Monday, August 17, 2020

七步诗 (Qībùshī)” [The Seven Steps Verse]: Thoughts on the Expulsion of Cai Xia (蔡霞) From the Chinese Communist Party

七步诗 (Qībùshī)” – The Seven Steps Verse
煮豆燃豆萁,(Zhǔ dòu rán dòu qí,)
豆在釜中泣。(dòu zài fǔ zhōng qì.)
本自同根生,(Běn zì tóng gēn shēng,)
相煎何太急(xiāng jiān hé tài jí)
English Translation:
Lighting [burning] the bean stalk to boil the beans, and of this the beans thus wailed:“Born are we of the same root; should you now burn me with such disregard?”

China’s Communist Party expels outspoken retired professor over speeches (MSN News)

The Communist Party of China (CPC) has recently published a notice of the decision to expel Cai Xia (蔡霞) and to cancel her retirement benefits.  The notice read in full as follows:
中央党校(国家行政学院) 严肃处理退休教师蔡霞严重违纪问题 [The Central Party School (National School of Administration) seriously dealt with the serious violation of discipline by retired teacher Cai Xia]

(新京报快讯) 据中共中央党校(国家行政学院)网站消息,中央党校(国家行政学院)退休教师蔡霞,发表有严重政治问题和损害国家声誉的言论,性质极其恶劣、情节极其严重,严重违反党的政治纪律、组织纪律,违反国家事业单位人员行为规范。经中央纪委国家监委驻中央组织部纪检监察组和中央党校(国家行政学院)机关纪委联合审查调查,依据《中国共产党纪律处分条例》和《事业单位工作人员处分暂行规定》的有关规定,中央党校(国家行政学院)校(院)务委员会决定,开除蔡霞的中国共产党党籍,取消其享受的相关退休待遇。[(Beijing News Express) According to the website of the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (National School of Administration), Cai Xia, a retired teacher of the Central Party School (National School of Administration), has made remarks that have serious political problems and damage the country’s reputation. The nature is extremely bad, the circumstances are extremely serious, and serious violations. The party’s political discipline and organizational discipline violate the code of conduct for the personnel of state institutions. After a joint review and investigation by the Disciplinary Inspection and Supervision Team of the State Supervision Commission of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in the Organization Department of the Central Committee and the Disciplinary Commission of the Central Party School (National School of Administration), in accordance with the relevant provisions of the "Regulations on Disciplinary Measures of the Communist Party of China" and "Interim Provisions on the Punishment of Institutional Staff The Party School (National School of Administration) School (Institution) Committee decided to expel Cai Xia from the Communist Party of China and cancel the relevant retirement benefits.]
This is no ordinary expulsion; and its ramifications ought to be carefully considered both within and outside of China.  Cai Xia was not just "anybody;" she was a former professor at China's Central Party School. More than that: "Cai is the granddaughter of a revolutionary fighter and taught for four decades at the party school, giving her a solid 'red background'."(Chinese academic disciplined after criticising Xi and Communist Party).  The reporting by the South China Morning Post ("China’s Communist Party expels outspoken retired professor over speeches") follows below that supplies much of the background, though not much of the backstory.  

Several points are worthy of consideration here in that respect.  Those follow below along with the reporting for the South China Morning Post by Jun Mai.

1.  At the time of the expulsion Cai was "safe and well in the United States." (South China Morning Post). That might have affected both the quality and timing of the action. That is to be contrasted with the targets of other recent high profile disciplinary actons.  But it may also suggest that those who engage in such action will increasingly be high level (and high status) members of the vanguard as they retire and after they have settled their affairs. 

2. Like many academics who rose to prominence during the last decades of the "Old" (Socialist Modernization) Era,  Cai continued to seek to balance public criticism with substantial and important work for the nation and the CPC.  In the process they failed to notice that the Old Era had given way to a New Era.

3.  The New Era has re-framed Chinese Leninist approaches to the expectations of relations between the vanguard party and its intelligentsia. That was a lesson that was meant to be conveyed publicly (though in the manner of the New Era forms of institutional action) by the slow motion and increasingly disciplinary actions against Xu Zhangrun and Ren Zhiqiang. Cai naturally sought to defend them on a variety of grounds, but in the process made clear an unwillingness to acknowledge or conform to emerging behavior expectations for senor academics. 

4.  The actions against Cai, Ren, and Xu suggest that the core Leninist principle of democratic centralism is being both transformed and applied with increasing vigor. In its New Era forms, it appears to suggest that externally, party cadres (and especially the intelligentsia) may not "speak" (broadly understood) publicly (that is in the sense of engaging in debates that mirror of usually undertaken scientifically within the social sciences) about matters that are either directly connected to the CCP line or that are actions undertaken to apply that line.  This applies with greater force in the context of CCP disciplining of its members.   It also suggests that internally, party cadres (and especially its intelligentsia) must be especially sensitive to actions that touch on the core of leadership of the CCP (领导核心; e.g., here). This applies with greater force the higher up the hierarchy one seeks to target.

