As I discussed before, the CPC is not as monolithic as it appears on the outside.  I think this is becoming increasingly clear with the censorship in Chinese media of Premier Wen Jiabao’s CNN interview he did last September, and more recent censorship of his comments in Shenzhen earlier this year.  I don’t expect there to be a faction that will publicly denounce another anytime soon, but I think it also goes beyond what the Coasties-vs-Hinterlanders argument suggests.  Below are just some predictions, and some members might be in two or more factions, so it’s not always clearcut.

In no particular order:

1) Far left faction

Politics: Nostalgic for the Mao Zedong era when government control was absolute.  Problems back then were solved easily, you said anything against the Party, you got sent to a labor camp.  Occasionally you got sent to a labor camp for no reason at all, other than to instill fear in your friends and neighbors.  Pretty much what North Korea is today.  The far left wants to essentially close Chinese borders to any foreign influence, especially media influence.  They feel that as China is now an economic power, they should use this strength to project military forces across Asia.

Economics: While I don’t think they would resort to the economically disastrous policies used during the Great Leap Forward, the government would certainly take a firm hand in all major corporations.

“What is ‘freedom’?”: “Freedom is liberty from the oppression of countries who wish to occupy us (like the US).  Freedom is freedom from capitalist rightists who seek to oppress the majority.  We should also help our neighbor countries achieve freedom.”

In general, you could expect increased censorship and propaganda, greater challenges to US influence, closed borders, and militarily threatening gestures towards China’s neighbors.  The overzealous response to the protests that didn’t happen in March, and the excessive reaction to a Chinese fisherman picking a fight with the Japanese coast guard last year are indicative that this faction is gaining influence.

Leaders: Li Changchun, government head of Propaganda and Media; Wu Bangguo, head of NPC; Chen Kuiyuan, head of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, vice chair of CPPCC

2) Confucian faction:

Politics: The Confucians are traditional (obviously), social conservatives who believe mainly in maintaining the status quo without any large shocks to social, economic, or military systems.  Their platform rests on a strong authoritarian hierarchy with clear lines of control and obedience.  However, they believe in a more benevolent form of control rooted in cultural Confucianism versus hard police control advocated by the Far Left.  In an appeal to (alleged) ancient culture, the Confucian politician would remind the average Chinese about how glorious ancient China was and remind them of the necessity of maintaining important relationships with those above and below you, whether you are at work, at home, or in the relationship between you and the government.  Since relationships are key to this faction’s platform, there is not much enthusiasm for establishing a codified “rule of law”.  Mediation and agreement in each specific case are much more important than applying the law equally to all parties involved.  Likewise, citizens might petition the government with reasonable grievances, but they would never go so far as to participate in elections to determine leadership.  Leaders instead are chosen through some form of meritocracy, which is in some ways how the current CPC styles itself.  In that sense, it prides itself in being both “open,” “enlightened,” and “participatory”.

Economics: Growth should be spread among the masses instead of concentrated in the hands of a few, but this is not mandatory.  Remember that this system propagated in an age of feudal lords, serfs, and an emperor, after all.  The military should be used as a force of benevolence and to maintain social order, not to impose the national dogma upon other countries.   Instead, secret diplomacy and spies would be used to gain the advantage over others.

“What is ‘freedom’?”: “Freedom is the ability to feed and clothe your family, and to put a roof over your head.  Freedom is knowing that if there is danger , you have a benevolent leader to protect you.  Above all, freedom is security, stability, and harmony for everyone.”

China’s social system is largely Confucian these days.  The sort of “respect your elders/superiors” mentality resonates well, because it’s not overly intrusive but still maintains a sense of order.  Sometimes direct and severe intervention is considered necessary, because stability and harmony are at risk from whatever external or internal threat exists.  Use of the military to rescue civilians during the Libyan uprising is a classic case of Confucian theory at work.  The criticism of the West as an invasion force that came later is a clear “Far Left” tactic.

