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The ideology of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has undergone dramatic changes throughout the years, especially during Deng Xiaoping's leadership. While foreign commentators have accused the CPC of lacking a coherent ideology, the CPC still call themselves and portray themselves as communists.
It has been argued in recent years, mainly by foreign commentators, that the Communist Party of China (CPC) does not have an ideology, and that the party organization is pragmatic and interested only in what works. This simplistic view is wrong in many ways, since official statements make it very clear the party does have a coherent worldview. For instance, Hu Jintao stated in 2012 that the Western world is "threatening to divide us" and that "the international culture of the West is strong while we are weak ... Ideological and cultural fields are our main targets". The CPC puts a great deal of effort into the party schools and into crafting its ideological message. Before the "Practice Is the Sole Criterion for the Truth" campaign, the relationship between ideology and decision-making was a deductive one, meaning that policy-making was derived from ideological knowledge. Under Deng this relationship was turned upside down, with decision-making justifying ideology and not the other way around. Lastly, Chinese policy-makers believe that one of the reasons for the dissolution of the Soviet Union was its stagnant state ideology. They therefore believe that their party ideology must be dynamic to safeguard the party's rule, unlike the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, whose ideology became "rigid, unimaginative, ossified, and disconnected from reality."
Marxism–Leninism was the first official ideology of the Communist Party of China, and is a combination of classical Marxism (the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels) and Leninism (the thoughts of Vladimir Lenin). According to the CPC, "Marxism–Leninism reveals the universal laws governing the development of history of human society." To the CPC, Marxism–Leninism provides a vision of the contradictions in capitalist society and of the inevitability of a future socialist and communist societies. Marx and Engels first created the theory behind Marxist party building; Lenin developed it in practice before, during and after the Russian Revolution of 1917. Lenin's biggest achievement came in party-building, through concepts such as the vanguard party of the working class and democratic centralism. According to the People's Daily, Mao Zedong Thought "is Marxism–Leninism applied and developed in China".
Mao Zedong Thought was conceived not only by Mao Zedong, but by leading party officials. According to Xinhua, Mao Zedong Thought is "an integration of the universal truth of Marxism–Leninism with the practice of the Chinese revolution." Currently, the CPC interprets the essence of Mao Zedong Thought as "Seeking truth from facts": "we [CPC] must proceed from reality and put theory into practice in everything. In other words, we must integrate the universal theory of Marxism–Leninism with China's specific conditions."
While analysts generally agree that the CPC has rejected orthodox Marxism–Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought (or at least basic thoughts within orthodox thinking), the CPC itself disagrees. Some Western commentators also talk about a "crisis of ideology" within the party; they believe that the CPC has rejected communism. Wang Xuedong, the Director of the Institute of World Socialism, said in response, "We know there are those abroad who think we have a 'crisis of ideology,' but we do not agree." According to Jiang Zemin, the CPC "must never discard Marxism–Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought.” He said that “if we did, we would lose our foundation.” He further noted that Marxism in general "like any science, needs to change as time and circumstances advance." Certain groups argue that Jiang Zemin ended the CPC's formal commitment to Marxism with the introduction of the ideological theory, the Three Represents. However, party theorist Leng Rong disagrees, claiming that "President Jiang rid the Party of the ideological obstacles to different kinds of ownership [...] He did not give up Marxism or socialism. He strengthened the Party by providing a modern understanding of Marxism and socialism—which is why we talk about a ‘socialist market economy’ with Chinese characteristics." Marxism in its core is, according to Jiang Zemin, methodology and the goal of a future, classless society, not analyses of class and of the contradictions between different classes.
Karl Marx argued that society went through different stages of development, and believed that the capitalist mode of production was the third stage. The stages were: ancient, based mostly on slavery; feudal; capitalist; socialist; and the communist mode of production. The attainment of true "communism" is described as the CPC's and China's "ultimate goal". While the CPC claims that China is in the primary stage of socialism, party theorists argue that the current development stage "looks a lot like capitalism". Alternately, certain party theorists argue that “capitalism is the early or first stage of communism.” In official pronouncements, the primary stage of socialism is predicted to last about 100 years, after which China will reach another developmental stage. Some have dismissed the concept of a primary stage of socialism as intellectual cynicism. According to Robert Lawrence Kuhn, a China analyst, "When I first heard this rationale, I thought it more comic than clever—a wry caricature of hack propagandists leaked by intellectual cynics. But the 100-year horizon comes from serious political theorists".
