China official warns party against aping Soviet freedoms

by Reuters
Wednesday, 9 July 2014 06:56 GMT

BEIJING, July 9 (Reuters) - China must learn the lessons of the collapse of the Soviet Union, where Communist Party members were allowed to express dissenting views and become "megaphones" for Western ideology, leading to disintegration, a senior official said on Wednesday.

The lessons of the fall of the Soviet Union are reiterated regularly by Chinese leaders and state media, underscoring Beijing's fears about any challenge to the authority of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

President Xi Jinping, like many officials before him, is steeped in the party's long-held belief that loosening control too quickly or even at all could lead to chaos and the break up of the country.

Yao Zengke, a deputy head of the supervision ministry which helps oversee efforts to fight graft, said in a chat with Chinese Internet users that the party needed discipline.

He warned that before the Soviet Union fell apart, the Communist Party there allowed its members "to publicly express views that were different from the organisation".

"Many members of the Soviet Communist Party, and even its leadership, denied the history of the Soviet Union, rejected the daring vanguard of socialism and became megaphones for broadcasting Western ideology," Yao said.

The Soviet Communist Party had 20 million members and still lost its political power despite being "an old and big party that had over 90 years of history and has governed continuously for over 70 years", he added.

"The tumult within the party ideology eventually led to turmoil in the organisation and then finally (we) watched it all come crashing down," Yao said. "It is thought provoking."

China's Communist Party has repeatedly signaled that it will not embark on political reform, despite expectations that Xi, the son of a former liberal-minded vice premier, may loosen up politically.

Xi has overseen a crackdown on dissidents and freedom of expression that many rights activists say is the most sustained and severe in years.

He has also espoused old school Maoism as he seeks to court powerful conservative elements in the party.

At the same time, he has waged an unprecedented campaign against pervasive corruption and extravagance in recognition of the deep public anger felt at officials seen as abusing their positions to enrich themselves. (Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Jeremy Laurence)

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