The Chinese Communist Party dusted off an obscure speech by Mao Tse-tung and reprinted its full text on the front page of the country's leading newspapers Sunday. This was the latest in a series of steps to commemorate a 1935 communist-led student demonstration and at the same time defuse the student political activism on the rise in recent months.
Chinese journalists say that the publication now of a 1939 speech of Mao's is the party's way of supporting next week's commemoration of a Dec. 9, 1935, student demonstration aimed at getting the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) government to unite with the Communists in resisting the Japanese occupation of China.
Other observers offer a different explanation. ``This speech by Mao is the party propaganda department's equivalent of heavy artillery,'' said one Western diplomat. It puts into Mao's words arguments the party is using today to convince Chinese youth that party policies are correct and that its leadership must be followed.
The speech was delivered in Yanan (the Communists' headquarters before 1949) after Mao had emerged as paramount leader of the Communist Party. The party has since determined that Mao committed major mistakes in leadership and ideology.
This is the first such work by Mao to have appeared in the popular press since the celebration two years ago of the 90th anniversary of his birth.
Student protests, under the banner of patriotic, anti-Japanese slogans, have erupted in several cities since September. Students have criticized the government's economic policies, which have brought higher prices, a flood of Japanese consumer goods, and reports of increased corruption among party officials.
The most recent demonstration was in Peking's Tian An Men Square Nov. 20. Under the watchful eye of police, hundreds of students gathered silently to mark China's victory over Japan in a women's volleyball championship. They were dispersed without incident. (Some 100 young people, who were arrested during a livelier demonstration in September, are still in detention.)
The party has treated such protests seriously and has mobilized top leaders to talk with students, to defend the party's policies, and to warn students against any further demonstrations.
According to one party member, the party has threatened to expel any member found participating in street protests. Students have also been told their job assignments after graduation would suffer if they violated the party's prohibitions against public demonstrations.