While it has been argued by Westerners that the reforms introduced by the CPC under Deng were a rejection of the party's Marxist heritage and ideology, the CPC does not view it as such. The rationale behind the reforms was that the productive forces of China lagged behind the advanced culture and ideology developed by the party-state. In 1986, to end this deficiency, the party came to the conclusion that the main contradiction in Chinese society was that between the backward productive forces and the advanced culture and ideology of China. By doing this, they deemphasized class struggle, and contradicted both Mao and Karl Marx, who both considered that class struggle was the main focus of the communist movement. According to this logic, thwarting the CPC's goal of advancing productive forces was synonymous with class struggle. The classical goal of class struggle was declared by Deng to have been achieved in 1976. While Mao had also emphasized the need to develop productive forces, under Deng it became paramount.
Some have likened the CPC's position under Deng to that of the Russian communist party under Joseph Stalin when he introduced the planned economy. Adrian Chan, the author of Chinese Marxism, opposes this view: "To Stalin, the development of productive forces was the prerequisite for the Soviet Union to become communist." He further argues that such a view does not make sense in light of the different situations; Stalin emphasized production because of the Soviet Union's backwardness in all areas, while in China, the reforms were seen as one way to further develop the productive forces. These interpretations, while not in agreement, shed light on the fact that Chinese socialism did change during the Deng era. In 1987, the Beijing Review stated that the achievements of socialism were "evaluated according to the level of the productive forces."
Party theoretician and former Politburo member Hu Qiaomu in his thesis "Observe economic laws, speed up the Four Modernizations", published in 1978, argued that economic laws were objective, on par with natural laws. He insisted that economic laws were no more negotiable "than the law of gravity". Hu's conclusion was that the Party was responsible for the socialist economy's acting on these economic laws. He believed that only an economy based on the individual would satisfy these laws, since "such an economy would be in accord with the productive forces". The CPC followed his line, and at the 12th National Congress, the party constitution was amended, stating that the private economy was a "needed complement to the socialist economy." This sentiment was echoed by Xue Muqiao; "practice shows that socialism is not necessarily based on a unified public ownership by the whole society."
The official communiqué of the 3rd plenum of the 11th Central Committee included the words: "integrate the universal principles of Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought with the concrete practice of socialist modernization and develop it under the new historical conditions." With the words "new historical conditions", the CPC had in fact made it possible to view the old, Maoist ideology as obsolete (or at least certain tenants). To know if a policy was obsolete or not, the party had to "seek truth from facts" and follow the slogan "practice is the sole criterion of the truth". At the 6th plenum of the 11th Central Committee, the "Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People's Republic of China" was adopted. The resolution separated Mao the person from Maoism, claiming that Mao had contravened Maoism during his rule. While the document criticized Mao, it clearly stated that he was a "proletarian revolutionary" (i.e. not all of his views were wrong), and that without Mao there would have been no new China. Su Shaozi, a party theoretician and the head of the Institute of Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought, argued that the CPC needed to reassess the New Economic Policy introduced by Vladimir Lenin and ended by Stalin, as well as Stalin's industrialization policies and the prominent role he gave to class struggle. Su concluded that the "exploiting classes in China had been eliminated". Dong Fureng, a Deputy Director at the Institute of Economics, agreed with the reformist discourse, first by criticizing Marx and Friedrich Engels' view that a socialist society had to abolish private property, and secondly, accusing both Marx and Engels for being vague on what kind of ownership of the means of production was necessary in socialist society. While both Su and Dong agreed that it was the collectivization of agriculture and the establishment of People's Communes which had ended rural exploitation, neither of them sought a return to collectivized agriculture.
