In a move sure to dismay the people inside and outside China who hoped Xi Jinping would begin a new era of democratic reform, China’s president has “lurched” to the left, as the WSJ reports, promoting a revitalized version of nationalist Maoism across the country. “Our red nation will never change color,” Xi said during a ceremony at Mao’s old lakeside mansion in Wuhan, declaring that the villa should become a center to educate young people about patriotism and revolution.
“It isn’t just Mr. Xi’s rhetoric that has taken on a Maoist tinge in recent months,” the Journal reports. “He has borrowed from Mao’s tactical playbook, launching a ‘rectification’ campaign to purify the Communist Party, while tightening limits on discussion of ideas such as democracy, rule of law and enforcement of the constitution.”
Xi appears to have capitalized on some uncertainty at the top levels of the Party after the fall of Bo Xilai, a charismatic and popular leader who also led a Maoist revival campaign and became a threat to the stability of the Party leadership. “Many of Mr. Bo’s former supporters and several powerful princelings have thrown their weight behind Mr. Xi’s efforts to establish himself as much a stronger leader than his predecessor,” party insiders told the WSJ.
Xi’s nationalist streak comes as the country prepares for Bo Xilai’s trial and amid an economic downturn that has caused worry among investors and analysts. At the same time, China and other Asian powers are engaged in a dangerous and accelerating game of military one-upmanship. New ships and maritime units are being unveiled from India to the Philippines to Japan and territorial disputes are growing more intense. Across the region, this trend is driven in part by a rising nationalism among citizens—in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, India, elsewhere—who push their governments into increasingly aggressive and antagonistic positions against the neighbors. China is no exception.