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A pic, China and Chinese communism

by Pierre-Alain Lévy

As for each of you I imagine, I receive a flood of mails on my mailbox. Today it’s Pinterest that sends me a selection of photographs and one of them caught my attention, the one that illustrates this article. It was taken in China, probably in one of those small cities of 20 million inhabitants, Chengdu 成都 or Wuhan 武汉 maybe!

Everything is said there, let’s decipher together! At first glance, one might think to see a cartoonist’s drawing wanting to represent the urban density of our suburbs with the excess inherent in this type of drawings. I think of a drawing by French artist Sempé for example. But this is a photo taken in China.

Truth on one side of the Pyrenees … you know the rest! ( Vérité d’un côté des Pyrénées, mensonge au delà). So we are stunned by this bewildering pile of apartments stacked on top of each other. A totally dehumanized architecture, are we still talking about architecture? The methodical and icy rationality of a planned real estate operation obeying the political demands of the local political authorities.

Some good minds could certainly see in this photo the concern taken to house the populations comfortably and in dignified conditions at this turn of the century. Others would recall where China comes from, the one of Mao for example, or even before, when misery and famine were the order of the day and the contrast is striking.

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Those who would not dare to criticize China’s Big communist Brother, and even less the influence of the memory of The Great Helmsman, would be happy, I presume, to recall what the sarcellite was in France, and the situation of our suburbs today. A paranoid delirium that consists in undermining the rule of law and denigrating everything (but that’s another subject that I will not fail to address later in WUKALI).

Already some might observe in this photography the clumsy imitation of the skyscrapers of American cities, this kind of almost mystical flight upwards, of will to conquer. In fact, if this were the case, a gap of almost a century!

The deadpan would be worried about the co-owners’ meetings!

But let’s look a little further, sociologically and culturally. We are used to reading as if in a rhetorical duel of opinions and counter-opinions, and the slightest piece of information, whatever it is, is immediately opposed to its opposite until it is out of date, to leave room for another piece of information, another subject, another theme which in its turn will follow the same media path and will fall into decline in its turn. A culture of carbonated water after all, and here we are!

This cultural relativism is properly said without culture! However, for a long time, geographers as well as historians have been able to analyze Chinese civilization and culture, and don’t expect me to diminish the genius of their own they possess, quite the contrary.

Before examining the political field, that of today’s China, an analytical review is necessary

the sources of Chinese communism
Statue of Confucius (Kongzi)
Confucian temple in Shanghai

Confucius 曲阜 was born in China (Kongzi to the Chinese) long ago in 551 BC during the time of the Zhou Dynasty 周朝, and his moral precepts will contribute over time to forge what should be called Chinese civilization. What do they consist of? First of all, the respect given to the masters, to the knowers, to those who possess knowledge. The same goes for the respect given to patriarchs, to the family, to the forefathers. It is therefore a hierarchical structure. We could say today, for the sake of convenience, that it is a structuring analysis grid. All this could be good and well, but the consequence is in its limits, that is to say that it freezes the individual in a mesh, in the net of which he is prisoner like a fly stuck on a spider web. Moreover, this aristocracy of the knowledge and the natural authority statufied itself in the course of time, not questioning itself and exerting on those who were under its coulpe its secular and political domination without sharing and attached to preserve its privileges.

Culture, this invisible fabric, this little music that echoes volens nolens, at the level of each individual, is what founds us and gives us our identity. It differs according to the place where we were born, where our roots are, our family history and according to the language we speak. In the dyptic that would form (that said roughly speaking) on the one hand the Occidental world and China, it is certainly necessary to nuance.

Thus, as I am obviously referring to Confucius, that is to say to the philosophical field, the very one that century after century will found Chinese unity, it is appropriate to position as a counterpart in Europe the Judeo-Christian thought, as it is called. These two schools of thought are opposed.

Confucianism, as we have seen, has deviated from its initial positioning, from its anthropic sequence. Its philosophical and even religious influence has even gone beyond the Chinese geographical field where it was born to reach Japan where it has become a school of its own. Thus, Chinese Confucianism is a network culture, a neural system in a way. But it is a system that emphasizes the group, the entities, and that creates in a certain way solidarities that communicate with each other, attached to each other, and existing only through each other. In other political terms, it is a feudal and vertical structure made of maintained and assumed vassals.

The individual does not have his own existence, he is only the instrument of a collective, the first of them being the family, the kinship, the city or the village, the lord near which one belongs, the factory, the company, the country etc. The individual does not count.

Communism, and Chinese communism in particular, which is not far from an adaptation, has been able to curl up like a hermit crab in a shell, in the Confucian matrix. The opportunity was too good and Mao Tse Tung understood it perfectly.

Hu Jintao’s removal from China 20th Party congress. October 22, 2022. Photo (Noel Celis / AFP)

This Maoist totalitarianism needed a secular mystique, Confucianism and tradition did the trick. Out of the Church no salvation said at home, out of the Chinese Communist Party either, and the last meeting of the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party has brought the proof! Xi Jing Ping 习近平 stronger than Mao, stronger than Confucius, had to do it!

Only one entity exists that of the Chinese Communist Party, only one belief, only one mystique, only one party, only one policy, only one line, and woe betide anyone who stands in its way. The expulsion, to say the least, of Hu Jintao  胡锦涛 , former president of China, during the last congress of the Chinese CP is explicit in this respect (see photo).

What about the Judeo-Christian tradition in all this?

First of all, let me go back to the sources, those of the Bible, of what is also called the Old Testament, of Moses, not to mention him. In short, what founds monotheism and which is simply found in the Ten Commandments. There is no need to make an exegesis here, that would be the last straw, but to underline at the same time the dimension of the individual and his universal force, his exemplarity, his capacity to decide alone, by himself, standing up straight with his head held high, in the respect of what he is, and in the respect of the other, of the others. It is not a question of religion, not of dogma, not of constraint and even less of submission, it is a question of dignity, being to others, by others. To take the man out of nature, to raise him to the highest. It is not a question of obedience, but of intelligence. It is there that we must find the fundamental source of the Judeo-Christian tradition and of our humanism born of these sources : the Ancient Greek philosophy, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, plus in France this special touch of secularism we are so attached to.

As a tentative of conclusion

On one side the group, nationalism too, totalitarianism maintained (let’s recall the Covid sequence), China facing the West. A discourse unfortunately well underway in the world today and whose Putin is the spokesman.

On the other side, like those puppet with a bell that one actions and turns with a quick shake of the hand, stands the West and its secular aspiration to Freedom, our values, those of emancipation, of freedom of thought, of justice and press free and independent from power, and of tolerance of course.

So yes, in China, it is not surprising that these monstrous apartment buildings are being built, these urban termite mounds out of apocalyptic comic books where the notion of individual freedom does not exist, where the subject becomes an object, a grammar that annihilates the very notion of freedom. How to resist this Chinese communist totalitarianism that shatters lives and crushes consciences. A country that makes the leader of the communist party equal to a god and where criticism is forbidden! A photograph, a word, a single word, can save the world. Duly noted!

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