The term "socialism with Chinese characteristics" was added to the General Program of the party's constitution at the 12th National Congress, without a definition of the term. At the 13th National Congress, held in 1987, Zhao Ziyang, the CPC General Secretary, claimed that socialism with Chinese characteristics was the "integration of the fundamental tenets of Marxism with the modernization drive in China" and was "scientific socialism rooted in the realities of present-day China." By this time the CPC believed that China was in the primary stage of socialism, and therefore needed market relations so as to develop into a socialist society. Two years earlier, Su had tried to internationalize the term "primary stage of socialism" by claiming that socialism contained three different production phases. China was currently in the first phase, while the Soviet Union and the remaining Eastern Bloc countries were in the second phase. Because China was in the primary stage of socialism, Zhao argued that in "[China] for a long time to come, we shall develop various sectors of the economy, always ensuring the dominant position of the public sector." Further, some individuals should be allowed to become rich "before the objective of common prosperity [pure communism] is achieved." Lastly, during the primary stage of socialism, planning would no longer be the primary means of organization of the economy. Upon hearing this remark, Chen Yun, a conservative and the second-most powerful politician in China, walked out of the meeting.
Both Chen Yun and Deng supported the formation of a private market. At the 8th National Congress, Chen first proposed an economy where the socialist sector would be dominant, with the private economy in a secondary role.  He believed that by following the "Ten Major Relationships", an article by Mao on how to proceed with socialist construction, the CPC could remain on the socialist road while also supporting private property. Chen Yun conceived of the bird-cage theory, where the bird represents the free market and the cage represents a central plan. Chen proposed that a balance should be found between "setting the bird free" and choking the bird with a central plan that was too restrictive.
Between the time of the 13th National Congress and the Tiananmen Square incident and the ensuing crackdown, the line between right and left within the CPC became clearer. The rift became visible in the run-up to the 7th plenum of the 13th National Congress (in 1990), when problems arose concerning China's 8th Five-Year Plan. The draft for the 8th Five-Year Plan, supervised by Premier Li Peng and Deputy Premier Yao Yilin, openly endorsed Chen Yun's economic view that planning should be primary, coupled with slow, balanced growth. Li went further and directly contradicted Deng, stating, "Reform and opening up should not be taken as the guiding principle; instead, sustained, steady, and coordinated development should be taken as the guiding principle." Because of this stance, Deng rejected the Draft for the 8th Five-Year Plan, claiming that the 1990s was the "best time" for continuing with reform and opening up. Li and Yao even went so far as to try to annul two key resolutions passed by the 13th National Congress: the theory of socialist political civilization, and the resolution that central planning and markets were equals. Deng rejected the idea of reopening discussions on these subjects, and restated that reforms were essential for the CPC's future. Not accepting Deng's stance, party theorist Deng Liqun, along with others, began promoting "Chen Yun Thought". After a discussion with General Wang Zhen, a supporter of Chen Yun, Deng stated he would propose the abolishment of the Central Advisory Commission (CAC). Chen Yun retaliated by naming Bo Yibo to succeed him as CAC chairman. Indeed, when the 7th plenum of the 13th Central Committee did in fact convene, nothing notable took place, with both sides trying not to widen the ideological gap even further. The resolution of the 7th plenum did contain a great deal of ideological language ("firmly follow the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics"), but no clear formulation of new policy was uttered.
Chen Yun's thoughts and policies dominated CPC discourse from 1989 until Deng's Southern Tour in 1992. Deng began campaigning for his reformist policies in 1991, managing to get reformist articles printed in the People's Daily and Liberation Army during this period. The articles criticized those communists who believed that central planning and market economics were polar opposites, instead repeating the Dengist mantra that planning and markets were only two different ways in which to regulate economic activity. By that time, the party had begun preparing for the 14th National Congress. Deng threatened to withdraw his support for Jiang Zemin's reelection as CPC General Secretary if Jiang did not accept reformist policies. However, at the 8th plenum of the 13th Central Committee, in 1991, the conservatives still held the upper hand within the party leadership.
