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Chinese Communist Party: Communism under construction

The Chinese Communist Party does ideological gymnastics to create theory to justify party practice.

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‘The Little Red Book’ of quotations from Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic of China, sells in antique shops to foreign tourists. This is part of the cover story project for the March 4, 2013 issue of The Christian Science MonitorWeekly.

Eugene Hoshiko/AP/File

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'When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean," Humpty Dumpty tells Alice in Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass."

The Chinese Communist Party takes a similar approach when it describes its ideology as "socialism with Chinese characteristics." This creed has little to do with socialism anywhere else in the world, and the party long ago discarded the sort of beliefs that Karl Marx espoused.

"If he came to Beijing today, Marx wouldn't recognize much communism," acknowledges Chen Xiankui, who teaches Marxism at People's University in Beijing.

But if the party is communist in name only, it remains very much a Leninist institution, following almost to the letter the Russian revolutionary's edicts on how to control a state and suppress any challenges to its rule.

China today lives under "market-Leninism," a system introduced by Deng Xiaoping, who took a uniquely pragmatic approach 30 years ago as he launched the free-market economic reforms that have propelled the country to global prominence.

Mr. Deng ditched traditional communist ideology and all the Maoist nostrums about equality and communes, and declared that "it does not matter whether a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice." He also announced to a population sunk in poverty that "to get rich is glorious."

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