Skip to content Skip to navigation

The CPC’s Dictatorial Patriotism

April 9, 2010

Liu Xiaobo


Translation by HRIC, based on a translation by Wen Huang.

A nation is composed of its people. People are the mainstay of a nation; they are also the source of national sovereignty and the owners of national interests. In a rational political system, the political power is conferred by the people, the government is supported by the blood and sweat of the people, and the government or a ruling party is merely a public servant and not the master of the country. The government must not just pay lip service but genuinely treat the people as it would the parents that it depended on for sustenance and see itself as a public servant of the people. Therefore, a primary function of the government is to treat its people well and provide public service; its authority, as well as the state finance, must “be drawn from the people and expended on the people.” The national interests that the government represents must specifically benefit the people and ultimately be concretely realized as legal rights to individual safety, property, freedom, and democracy, etc.

In short, a government can only be qualified to represent the interests of the people, which, when combined, constitute national interests, if it respects and loves the people, and, in particular, if it respects and protects the rights of the people to question, criticize, and even oppose government policies by peaceful means. Only then can it be called a patriotic government and only then is it qualified to promote patriotism.

However, the patriotism of a dictatorial regime is exactly the opposite: it promotes patriotism with high-flying talk but never respects or cares for the mainstay of the nation—the people.

First, its power is not conferred by the people but comes from and is sustained by violence. It transforms public power, which is supposed to serve the public good of society, into private power of the regime and the powerful, into a tool for implementing the will of the regime and obtaining profits for the powerful.

Since the Communist Party of China took power, it always went on and on about patriotism in order to maintain its absolute rule over the people and country. It has also emphasized a specious logic of governance—the “destruction of the party is the destruction of the nation theory.”

Secondly, it maintains social order primarily through violence, terror and ideological lies, it deprives the people of their basic human rights, blocks public access to information, suppresses pluralistic values and the expression of different viewpoints. It forbids free thinking and beliefs, it does not allow people to discuss politics, form associations, strike or demonstrate, and it does not allow people to express their personal discontent and criticism of the government through peaceful means.

Lastly, it is supported by the blood and sweat of the people, yet it is always hostile toward public opinion and takes pleasure in abusing the people. Its primary way of enhancing social welfare is by bestowing favors from the top down. It uses violence to loot the wealth of the entire society, and then portions out a small amount of what should have been the people’s property to bestow as favors on the people; not only does it not feel shame, it sees itself as [an embodiment] of the “vast and mighty imperial grace” and forces people to feel deeply grateful.

Even if it is the ruling party, it cannot be equated with the country, let alone with the nation and its culture.

Since the Communist Party of China (CPC) took power, it always went on and on about patriotism in order to maintain its absolute rule over the people and country. It has also emphasized a specious logic of governance—the “destruction of the party is the destruction of the nation theory.” Following June Fourth, this argument has mutated into the mutually complimentary “stability theory” and “collapse theory.” On the positive side, the Party spreads the notion that “only the CPC can bring stability and prosperity to China”; on the negative side, it imparts the notion that “without the CPC in power, China would descend into chaos or even collapse.” This binary positive/negative tune is the main theme of the “destruction of the party is destruction of the nation theory.”

In fact, there is no inevitable causal relationship between the “destruction of the party” and the “destruction of the nation.” This is because any political party is a representative of a special interest group and does not have the grounds to assert that it represents “the country, the nation, and the people.” Even if it is the ruling party, it cannot be equated with the country, let alone with the nation and its culture. The CPC regime does not equal China, even less so can it represent Chinese culture. Destruction of the party simply means the collapse of the regime of the ruling political party; it does not mean the collapse of China and the disintegration of the Chinese nation. Throughout Chinese history, regimes were frequently replaced, but China as a nation was never “destroyed.”

“Destruction of the nation” can only be through a “change of national sovereignty,” that is, the result of an extreme conflict between countries, when a nation is conquered, its territory occupied, and its sovereignty stripped away, when one country is toppled and controlled by another (either directly ruled by an occupier or indirectly controlled by the occupier through a puppet government), but most definitely not through “regime change.” Regime change within a country has nothing to do with the “destruction of a nation.” The United States has more than 200 years of history, during which regime change occurred regularly as the two major political parties took turns in office, but the United States as a nation continues in the same vein.

In this sense, during the Cold War, although the Eastern European countries within the former Soviet bloc were sovereign nations on the surface, they were in fact closer to “destroyed nations.” This is because the political powers in those countries were directly under the military control of the former Soviet hegemony, to the extent that when those countries undertook reforms aimed at breaking away from the Soviet communist hegemony, the former Soviet Union did not hesitate to send tanks directly into the capitals of these countries and use naked military force to restore its communist hegemony.

China is an ancient country with a long history. Ever since the First Emperor of the Qin established the unified Qin Dynasty regime [221–206 BCE] through military annexation, it has experienced countless regime changes, but it has never been destroyed as a nation. Only when the Mongols toppled the Song Dynasty [960–1279 CE] and the Manchus toppled the Ming Dynasty [1368–1644 CE] by military force, when they trampled the great central plains of China with their horses’ hoofs and cut off people’s heads with their sabers, and when they subjugated the ethnic Han people under their respective systems of racial discrimination, would one be compelled to speak of the “shame of a destroyed nation.” The struggles to overthrow [the Mongol] Yuan Dynasty [1279–1368 CE] and restore the Song Dynasty, or to bring down [the Manchu] Qing Dynasty [1644–1911 CE] and restore the Ming Dynasty could perhaps be called “national revival” struggles against invasion and occupation. In the military clashes between the great Western powers and China after 1840, although China suffered defeat after defeat and was forced to sign numerous treaties surrendering sovereignty under humiliating conditions, it was never reduced to a thoroughly “destroyed nation.” Not even the puppet government of Manchukuo1 or the Wang Jingwei Regime2 propped up by the Japanese could supplant the political power of the Republic of China.