To reassert his economic agenda, in the spring of 1992, Deng made his famous southern tour of China, visiting Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Zhuhai, and spending the New Year in Shanghai. He used his travels to reassert his economic policy ideas after his retirement from office. On the tour, Deng made many speeches and generated large local support for his reformist platform. He stressed the importance of economic reform in China, and criticized those who were against further reform and opening up. The tour proved that amongst the party's grassroots organizations, support for reform and opening up was firm. Because of this, more and more leading members of the central party leadership converted to Deng's position, amongst them Jiang Zemin. In his speech "Deeply Understand and Implement Comrade Deng Xiaoping's Important Spirit, Make Economic Construction, Reform and Opening Go Faster and Better" to the Central Party School, Jiang said it did not matter if a certain mechanism was capitalist or socialist, the key question was whether it worked. Jiang's speech is notable since it introduced the term socialist market economy, which replaced Chen Yun's "planned socialist market economy". In a later Politburo meeting, members voted unanimously, in old communist fashion, to continue with reform and opening up. Knowing that he had lost, Chen Yun gave in, and claimed that because of new conditions, the old techniques of the planned economy were outdated.
At the 14th National Congress, the thought of Deng Xiaoping was officially dubbed Deng Xiaoping Theory, and elevated to the same level as Mao Zedong Thought. The concepts of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and "the primary stage of socialism" were credited to him. At the congress, Jiang reiterated Deng's view that it was unnecessary to ask if something was socialist or capitalist, since the important factor was whether it worked. Several capitalist techniques were introduced, while science and technology were to be the primary productive force.
The term ″Three Represents″ was first used in 2000 by Jiang Zemin in a trip to Guangdong province. From then until its inclusion in the party's constitution at the 16th National Congress, the Three Represents became a constant theme for Jiang Zemin. In his speech at the anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, Jiang Zemin said that "we [the CPC] must always represent the development trend of China's advanced productive forces, the orientation of China's advanced culture, and the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people in China." By this time, Jiang and the CPC had reached the conclusion that attaining the communist mode of production, as formulated by earlier communists, was more complex than had been realized, and that it was useless to try to force a change in the mode of production, as it had to develop naturally, by following the economic laws of history. While segments within the CPC criticized the Three Represents as being un-Marxist and a betrayal of basic Marxist values, supporters viewed it as a further development of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The theory is most notable for allowing capitalists, officially referred to as the "new social strata", to join the party on the grounds that they engaged in "honest labor and work" and through their labour contributed "to build[ing] socialism with Chinese characteristics." Jiang contended that capitalists should be able to join the Party on the grounds that;
"It is not advisable to judge a person’s political orientation simply by whether he or she owns property or how much property he or she owns [...] Rather, we should judge him or her mainly by his or her political awareness, moral integrity and performance, by how he or she has acquired the property, how it has been disposed of and used, and by his or her actual contribution to the cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics."
The 3rd plenum of the 16th Central Committee conceived and formulated the ideology of Scientific Outlook on Development. This concept is generally considered to be Hu Jintao's contribution to the official ideological discourse. It is considered a continuation and creative development of ideologies advanced by previous CPC leaders. To apply the Scientific Outlook on Development on China, the CPC must adhere to building a Harmonious Socialist Society. According to Hu Jintao, the concept is a sub-ideology of socialism with Chinese characteristics. It is a further adaptation of Marxism to the specific conditions of China, and a concept open to change.
The CPC don't believe that they have abandoned Marxism. The party views the world as organized into two opposing camps; socialist and capitalist. They insist that socialism, on the basis of historical materialism, will eventually triumph over capitalism. In recent years, when the party has been asked to explain the capitalist globalization occurring, the party has returned to the writings of Karl Marx. Marx wrote that capitalists, in their search for profit, would travel the world in a bid to establish new international markets – hence, its generally assumed that Marx forecasted globalization. His writings on the subject is used to justify the CPC's market reforms, since nations, according to Marx, have little choice in the matter of joining or not. Opting not to take part in capitalist globalization means losing out in the fields of economic development, technological development, foreign investment and world trade. This view is strengthened by the economic failures of the Soviet Union and of China under Mao.
