistakes from the Mao era: the personality cult; an unlimited term for party leaders, for example, or foolhardy provocations against the West – at inopportune times.

It is precisely in this sense that the ten-day worship of Deng Xiaoping is fatal for the current ruler: because Deng’s online worshipers refer precisely to the ban on the personality cult, to Deng’s categorical rejection of “lifetime tenure” for party leaders, to Deng’s decree: China may in his foreign policy “make as many friends as possible, if possible no enemies” – like this through the Saber rattling in the Taiwan Strait should never have happened.

And the most sensational: ancestor worship with all such poisonous allusions to the regent was not censored for ten days. There is something wrong. Admiration for Deng Xiaoping has been disappearing from Chinese cyberspace for a week now. Ancestors may be worshiped, but this time Mao Zedong is joined by a German and a Russian: Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. The good thing, so one consoles oneself: At least one no longer has to pay homage to the incumbent Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.

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