Leaders: Hu Jintao, President

3) Chongqing faction

This faction is largely economic, and so the members might have different political priorities.  The theme is “Go West”.  Chongqing faction is called thus because it was responsible for creating the independent Chongqing municipality out of Sichuan province in the 1990s.  This was done to increase the prestige and power of western China, which is dramatically poorer than the east.

Politics: Varied, it can really be anywhere on the spectrum.  However, there is a strong Confucian undercurrent, as income equality is generally associated with political stability.  Think of the usefulness of the welfare state in Bismarck’s Prussia.

Economics: “Sustainable development.” This includes even-keeled development across the whole country, not just among a few big cities.  The method of development is still largely capitalist, but with an emphasis on greater geographical equality, and reducing the income gap through government welfare programs.  There is also a strong “green” element to this faction, which is willing to sacrifice GDP to preserve the environment.

“What is ‘freedom’?” : “Freedom is a healthy environment for your family to live in, with clear skies and clean water.  Freedom is having a large enough income to support yourself and your family, and knowing that our neighbors do too.  Freedom is also knowing that if you are in trouble, the government will help with welfare programs.  This also means sacrificing some of our own incomes for those less fortunate.”

Leaders: Hu Jintao, president; Wen Jiabao, premier; Li Keqiang, vice premier

4) Shanghai faction

The Shanghai faction isn’t only in Shanghai, but a lot of it’s members are from the area.  The theme is economic development at all costs, with export-oriented growth.  They aren’t extremely political, but there are certain political elements related to keeping this sort of system running in their favor.  Since the most developed areas are on the coast, they are especially keen on developing Shanghai and occasionally Guangdong.

Politics: Wildly varied when it comes to the idea of reform or freedom of the press.  On one hand, they need clear business numbers and auditing to make sure the market is performing well, but on the other hand, the government hates investigations into their own lives.  If the press was allowed to investigate freely, they would certainly find that all top industries are controlled by top government officials, and political decisions are always made with their benefit in mind.  In regards to social stability, trickle down economics will raise people out of poverty and development will move West naturally.

Economy: GDP is all that matters.  Double (or triple) digit growth is expected each quarter, by any means necessary or possible.  Corruption and laws are both useful when they can be turned against a potential business rival.  Environmental protection only when it makes economic sense.  Low taxes should keep everything running smoothly; local governments can either led from banks (which are forced to lend to them) or make money by land sales.

“What is ‘freedom’?”: “Freedom is the ability for a farmer to borrow money from his friends, start a business, make a million dollars, and become a CEO of a major corporation.  The CEO can then be invited to join the government to perpetuate their lifestyle.  Freedom is liberty from laws and restrictions that impede business.”

Leaders: Jiang Zemin, former president; Jia Qinglin, chairman of the CPPCC; Zhou Yongkang, political and legislative chief, and controller of oil industry

5) Liberal faction

This faction is so tiny, it may not even exist, but we can speculate.  The core values are an independent judiciary, laws that apply to everyone equally, and a free press.

Politics: Only a tiny, tiny portion of the leadership appears to support outright democracy.  Instead, most are content with the Hong Kong model.  Codified, clear laws that apply to the president and the farmer equally.  An independent judiciary unrelated to politics.  A free press that can investigate any issue it wants, and report anything it wants.  At the very least, the ability to suggest alternatives to the current system, without the fear of being shut down or imprisioned.  Transparency in government is key, and the free press will ensure this.

Economics: Mostly a political and social philosophy, so economics aren’t as relevant.  But business law should apply to all companies – government and private – equally.  Business must be transparent and legal.

“What is ‘freedom’?” “Freedom is being protected by the law.  Freedom is knowing you are equal to everyone else in the eyes of the law.  Freedom is being able to choose from many different newspapers and opinions, and decide on my own what to believe.  Freedom is knowing the government can’t lie to me, because I have the right to question what they are doing.”

Leaders: Liu Xiaobo, imprisoned activist; maybe Wen Jiabao.  A big maybe on that one.

Edit: Here’s a good article about the Far Left from China Media Project.

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