Despite admitting that globalization developed through the capitalist system, the party's leaders and theorist argue that globalization is not intrinsically capitalist. The reason being that if globalization was purely capitalist, it would exclude an alternate socialist form of modernity. Globalization, as with the market economy, therefore does not have one specific class character (either socialist or capitalist) according to the party. The instance that globalization is not fixed in nature, comes from Deng's insistence that China can pursue socialist modernization by incorporating elements of capitalism. Because of this there is considerable optimism within the CPC that despite the current capitalist dominance of globalization, globalization can be turned into a vehicle supporting socialism. This event will occur through capitalism's own contradictions. These contradictions are, according to party theorist Yue Yi from the Academy of Social Sciences, "that between private ownership of the means of production and socialised production. This contradiction has manifested itself globally as the following contradictions; the contradiction between planned and regulated national economies and the unplanned and unregulated world economy; the contradiction between well-organized and scientifically managed Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and a blindly expanding and chaotic world market; the contradiction between the unlimited increase of productive capacity and the limited world market; and the contradiction between sovereign states and TNCs." It was these contradictions, argue Yue Yi, that led to the dot-com bubble of the 1990s, that has caused unbalanced development and polarization, and widened the gap between rich and poor. These contradictions will lead to the inevitable demise of capitalism and the resultant dominance of socialism.
In 2007, Hu Jintao noted in a speech that "people's democracy is the lifeblood of socialism ... without democracy there can be no socialism, and there can be no socialist modernization." To be clear, democracy, in the CPC's understanding of the word, does not mean democracy in the liberal democratic sense of the word. Instead it means the creation of a more balanced, equal society, "with socialism bringing about social justice. The CPC still believes that the Party and country is led by the unity of the peasant and working classes. However, for the further development of democracy and socialism, stability is needed.
The term "civilization" became a key word during the 1990s. In short, the ideological campaigns tried to harmonize the relationship between the "two civilizations" in China – "material civilization and spiritual civilization". The concept first developed during the early 1980s from classical Marxist thought. It was through this concept that the CPC called for "balanced development". "Material civilization" is synonymous with economic development; "spiritual civilization", often referred to as "socialist spiritual civilization", tries to spread good socialist morals in Chinese society. Under Deng, the CPC emphasized material civilization, but under Jiang the emphasis was on spiritual civilization., which was less easily definable. "Spiritual civilization" changed from a concept largely defined in socialist terminology under Deng into a vehicle for cultural nationalism under Jiang. The theory has become more complex with time; at the 16th National Congress Jiang introduced a third concept of civilization, "political civilization", focused solely on the CPC and political reform.
Deng first used the term in 1979, to denote the need to develop a material civilization as well as a spiritual civilization. Analyst Nicholas Dynon believes it may have been introduced to placate the conservatives within the Party, Deng's way of reassuring them that socialism was not be abandoned. "Socialist civilization" was to replace class struggle as the main engine of progress, a worldview seen as more harmonious and cooperative. "Socialist Spiritual Civilization" was launched in the early 1980s to protect the party from foreign, corruptive influences but also to protect the CPC's policy of reform and opening up. While the two terms, "material" and "spiritual" civilizations, were added to the party constitution at the 12th National Congress, the terms and their meanings were hotly debated. For instance, Zhao Yiya, the editor-in-chief of the Liberation Army Press, criticized Hua Yaobang's speech to the 12th National Congress, noting that both material and spiritual elements contained "class character" as well as cultural elements. Material civilization was less contested, and it maintained close links to the Marxist view of economic development and the mode of productions, and the view that the material is the basis of the superstructure. On this, Deng was a classical Marxist who believed that the material served as the basis; "when people's material wealth progresses, their cultural aspects will rise as well [and] their spiritual aspects will change considerably". Under the banner of spiritual civilization, the CPC would promote patriotic spirit, collectivism and the four haves. By the mid-1980s, Deng became concerned that material civilization was getting more attention than spiritual civilization; he said "the one is tough [material civilization] while the other is soft [spiritual civilization]." The 6th plenary meeting of the 12th Central Committee adopted the "Resolutions on the guiding principles for developing a Socialist Spiritual Civilization" under the slogan "In grasping with two hands, both hands must be firm". Deng's Spiritual Civilization continued using much of the old Maoist vocabulary and slogans, such as "five stresses, four goods and three loves", "study Lei Feng" and "serve the people". However, in a radical break from the past, Deng ended the Maoist emphasis on antagonism and contradiction in Chinese socialist thought.
