The Conundrum of Jiang Zemin Justifying Pursuit of Capitalism with Marxism


Since Deng Xiaoping began his reform and opening up capitalist in nature, there had been fierce debates between reformists and conservatives about the nature of the reform and opening up. Conservatives denounced the reform for its capitalist nature, but Deng and the reformists under him could not deny. Deng knew well as Maxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought were the dominant ideology at that time, there was no hope for him to defend his pursuit of capitalism against Marxism and Mao Zedong Thought. He resorted to a stalling strategy and told conservatives to wait and see the results of the reform and opening up.

After Tiananmen Protests, conservatism prevailed. Deng had to apply his power as paramount leader (“core of collective leadership” according to Deng’s term of expression) to force officials to carry on the reform. His successor Jiang Zemin had to play every trick to overcome conservatives’ opposition in order to continue Deng’s reform while establishing his power base.

However, when Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji had achieved obvious successes in conducting reform and opening up, the facts of successes silenced opposition. However, Jiang and the reformist theorists knew that ideology was very important in China. Feudal dynasties could each survive for two to three centuries due to the ideological dominance of Confucianism. Jiang had to justify the reform and opening up with Marxism, the dominant ideology in China now, so as to ensure the continuance of reform and CCP’s rule in China. To do so, he used the most fundamental Marxist doctrine that production relations shall suit the requirements of the development of advanced production force.

According to Marx, at first capitalist production relation the private ownership of means of production (enterprises) suited the requirements of the development of advanced productive force so that it replaced the feudal one and brought about prosperity. However, there is the basic contradiction of capitalism that the production is for the society but the means of production (the enterprises) are owned privately by capitalist entrepreneurs, who often make decisions on production for their own profits in disregard of the needs of the society, resulting in overproduction and overcapacity that gave rise to cyclical economic crisis. Marx believed that by that time, the capitalist production relation no longer suited the requirements of the development of advanced production force and should be replaced by communist production relation of public ownership and planned economy.

Marx instructed communists that they should represent the requirements of the development of the advanced productive force and carry out a revolution necessary to put all means of production (enterprises) under public ownership as required by the development of the advanced productive force so that the state can plan the production in accordance with the needs of the society. A planned economy would be the most efficient, Marx believed. Then as the production relations suit the requirements of the development of the advanced productive force, the economy will take off. There will be abundance of all kinds of products to meet the needs of all the people. Everyone including former capitalists whose assets have been confiscated will be benefited. So, Marx said that the proletariat (the working class) would emancipate the entire human race.

However, Marx was not able to foresee that public ownership and planned economy were good in theory, but have been proved inefficient by practice everywhere in the world.

The first of Jiang’s Three Represents goes deeper in Marxist theory for the communists to represent the requirements of the development of advanced productive force. It sums up the lessons of the failures of public ownership and planned economy and the successful experience of China’s capitalist reform and opening up to prove that capitalism instead of communist public ownership and planned economy suits the requirements of the development of advanced productive force in China now. That was why China remained poor and backward for more than two decades when it had monolithic public ownership and planned economy, but has become rich and prosperous in three decades since it began to carry out its reform and opening up capitalist in nature.

Since Jiang’s Three Represents were written into CCP’s constitution, there have no longer been any debates whether the reform and opening up are socialist or capitalist in nature. It is generally accepted that China’s reform and opening up are commensurate with Marxism. However, according to the constitution, CCP has not only Marxism but also Mao Zedong Thought as its guiding ideology. When Hu Jintao wanted to conduct further reform to encourage private enterprises and remove state-owned sector’s monopoly, conservatives represented by Bo Xilai began to use Mao to oppose Hu’s reform.

A fierce power struggle between conservatives and reformists broke out. For several years Hu was unable to conduct his further reform due to the opposition from vested interests, especially the group of corrupt officials, and from conservatives.

How Xi Jinping put an end to the fierce power struggle will be described in my article “The Conundrum of Xi Jinping’s Chinese Dream” later.

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