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Oct

THE Chinese Communist Party likes to describe threats to its grip on power in barely comprehensible terms. Over the past three decades, it has struggled against the menace of “bourgeois liberalisation” (leaving many wondering whether there is an acceptable proletarian kind) and fought against “peaceful evolution” (exceedingly dangerous, for some reason, unlike “reform and opening up”). Now Xi Jinping, China’s president, is waging war against “historical nihilism”, a peril as arcane-sounding as it is, to his mind, grave. As a state news agency recently warned, there is a “seething undercurrent” of it in China. Failure to stamp it out, officials say, could lead to Soviet-style collapse.

Days before the party’s 350 or so most senior officials gathered in Beijing this week for a secretive conclave (as they normally do in the autumn), a party website published a compendium of Mr Xi’s public remarks on the nihilist problem (intriguingly headlined: “Xi Jinping: There Can Be No Nothingness in History”). People’s Daily, the party’s main mouthpiece, marked the start of the meeting with a commentary laced with references to the lessons of history, including the collapse of the Soviet Communist Party.

Against the flow

So what are the nihilists doing that so troubles China’s leaders? Mr Jiang’s main concern was a television series broadcast in 1988 called “River Elegy”, which had portrayed China as a country weighed down by a long history of backwardness and inward-looking conservatism. The documentary programmes had prompted energetic debate among intellectuals about how to reform China that helped foment the following year’s unrest. Read more…

The Economist, Oct 29th 2016

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