At the 16th National Congress, Jiang introduced a third kind of civilization, political civilization, along with "the important thoughts of the Three Represents". According to Robert Lawrence Kuhn, a former advisor to the Chinese government, the idea was "three interrelated objectives — material civilization, spiritual civilization, and political civilization — and one unifying mechanism, Three Represents. The three civilizations were the intended ends, and the important thought of Three Represents was the chosen means." There has been talk of introducing a fourth civilization, but nothing has come of it yet. A proposed fourth civilization, social civilization, is linked to Hu's concept of Harmonious Socialist Society. According to Lie Zhongjie, the Deputy Director of the Central Research Office, "the outcome of building 'society' in a general sense ... is 'social civilization' ... it is a social civilization in the broad sense, transcending the [other] three civilizations". However, social civilization has not been elevated to the same level as the other three kinds of civilization. There are a number of proponents in China for "ecological civilization", "an unsurprising development given the growing awareness and official recognition of China's pressing environmental issues."
Throughout the 20th century, ideology served two functions: first, to achieve the modernization of China, and second, to provide unity where there was fragmentation and struggle. The thought most linked to modernity in early China was Marxism, which analysed different social structures and relations. Mao conceived a Chinese version of Marxism, in which a proletarian revolution was amended to a peasant-dominated revolution. This change gave traction to a utopian modernist view and led to the Chinese Revolution in 1949. The immediate post-1949 consensus was intimately linked with the idea of an "alternative modernity that transcended capitalist modernity and its Eurocentric assumptions of historical teleology and economist determinism." The impact of this was in two key areas: the introduction of Marxist terms such as proletariat, bourgeoisie, petit bourgeoisie, capitalist to denote class, for Mao's emphasis class struggle in Chinese society, and the creation of the party-state.
The Maoist vision of modernity never "enjoyed entire hegemony" within the Party, and was always contested even at the height of Mao's power. Zhou Enlai's launching of the Four Modernizations in 1965 (and again 1975) are an example of this. When Mao died, the Four Modernizations replaced class struggle as the Party's key objective. This vision eventually led to the enfranchisement of the private market economy and the establishment of new institutions, and became Deng Xiaoping's "socialism with Chinese characteristics". This in turn led to the adoption of alternative visions of modernity popular in the Western world. Ideological change led to factional strife, with many leading members of the party calling for a return to the classical socialist model of development. From the outside world these changes may seem odd: a society which looks more capitalist by the day is still ruled by a Party that claims "fidelity to socialism". However, there is "less understanding of how this looks from within". A break with the basic tenets of Maoist thought came in the 1990s, when Jiang Zemin talked of the need to let private entrepreneurs join the Party. This decision had a stronger connection to realpolitik then to ideological conviction. By the 16th National Congress, the private sector was one of the most dominant forces in society, a constituency the party could not ignore if it wished to hold on to power.
The Party is, in official discourse, directly linked to modernity. For instance, in Hu's speech commemorating the 85th anniversary of the CPC's founding, he said, "Only our Party can become the nucleus of power to lead the Chinese revolution, construction, and reform, only it is able to bear the great trust of the Chinese people and the Chinese nationality ... In the last 85 years, our party has preserved and developed the progressive creative line." According to the CPC, the "people are the force for creating history", and for the CPC to accomplish its task of modernization, it cannot became alienated from the people; it must creatively adapt theory and pursue strategic, sound policies. Therefore, having a correct understanding of Marxism and its development in China is crucial. Hu noted that progressiveness "is the essence of Marxist party building" and that it is "the basic service and eternal theme" of Marxism.
Socialist patriotism is a concept invented by Vladimir Lenin, the informal leader of the Russian Bolshevik Party. It commits people to a non-nationalistic form of devotion to one's country. According to the standard Soviet definition, it means "boundless love for the socialist homeland, a commitment to the revolutionary transformation of society [and] the cause of communism". To ensure that socialist patriotism did not evolve into a form of nationalism (criticized as a bourgeois ideology), the people had to be committed to proletarian internationalism. The CPC, shortly after seizing power, defined three levels of socialist patriotism. "At the first level, individuals should subordinate their personal interests to the interests of the state. At the second level, individuals should subordinate their personal destiny to the destiny of our socialist system. At the third level, individuals should subordinate their personal future to the future of our communist cause." Mao's nationalism was not inclusivist, and people from certain classes were deemed unpatriotic from the outset. Chinese nationalism under Mao was defined as "anti-imperialist" and "anti-feudal" in principle. However, Mao believed that nationalism was of secondary importance, and his main aim was to further expand the reach of the world revolution.
