If the dear reader has taken a break from the news for a while – something I highly recommend in these hectic times – he or she can safely conclude that the Sino-American Trade War was not resolved in the interim.

Newspapers and magazines are still full of Trump’s tariffs, his threats and grandstanding. There is less attention on how his counterpart is quietly contemplating making his own country miserable again, using the tried and tested methods of the madness that is Marxism.

Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping. Photo: Kremlin.

President Trump and his advisers seem to be only dimly aware that China is an increasingly autocratic Marxist-Leninist state mixed with identitarian traditionalism, and its core leader, Xi Jinping, is fundamentally different from his Western interlocutors.

Remarkably for a Communist Party leader, Xi is actually refreshingly honest. He has made it abundantly clear that the economic model of the west is not what he sees for China’s future – and let’s not even mention western liberal values, which are incompatible with any form of Marxism.

His two immediate predecessors, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, often pussyfooted around the question of China’s possible convergence with the West, focusing on piggybacking on the Western model for economic growth in their respective reigns as embodiments of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

For example, the Party has promised time and again that mainland China would become a free market economy, abandoning onerous Socialist regulations and mercantilist subsidies to state-owned monstrosities. Nothing came of these promises, but they were made to appease the World Trade Organisation.

The People's Liberation Army
The People’s Liberation Army. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Now, an emboldened Xi Jinping has let go of all pretence and proclaimed his unapologetic faith in the failures and fallacies of Socialist control over the markets, having the gall that characterises unapologetic Socialists to call it superior to the very model for global trade that has enabled the Chinese people to lift themselves out of the abject poverty that this very same Party had condemned them to in the first place. There is not just one irony in there, but at least two or three.

Xi Jinping implies, wearing his bold Marxism on his sleeve, almost like the Red Guards of old, that the period of temporarily appeasing the evil capitalist countries is over.

Apart from getting rich using the evil capitalist model – the only model that history has taught us actually works – the period of appeasement allowed the Communist Party of China to quietly modernise its military.

Yes, it’s the Party’s military, the People’s Liberation Army is not a national army, it falls directly under the Party and is, therefore, the biggest party militia in the whole world.

In 2015 Xi Jinping vowed to “never militarise” the artificial islands in the South China Sea. Today they are bristling with fighter jet hangars, anti-aircraft installations, and communication scrambling arrays.

South China Sea
South China Sea. Photo: Stefan Litster via Flickr.

Again, after the fact, Core Leader Xi Jinping was refreshingly honest. In November 2018 he vowed that the Chinese navy would use “any level of force necessary to assert sovereignty [over the artificial islands in international waters] and further the goals of Socialism.”

No comments on his earlier pledge to never militarise, of course, but instead a telling quote from Karl Marx that “Socialism eventually needs to be achieved by means of aggression.” He followed those ominous words with Mao’s pithy remark that the Party will never give up control over the barrel of the gun.

In another speech he lamented the “weak Soviet leadership” and their “abandoning [of] Socialist principles” for allowing the “disastrous break-up” of the USSR. With the hint of darkness that characterises all Socialist strongmen Xi told his audience of comrades to uphold the Party’s leadership over the people “whatever the cost may be”. It was, after all, “for the people’s own good that the Party uses a firm hand.”

Apparently, the Soviet leadership’s unwillingness to pull out the Party’s weapons to use it against their own people was its weakness. If only the Chinese people had the fortune of living under a weak Party leadership. Boris Yeltsin may have been a hopeless drunkard; he had the courage to climb on top of a tank, while the image of a single man halting a column of tanks in Beijing in 1989 has been all but banished from collective Chinese memory.

YouTube video

It is not news that Xi Jinping is an ardent student of Marxism, especially its most orthodox Leninist or Bolshevik variety. This return to Party dogma is another telling break with his two immediate predecessors, who took Deng Xiaoping’s dictum “to get rich is glorious” as the central teaching of the new catechism for an increasingly technocratic and pragmatic administration.

Xi’s Marxism seems genuine, not the lip service the Party had got used to in previous years. Since we know from history that Marxism in practice always leads to massacres of innocents and economic disaster for all, it is scary to realise that Xi Jinping sees it as the ultimate ideology to take China once again into a glorious future.

He even lambasted those within the country itself “and a small group within the Party” as being “stupid” and “duped” by the belief that a Western system of multi-party democracy and individual liberties would be good for China and its people. “It would be a step back for China, it would be a deviation from the true path of Socialism […] only a people’s democracy, based on Socialist principles, can bring about the true flourishing of all Chinese and the Great Rejuvenation of the Han Chinese Race.”

Xi Jinping Donald Trump
President Donald J. Trump and President Xi Jinping meet children waving Chinese and U.S. flags at welcoming ceremonies outside the Great Hall of the People, Thursday, November 9, 2017, in Beijing, People’s Republic of China. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

This is scary stuff. Indeed, the Communist Party of China sometimes designates foreign churches as xiejiao or “evil cults” – there is no doubt that Xi Jinping is a true believer in the most malevolent of cults, that of Karl Marx. Religious zealots do not make rational choices.

While the world focuses all its attention on the other side of the trade war, and the buffoon who has his own crazy cult of enablers and acolytes, it seems to be wholly ignorant of the dark turn China has taken.

In the United States, devotion to the Divine Dealmaker among true believers is disturbing. Author and hardcore atheist Sam Harris describes it as “something akin to religious fervour – and just as irrational.” There is no need to go into the rabbit hole of Trump’s many crazy ideas, tweets, comments and semblances of policies. However, while observers and analysts are scrambling to ascertain method behind the Trump madness, they should spend a little time to find the madness behind the Xi method.

Alexander is a lecturer at the Arnhem Business School in the Netherlands and a fellow of the Sima Qian Foundation, advising governments and businesses about how the rise of China affects the global economy. With over ten years of work experience in China, he has written extensively about Chinese business and how free market solutions would solve many of China's problems. He has published books and articles in Dutch and English. On Press Freedom Day 2016 a Dutch collection of his essays was published by Pharos publishers and the proceeds were donated to HKFP.