All dictatorships like to proclaim patriotism but dictatorial patriotism is just an excuse to inflict disasters on the nation and calamities on its people.

Similarly, in China’s modern and contemporary history, amid frequent internal power changes, only the “family-based regimes” or “party-based regimes” withered away, but not the nation itself. When Dr. Sun Yat-sen3 and Yuan Shikai4 joined forces to topple the Qing Dynasty, what they in the end achieved was to replace the traditional “family-based regime” with the “party-based regime” of the Kuomintang (KMT). When Mao Zedong and his Communist Party of China (CPC) defeated the KMT regime represented by Chiang Kai-shek, they merely replaced the KMT party rule with the CPC party rule, which was just a dynastic change within a country and did not at all involve the transfer of Chinese sovereignty. In other words, the CPC has been in power for only 50 years, but Chinese history has stretched unbroken for five thousand years; what the CPC overthrew was merely the “KMT regime,” not China, the “nation.” Therefore, when the CPC seized political power in 1949, it merely established yet another “new regime,” which had nothing to do with “establishing a nation”; Mao Zedong was merely the “father of a new regime,” not the “father of new China.”

The current CPC may be the world’s largest political party, but compared to the 1.3 billion people in China, its 60 some million members are no more than a small minority, so how can it so shamelessly boast that it “represents the people and the nation”? The reason the CPC regards itself to be the natural representative of “the country, the nation, and the people” is not at all because it truly has “the mandate of Heaven to carry out justice,” but because it wants to maintain its dictatorial power and protect its vested interests.

All dictatorships like to proclaim patriotism but dictatorial patriotism is just an excuse to inflict disasters on the nation and calamities on its people. The official patriotism advocated by the CPC dictatorship is an institutionalized fallacy of “substituting the party for the nation.” The essence of this patriotism is to demand that the people love the dictatorial regime, the dictatorial party, and the dictators. It usurps patriotism in order to inflict disasters on the nation and calamities on the people.

Translator’s Notes

1. Japan seized Manchuria in 1931, and in 1932 set up a puppet government with the last Qing emperor, Puyi, as the nominal regent. Manchukuo (literally “Manchu State”) was renamed the Great Manchu Empire in 1934, and was abolished in 1945, after the Japanese defeat at the end of World War II. ^

2. The Wang Jingwei Government, established in Nanjing in March 1940 and officially called the Republic of China, was one of several puppet states set up by the Japanese during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945). It was meant to rival the legitimacy of the government of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek of the same name, which had been exiled to Chongqing after the Japanese occupied Nanjing. ^

3. Dr. Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925), often referred to as the Father of the Nation, played an instrumental role in overthrowing the Qing Dynasty in 1911, and was the first provisional president of the Republic of China when it was founded in 1912. He later co-founded the Kuomintang (KMT) and served as its first leader. ^

4. Yuan Shikai (1859–1916), a general with great influence during the late Qing Dynasty, played the decisive role in the abdication of the last Qing Emperor. He later became the first President of the Republic of China. ^

Explore Topics

709 Crackdown Access to Information Access to Justice Administrative Detention All about law Arbitrary Detention
Asset Transparency Bilateral Dialogue Black Jail Book Review Business And Human Rights Censorship
Charter 08 Children Chinese Law Circumvention technology Citizen Activism Citizen Journalists
Citizen Participation Civil Society Commentary Communist Party Of China Constitution Consumer Safety
Contending views Corruption Counterterrorism Courageous Voices Cultural Revolution Culture Matters
Current affairs Cyber Security Daily Challenges Democratic And Political Reform Demolition And Relocation  Dissidents
Education Elections Enforced Disappearance Environment Ethnic Minorities EU-China
Family Planning Farmers Freedom of Association Freedom of Expression Freedom of Press Freedom of Religion
Government Accountability Government regulation Government transparency Hong Kong House Arrest HRIC Translation
Hukou Human Rights Council Human rights developments Illegal Search And Detention Inciting Subversion Of State Power Information Control 
Information technology Information, Communications, Technology (ICT) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) International Human Rights International perspective International Relations
Internet Internet Governance JIansanjiang lawyers' rights defense Judicial Reform June Fourth Kidnapping
Labor Camps Labor Rights Land, Property, Housing Lawyer's rights Lawyers Legal System
Letters from the Mainland Major Event (Environment, Food Safety, Accident, etc.) Mao Zedong Microblogs (Weibo) National People's Congress (NPC) New Citizens Movement
Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Olympics One country, two systems Online Activism Open Government Information Personal stories
Police Brutality Political commentary Political Prisoner Politics Prisoner Of Conscience Probing history
Propaganda Protests And Petitions Public Appeal Public Security Racial Discrimination Reeducation-Through-Labor
Rights Defenders Rights Defense Rule Of Law Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Special Topic State compensation
State Secrets State Security Subversion Of State Power Surveillance Technology Thoughts/Theories
Tiananmen Mothers Tibet Torture Typical cases United Nations US-China 
Uyghurs, Uighurs Vulnerable Groups Women Youth Youth Perspective