Under Deng, the concept was further expanded. Believing that purer communist concepts such as class struggle and the like could not bring people together as they had done under Mao, his regime gave patriotism a larger role. In early 1982, the CPC initiated the "Three Loves" campaign under the slogan "Love the party, love socialism, and love the motherland". A year later, the Central Propaganda Department and the Central Research Office formulated a comprehensive plan to exploit nationalist feelings by making films and television programs out of China's "heroic struggle against Western and Japanese imperialism". "Patriotic activities" were added to the school system's extracurricular activities; the national flag was to be raised daily and pupils were to sing and learn the national anthem. By 1983, the party had concluded that "among patriotism, collectivism, socialism, and communism, patriotism has peculiar features and functions. [...] Patriotism is the banner of greatest appeal." Despite its broadened role, patriotism remained secondary to socialism. As Deng put it, "Some have said that not loving Socialism is not the same as not loving one's motherland. Is the motherland something abstract? If you do not love socialist New China led by the Communist Party, what motherland do you love?" According to official pronouncements, the CPC was the best representative of the nation, communists were the most devoted patriots, and socialism the only viable road for China to become "a great nation". Deng Liqun, in a similar vein, said, "One cannot demonstrate that one loves the motherland if one shows no deep love for the socialist system and the Communist Party. In short, in our times, loving the Chinese Communist Party is the highest expression of Chinese patriotism."
According to China scholar Maria Hsia Chang Deng Xiaoping was "in a very real sense, is a better Marxist theoretician than Mao Zedong." Deng had studied Marxism in the Soviet Union, unlike Mao who never studied Marxism in depth before the 1930s, in the 1920s at the Moscow Sun Yat-sen University, enrolling in a course on historical materialism and Marxist economics. Like Mao, Deng never referenced Marxism when articulating new policies, however, the few times the pair did, Deng displayed a more advanced grasp of Marxism then Mao ever did. To take one example, in 1975 in "On the General Program of Work of the whole Party and the Whole Nation", Deng wrote;
"Marxism holds that, within the contradictions between the productive forces and the relations of production, between practice and theory, and between the economic base and the superstructure, the productive forces ... and the economic base generally play the principal and decisive role ... Whoever denies this is not a materialist."
This position, while being based on Marxism, was criticized by Maoists at the time of being the "revisionist theory of the productive forces." In a break with classical Marxism, Mao argued that the superstructure should play the leading role in the revolution, that is the political system and individuals, and not the materialist forces, which Mao considered secondary. This was not a small ideological issue, and had been in the heart of Marxist theoretical debate since the era of Vladimir Lenin. Lenin had argued that socialist revolutions could occur in the peripheries of capitalism, that is countries not economically advanced enough to develop socialism according to Karl Marx, since these revolutions could instigate a revolutionary wave in the more advanced countries. Marx, in The Philosophy of Poverty, stated that "in acquiring new productive forces, men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, in changing their way of earning a living, they change all their social relations." To explain, Marx believed as the productive forces, literally the economic forces, changed social relations would change, and when the social relations changed, something new would develop. In short, the Marxist founders argued that the socialist mode of production could only develop out of a developed capitalist economy, and not from a backward economy, developing it on a backward area was, according to Marx, a "chiliastic dream fantasy." After the failure of the revolutionary waves of the late-1910s, early 1920s, Lenin initiated the New Economic Policy, a series of policies which reintroduced capitalist economics in the country in a bid to develop socialism in Russia despite its backwardness. According to Maria Hsia Chang, Mao never grasped the central importance of the productive forces in developing socialism, and he argued until the end that socialism could be created through the superstructure alone with "revolutionary commitment, political intransigence, personal sacrifice, and selfless dedication [to the revolution]." Deng, on the other hand, staid true to classical Marxism, arguing until his death that the productive forces played the central role.