5.The clear implications of the New Era core principle of centering the CCP now emerges with greater clarity; as does the constitution of the political vanguard in China and its relation to the masses.  That, in turn, produces substantial questions for both the senior leadership and the top level Party Schools: the role of the mass line (in practice); the practice of democratic centralism; and the internal operation of accountability mechanisms that are effective. What appears to have irritated some in the CCP about Cai's increasingly public interventions, and frustrated Cai with respect to the silence of the core leadership, was precisely this--the failure of accountability for exercises of administrative discretion that might breach the CCP Line, and the narrowing of the scope of the practice of democratic centralism within the CCP itself (see here).

6. It is important to note that New Era accountability mechanisms follow a model that in many ways are quite distinct in form and consequence from those that are emerging in the West.  That is not to suggest tat accountability is absent within Chinese political governance and its administrative apparatus; rather it is to suggest that the object and practice of accountability mirror the forms and objectives inherent in Chinese Leninism.  That, in turn, reframes vectors and valuation of risk; it builds structures of accountability in different ways, grounded in  a sometimes quite distinct set of notions of what is to be prevented, mitigated or remedied.

7.The external implications for China's intelligentsia remain unclear. There is a contradiction inherent in the recent actions.  On the one hand New Era principles requiring the centering of the CCP and its organizational and operational principles requires vigorous discipline.  On the other hand, such discipline, if undertaken by people with little sensitivity to China's external relations (or to the continuing importance of the CCP's Basic Line  touching on "opening up" in the context of university and post graduate work may impede the ability of Chinese scholars to enhance their "seat" at the global academic table. That, in turn, might impede the process of socialist modernization.  The pull of both principles has been clear, for example, in the recent reconstruction of China's education policies (e.g., here, and here). But there is a danger of adding education disentangling to the economic disentangling that appears to be a product of the recent conflict between China and the United States.

8.  This is a lot to draw from an expulsion.  And yet it may not be useful to downplay this event within the larger context of great changes to Chinese Leninism being undertaken now in preparation for what is likely to be unveiled at the next Chinese Communist Party Congress.  These glimpses may hep prepare those within and outside Chine for the more decisive move into a New Era with increasingly Chinese external and internal characteristics.

9.  This brings us back to the poem of Cao Zhi (曹植) written during the 3rd century warring states period. Like all ruling vanguards, the CCP faces a contradiction.  It must eat to survive.  But to survive must it consume all that sustains it?  In such a case, the belly is full but the beans are gone;  the task of planting again, and again, remains and the task of preserving seed remains constant. Contrast that to the orchard where the tree continues to bear fruit which is consumed without imperiling that which produces sustenance.  The larger question, unanswered, then is whether China's intelligentsia are better cultivated as beans or pears; the question of the consumption of the intelligentsia, then, remains an important one for New Era theory development. 


China’s Communist Party expels outspoken retired professor over speeches

  • Former Central Party School professor loses her pension after making comments with ‘serious political problems’
  • Cai Xia also defended tycoon Ren Zhiqiang, who is facing corruption allegations after criticising the party

An outspoken retired professor from the Communist Party’s top academy has been expelled from the party and lost her pension as punishment for speeches “that damaged the reputation of the country”.
Cai Xia, a former professor at the Central Party School, was punished because she had made speeches with “serious political problems”, according to a notice on the school’s website.
Her speeches were of “extraordinarily execrable nature”, and seriously violated the political discipline of the party, the notice said.

Cai told the South China Morning Post that she was safe and well in the United States but declined to elaborate.
The school’s decision came after a joint investigation by anticorruption officers within the party school and the Central Organisation Department, the party’s top organ in charge of personnel, according to the notice. The statement did not refer to the content of the speeches in question.

Cai, 68, is a long-time critic of the party and a strong advocate of political liberalisation.

According to a leaked recording of a speech circulated online since June, Cai called on the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee to replace a top leader. She did not identify the person but called for an overhaul of a wide range of domestic and foreign policies. 

In another article published on the internet last month, Cai defended real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang, who is expected to face corruption charges after publishing comments highly critical of the party.

In the article, Cai appeared to criticise President Xi Jinping, identifying him by his family name. She confirmed that she had made that speech and was the author of the article.

Cai, who mostly lives in Beijing, is the latest critic punished by Chinese authorities for taking aim at the party publicly.
Ren was expelled from the party in July, accused of being at odds with the party’s leadership on “issues of principles”.

He spoke out against “the Four Cardinal Principles”, a reference to the unchallenged leadership status of the party, and is expected to face corruption charges soon.

Beijing-based law professor Xu Zhangrun, who has published a series of articles critical of the leadership in the last year, was also fired from his teaching post at Tsinghua University in Beijing last month, over allegations of soliciting prostitutes.
Cai is well known among China’s intellectuals for her critical views of Chinese leaders, especially because of her teaching position in the Central Party School, a top academy directly under the leadership of the party’s policy-setting Central Committee.

The school offers courses for officials of various ranks, especially those who are groomed for promotion.

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