China: Ruling Communist Party issues guidelines to address members as ‘comrades’

An article published on the Communist Party's website early this month said that reviving the term comrade would "set things right from disorder."

By: PTI | Beijing | Published:November 20, 2016 5:47 pm
china, china communist party, china communist party greeting, china comrades, xi jinping comrade, china comrade greeting, comrade chinese, world news China’s President Xi Jinping calls for ‘staunch’ belief in communism to ensure national rejuvenation as China marks 80th anniversary of Long March. (Source: Reuters Photo/File)

China’s ruling Communist Party on Sunday asked its 88.75 million members to address each other as “comrades”, the quintessential greeting used by Communist doctrine prevalent during Mao Zedong era which was discarded for its dubious linkages to gay community. “All cadres should now greet each other as comrades within the Party,” the written guideline stated.

A written guideline requiring members of the Communist Party China (CPC) to address each other as “comrades” was issued by the Party, Hong Kong based South China Morning Post reported.  In modern times, however, such outdated greetings could lead to confusion, since the term comrade, or “tongzhi” in Chinese, is also used to refer to homosexuals,” the Post report said.

The new directive followed as Chinese President Xi Jingping has been declared “core leader” in the last months’s plenary meeting of the CPC which would make him even powerful leader putting him on par with Mao and reformist leader, Deg Xiaoping and his successor Jiang Zemin.

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The directive to address each others as “comrade”, however drew criticism by analysts who termed it as an outdated resurrection of Maoist rhetoric and unworkable in today’s world. Politically, the revival of the term was just another sign of Xi’s continued push to centralise his authority, Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based historian and political analyst said.

Xi calls for ‘staunch’ belief in communism to ensure national rejuvenation as China marks 80th anniversary of Long March. “It’s a retreat to stressing faith in Communism, going back to Chairman Mao’s era of unified thinking and control,” Zhang said. ‘Comrade’ means that Party members have the same faith and interests, so that’s a reinforcement of Communism.

“But we can’t simply go back to that period given the current age of diversity,” he said. “Only Lenin would use such greetings. Only those from secret societies would address each other that way. No modern political party would do this today”.

An article published on the Party’s website early this month said that reviving the term comrade would “set things right from disorder”, in which cadres address each other by their titles or work relationships, such as “boss” and “build an atmosphere of equality”.

Good intentions aside, that was much easier said than done, said Chen Daoyin, an associate professor at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, and the strict hierarchy within the party meant treating all party members as equal was simply false.

“Frankly speaking, it’s an ideal, but not doable in reality,” Chen said. “We still haven’t broken away from the way we treat each other based on social status and authority. That’s because there is little democracy in our society. As an ordinary Communist Party member, you cannot decide the Party leaders’ comings and goings, and are also subordinate to your own bosses,” he said.

Chen said the real purpose of bringing back such titles was to divert attention from the Party’s centralisation of power by giving Xi the title of “core” leader, which was implied in a guideline and regulations released after the party’s central committee sixth annual plenum late last month.

In the 1960s, Mao obscured the gap between senior Party cadres and ordinary solders by abolishing military rankings in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). However, that brought chaos during the Sino-Vietnamese war in 1979 because soldiers didn’t know who to obey. Deng reinstated the military ranking system in 1988.

“The decision makers don’t pay attention to history, neither do they learn from historical lessons. They use the kind of thinking that raised them to explain this largely different world today. They lag so far behind, that’s why there is so much strange stuff. It looks like an absurd farce of looking back,” Zhang said.