The basic conflict between the Maoists and the Dengists was if China after 1949 had reached socialism or not, and what it would entail. In the aftermath of the Great Leap Forward and the Sino–Soviet split Mao himself, was even unsure if China had reached the socialist mode of production. In 1962 he reached the conclusion that China, despite having nationalized the means of production, had not reached the socialist mode of production in its mature form, claiming that the principle conflict as existing in China was between the proletariat and the "new bourgeois elements", which were constantly reproduced, and other enemies of the revolution. This view led Mao to introduce to the Cultural Revolution. Unlike Mao, who gave priority to superstructural elements, Deng argued in 1956 in the "Report on the Revision of the Constitution of the Communist Party of China", that socialism had taken root in socialism, since private property had been abolished, since nationalization of property Deng argued (again following the basic premises of classical Marxism) entailed removing the basis of other classes reproducing, stating;
"Casual labourers and farm labourers have disappeared. Poor and middle peasants have all become members of agricultural producers' co-operatives, and before the distinction between them will have become merely a thing of historical interest ... The vast majority of our intellectuals have now come over to the side of the working class ... The conditions in which the urban poor and the professional people used to exist as independent social strata are virtually no longer present ... What is the point, then, of classifying these social strata into two different categories? And even if we were to try to devise a classification, how could we make it neat and clear-cut?"
In contrast to Mao, Deng argued that the principal contradiction in Chinese society was the backwardness of the productive forces, further adding that the Party's "central task" over the coming years were to develop them. In addition he believed that China, since 1957, had been unable "to figure out what socialism is and how to build it". He criticized Mao's policies, particularly those after 1957, arguing that the CPC had "wasted twenty year."
Xiaoping did not believe that the fundamental difference between the capitalist mode of production and the socialist mode of production was central planning versus free markets. He said, "A planned economy is not the definition of socialism, because there is planning under capitalism; the market economy happens under socialism, too. Planning and market forces are both ways of controlling economic activity". Jiang Zemin supported Deng's thinking, and stated in a party gathering that it did not matter if a certain mechanism was capitalist or socialist, because the only thing that mattered was whether it worked. It was at this gathering that Jiang Zemin introduced the term socialist market economy, which replaced Chen Yun's "planned socialist market economy". In his report to the 14th National Congress Jiang Zemin told the delegates that the socialist state would "let market forces play a basic role in resource allocation." At the 15th National Congress, the party line was changed to "make market forces further play their role in resource allocation"; this line continued until the 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee), when it was amended to "let market forces play a decisive role in resource allocation." Despite this, the 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee upheld the creed "Maintain the dominance of the public sector and strengthen the economic vitality of the State-owned economy."
The CPC, as an officially atheist institution, prohibits party members from belonging to a religion. Although religion is banned for party members, personal beliefs are not held accountable. During Mao's rule, religious movements were oppressed, and religious organizations were forbidden to have contact with foreigners. All religious organizations were state-owned and not independent. Relations with foreign religious institutions were worsened when in 1947, and again in 1949, the Vatican forbade any Catholic to support a communist party. On questions of religion, Deng was more open than Mao, but the issue was left unresolved during his leadership. According to Ye Xiaowen, the former Director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, "In its infancy, the socialist movement was critical of religion. In Marx’s eyes, theology had become a bastion protecting the feudal ruling class in Germany. Therefore the political revolution had to start by criticizing religion. It was from this perspective that Marx said ‘religion is the opium of the people’." It was because of Marx's writings that the CPC initiated anti-religious policies under Mao and Deng. The Marxist view that religion would decline as modern society emerged was proven false with the rise of Falun Gong.
The popularity of Falun Gong, and its subsequent banning by state authorities, led to the convening of a three-day National Work Conference for Religious Affairs in 1999, the highest-level gathering on religious affairs in the party's history. Jiang Zemin, who had subscribed to the classical Marxist view that religion would wither away, was forced to change his mind when he learnt that religion in China was in fact growing, not decreasing. In his concluding speech to the National Work Conference, Jiang asked the participants to find a way to make "socialism and religion adapt to each other". He added that "asking religions to adapt to socialism doesn’t mean we want religious believers to give up their faith". Jiang ordered Ye Xiaowen to study the classical Marxist works in depth to find an excuse to liberalize the CPC's policy towards religion. It was discovered that Friedrich Engels had written that religion would survive as long as problems existed. With this rationale, religious organizations were given more autonomy.