China’s Communist Party has launched an ideological campaign targeting students and officials. The message is: China will not abandon Russia.
While Russian troops are pounding Ukraine, Chinese officials have been meeting behind closed doors in order to examine a Communist Party-produced documentary which extols President Vladimir V. Putin as a hero.
According to the video, the humiliating fall of the Soviet Union was caused by efforts by the United States in order to undermine its legitimacy. The documentary features soaring music and scenes of modern Moscow. It praises Putin for his restoration of Stalin’s status as a great wartime leader, and for reinforcing patriotic pride in Russia’s past.
China presents itself to the world as a principled observer of the conflict in Ukraine. It is not seeking sides but seeks peace. The Chinese Communist Party, however, is pushing a campaign to portray Russia as a long-suffering aggressor rather than a victim and defends China’s strong ties to Moscow as vital.
Chinese universities have hosted classes to provide students with a “correct understanding war, often highlighting Russia’s grievances towards the West. A series of comments have been published by party newspapers, blaming the United States.
The Communist Party organized meetings for officials around the country to discuss and watch the history documentary. Although the video is 101 minutes long, it does not discuss the war in Ukraine. However, it argues that Russia should be concerned about its neighbors who broke away from the Soviet Union. It depicts Putin as purging Russia of the political poisons that destroyed the Soviet Union.
“The West has the most powerful weapon, apart from nuclear weapons,” declares the documentary’s harsh-voiced narrator citing a Russian scholar. The documentary was intended for internal viewing, that is to be viewed by members of the party and not for public release. However, the script and video have been made available online in China.
It says that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, “some countries from Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Transcaucasia are now in a position to allow the West to contain Russia and interfere in its affairs.”
China’s leaders use the Soviet collapse for a warning tale. But Mr. Xi has given this tale a more dire and ominous twist. He has shown the Chinese people that he is a partner in their cause by embracing Mr. Putin, a fellow authoritarian who has fought against Western dominance.
It is unclear if claims of atrocities committed by Russia soldiers, including civilians being shot in the head or having their hands tied behind their backs before they are killed, will have an impact on China’s support for the Russian invasion.
China has refused to condemn Putin’s war on civilians, killing thousands. Despite being urged by other world leaders to exert its influence on Moscow to end the crisis, Beijing has not done much except call for peace. On Thursday, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi expressed his country’s support for strong ties to Moscow in talks with Sergey Lavrov (Russia).
The Biden administration casts the war as a contest between democracy or authoritarianism. Chinese officials are countering the American-led domineering as the cause of conflict in Ukraine and other countries. They see Russia and China as both being threatened by “color revolution,” the term used by the party to describe insurrections supported by Western governments. Beijing is likely to agree with President Biden’s recent comments calling on Mr. Putin to be removed.
“They actually believe their own narrative about color revolutions and tend to see this whole situation as a U.S.-led color revolution to overthrow Putin,” said Christopher K. Johnson is the president of China Strategies Group. He was a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst on Chinese politics.
Johnson stated in an interview that Xi has been spreading this dark story both domestically and internationally since he assumed power. It allows him to justify his power accumulation and the changes he’s made through creating this sense of struggle, danger.
The documentary shows the fall of the Soviet Union to be a warning to Chinese officials to not allow Western liberalism to seduce them. According to the documentary, China must not follow the path of Mikhail S. Gorbachev (the Soviet Union’s former leader who started glasnost or openness and engagement with Westerners).
2013 was a year when Mr. Xi’s propaganda officers published a document about the lessons learned from the collapse of Soviet Union. This new interpretation is even more conspiratorial.
Beijing refers to “historical Nihilism” as a political liberalization that emphasizes the Communist Party’s misdeeds and mistakes. The documentary attributes the fall of the Soviet Union. It claims that historians who were critical of the Soviet Revolution have created death tolls of many millions in order to justify Stalin’s purges.
It argues that Stalin was a modernizing leader, whose purges were too extreme but at first “were something a necessity” due to Soviet threats to Soviet power. It suggests rock music was a sign of the moral decay that eventually set in.
“They have only learned one lesson from all of it, and that is to not allow any freedom of speech,” stated Sergey Radchenko, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies who studies Chinese history . “This kind of freedom inevitably leads loss of political control, and that causes chaos.”
The documentary credits Putin with restoring Russia’s spirit.
It depicts Mr. Putin marching through a parade to mark Russia’s victory against Nazi Germany. Young Russians are seen kissing a banner with his portrait. The previous leaders of Moscow, including Nikita S. Cherschev and Mr. Gorbachev, are depicted as fools who have been seduced by the lure of Western superiority and liberal reform.
According to reports from local government websites, the documentary “Historical Nihilism & the Soviet Collapse” has been the focal point of a campaign directed at party officials that has continued since Russia’s full attack on Ukraine began on February 24, 2014. Official notices often describe the supervision of screenings as requiring cadres to remain loyal to Mr. Xi.
“Loving a leader and party is not a cult,” Zheng Keyang, former deputy director of the party’s Central Policy Research Office, said in a discussion on the documentary published by a pro party website this month.
Since 1991, Chinese leaders have been discussing why the Soviet Union collapsed. More than his predecessors Mr. Xi blames the Soviet Union’s disintegration on a lack of ideology and Western political subversion.
“If you had the worldview you see in this documentary you could tell your story that Russia is facing a real threat by the West,” Joseph Torigian, an assistant Professor at American University in Washington, who studies elite politics and Russia, stated in an interview.
The study drive is intended to instill loyalty among cadres ahead of a Chinese Communist Party congress this year, where Mr. Xi seems set for a third term.
As Beijing tries to control Covid outbreaks and manage a slowing economic growth, Mr. Xi has found political loyalty to be more important than ever. China’s foreign policies are under scrutiny after some Chinese scholars published essays critiquing Beijing’s refusal of condemning Mr. Putin.
The party has been defending its position in recent weeks, and many of the critical essays have been removed. The Chinese leadership has argued that NATO and the United States are the real perpetrators of Ukraine’s security crisis. Editorials in Communist Party newspapers reinforce this argument.
“It was the United States who lit the fuse of the current conflagration between Russia, Ukraine,” declared in one of a series editorials published in the Liberation Army Daily. This newspaper is the main military newspaper.
Indoctrination lectures have been organized by colleges and universities for students. This suggests that officials are concerned that the young educated Chinese might be open to criticisms of Beijing’s indulgence towards Mr. Putin.
Liu Zuokui, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, explained to a group of college students from eastern China that war resulted from “NATO’s eastward expansion that squeezed Russia’s space for survival,” according to an online summary of lecture.
Another speaker in China told physicists at Beijing that China had to protect its strategic partnership against “intense shocks or impacts”.
Any opposition will find it more difficult to unite against Mr. Xi because of the party’s demands for conformity in dealing with the crisis.
Johnson, the former C.I.A. director, said that there is an “either we hang together OR we hang separately” attitude that plays. Analyst, spoke out about Chinese leaders. “If there is a strong nationalist approach to the party, then who wouldn’t want a good nationalist?”