Cai Xia, a former professor at the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party between 1998 and 2012, has given her account of her break from the CCP and the disillusionment she has suffered with the party. She is a dissident who has had very harsh words to offer for Xi Jinping, the President of China. She is currently a political dissident.
Cai Xia is a long time member of the CCP and has been associated with the party her entire life. Her parents had served the party as well. However, her inclinations towards liberal reforms led her to get into the crosshairs of the party. She believes that there is a need for liberal reforms within China and a decrease in the party’s control of the economy.
The Three Represents
One of the issues that fundamentally altered her vision of the CCP was the manner in which it dealt with the theory of ‘The Three Represents’ as proposed by former Chinese president Jiang Zemin. Cai Xia detailed the manner in which the party went to great lengths to subvert the fundamental message of the vision laid out by Jiang.
Cai Xia said, “The party, Jiang said, had to represent three aspects of China: “the development requirements of advanced productive forces,” cultural progress, and the interests of the majority. As a professor at the Central Party School, I immediately understood that this theory presaged a significant shift in CCP ideology. In particular, the first of the Three Represents implied that Jiang was abandoning the core Marxist belief that capitalists were an exploitative social group. Instead, Jiang was opening the party to their ranks—a decision I welcomed.”
“What was the purpose of the Three Represents if it merely restated existing ideology? I was disgusted by the superficial methods of the party’s publicity apparatus. I grew determined to reveal the true meaning of the Three Represents, a theory that in fact marked a bold departure for China. This, it turned out, would bring me into conflict with the entrenched bureaucracy of the CCP,” she added.
What followed was a series of ventures, some of which she was involved in herself as a respected professor, where the party attempted to water down the radical aspects of the vision and realign it with what the party had always preached. “Your research and innovation can be presented at the Central Party School, but only the safest things can be shown on TV,” a vice-president of CCTV, Chinese state media, said after reviewing a documentary she helped prepare on Jiang’s theory.
“At that moment, I understood. The CCTV people weren’t interested in the real implications of ideology. They just wanted to make the party look good and flatter their superiors,” wrote Cai Xia. During her work for the Propaganda Department on the same topic, she revealed the toxic work culture that prevailed within the workspace.
“When the Propaganda Department convened a meeting, those who weren’t invited weren’t allowed to ask about it. We writers could eat and take walks together, but we were prohibited from discussing our work. I was the only woman in the group. At dinner, the men gossiped and cracked jokes,” she said before adding, “I found the off-color, alcohol-fueled conversation vulgar and would always slink out after a few bites of food. Finally, another participant took me aside. Talk of official business would only get us in trouble, he explained; it was safer and more enjoyable to confine the conversation to sex.”
Disillusionment with Xi Jinping
Cai Xia said that China entered a period of political stagnation under Hu Jinato, successor to Jiang Zemin. The professor believed that Hu ruled with the belief that “the economic, political, and ideological reforms the party had made so far should be maintained but not pushed forward” as he was “defending himself against accusations from both sides: from conservatives who thought that reform had gone too far and from liberals who thought it hadn’t gone far enough.”
Thus, Xia was optimistic about Xi Jinping when he assumed the reigns of the party. But there were others who were not so hopeful. One category of sceptics were the ‘princelings’, the descendants of the founders of the party, and the other was that of “establishment scholars”. She says that one scholar told her in private that Xi Jinping suffered from “inadequate knowledge”.
A former colleague of hers told her, “It’s not a question of whether Xi is going left or right but rather that he lacks basic judgment and speaks illogically.” Soon, she realised that Xi Jinping was not moving forward with further reform within the party as she hoped he would. Instead, from a period of stagnation, he was unleashing an era of regression.
The Straw the broke the Camel’s Back: Cai Xia becomes an outcast
There were three incidents that turned Cai Xia into an outcast. First, the persecution of tycoon Ren Zhiqiang following his dispute with Xi Jinping. Second, a cover up of police brutality. And third, the professor speaking out on WeChat. “After 20 years of hesitation, confusion, and misery, I made the decision to emerge from the darkness and make a complete break with the party. Xi’s great leap backward soon left me with no other choice. In 2018, Xi abolished presidential term limits, raising the prospect that I would have to live indefinitely under neo-Stalinist rule,” she said.
She said that while on a visit to the United States, she was informed that Chinese authorities would arrest her upon her return for “anti-China activities”. Then, the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic ensued and she spoke out in favour of Lei Wenliang, the Chinese ophthalmologist who was persecuted for raising alarm bells over the emergence of a novel virus and eventually died of the same.
At that point, she was told to come home urgently by authorities at the Central Party School in China. Soon after, a private talk was released where she referred to the CCP as a “political zombie” and called for Xi Jinping to step down.
“I knew I was in trouble. Soon, I was expelled from the party. The school stripped me of my retirement benefits. My bank account was frozen. I asked the authorities at the Central Party School for a guarantee of my personal safety if I returned. Officials there avoided answering the question and instead made vague threats against my daughter in China and her young son. It was at this point that I accepted the truth: there was no going back,” said Cai Xia.