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Discern the Four Distinctions; Build a Solid Defense on the Thought Front

[Editor’s Note: The following report is translated from excerpts of a recent article in Qiu Shi, the official publication by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee.

The article was based on discussions of a group of theorists and scholars, whose viewpoints toe the party line. But the discussions reveal the Party’s dilemma of trying to defend and revise the Party’s belief and practice at the same time.

The article argues that the CCP is “not a one party dictatorship” but “one party leadership,” but it does not elaborate on their distinction. The discussions mirror the confusion among the CCP’s leadership; they also underline the growing yearning in China to abandon the stale Communist doctrine.] [1]

After the request to discern the “Four Distinctions” was proposed at the Party’s Fourth Plenary of the 17th Conference, a large group of the theorists conducted in-depth research on several key points and difficult questions surrounding the “Four Distinctions.” The scholars pointed out that the Party’s consistent policy is to draw a clear line between right and wrong on significant theoretical matters, and fend off influence from various harmful theories.

1) Distinguishing Marxism from anti-Marxism. The need to know what Marxism is, and what anti-Marxism is 

To discern the “Four Distinctions” is a system engineering project. We put the distinction between Marxism and anti-Marxism in the first place, because this topic is tied to the guiding principles for building socialism with Chinese characteristics; it deals with the spiritual pillar for the Party and the nation.

When studying the essence of the Party Central Committee’s call for discerning the “Four Distinctions,” we need be clear about what we must do, and what we must not do. Only after we see both sides can we divide them with a line.

First, we need to clearly know what Marxism is. Marxism is a science that is constantly changing with the times according to reality. It includes not only the original Marxist theories established by Marx and Engels, but also the continuation, enrichment and development by later Marxists, such as Leninism, Mao Zedong thought and the theories of socialism with the Chinese characteristics.

Second, we need to clearly know what constitutes anti-Marxism. Anti-Marxist theories come in all shapes and forms. The first kind is to openly and directly oppose Marxism. The second kind is to belittle, ignore, distance and ridicule Marxism and treat it as passé. The third kind is to oppose Marxism in the name of Marxism. The democratic socialist hype not long ago was an example. The fourth is to “generalize” Marxism and even blend some anti-Marxism views into it, calling it a new development of Marxism. The fifth is to use capitalist core values to “remodel,” “replace,” “correct,” and “supplement” Marxism. These attempts morph Marxism into something that is compatible with Western capitalist values or feudalist ideology. For instance, someone suggested a theory called “Heidegger Existentialism Marxism”; some others proposed a “Confucian Marxist” model.

2) Distinguishing between the dominant public ownership accompanied by mixed private ownership model, the dominant private ownership model, and the strict public ownership model

After socialism replaced capitalism, socialist public ownership had to be established. This is one of the basic conclusions of Marxism. As history has proven, a basic reason for China’s huge achievement is our economic practice: we did not privatize the country, nor did we stick to a strict state ownership.

Some people said that the ownership is not that big a deal, and we should not limit our ownership model by any principles. Some people said that public ownership, or a state-owned economy, is not the power base for the Communist Party, and it is not a socialist principle. They suggested that China’s socialism should abandon “public ownership of production material” as a vital essence. Some people criticized public ownership and admired private ownership. In their words, no single successful country has a state-owned economy.

If we could not clearly define our basic economic system, we would deviate from the correct reform path; we would either adopt privatization as the future direction, or equate strict state ownership with true socialism.

When studying the economic systems, we need to draw a clear line between the state owned economy in socialist countries and the capitalist state owned economy. Some people believe that in our country, the stated owned economy should only exist where the “market economy is not working.” But in fact, all those viewpoints…are detrimental.

3) Distinguishing socialist democracy from capitalist democracy

Any country’s democratic practice is determined by its own social institutions. China is a Socialist country; our economy is based on public ownership; our political governance features the Communist Party’s leadership and people being their own masters. This has been the people’s historical choice after many years of practice. The Western democracy is based on capitalist private ownership. The separation of powers has its share of problems, and it is by no means apt for all countries.

The spread and practice of Western democracy, especially the U.S. democracy, is not successful. In many countries that imported Western democracy, the so-called democratic process not only failed to solve their old problems, but also intensified their social conflicts, causing chaos and even catastrophes for people. The success of Chinese style socialism and the great achievement following China’s reform and open-up policy have illustrated a bright future: China will develop a socialist democratic institution that fits both China’s unique reality and the entire human civilization.

We should also pay attention to drawing a distinction between one-party-leadership and a one-party-dictatorship. As the ruling party, the CCP is the leading party, not a one-party dictatorship, let alone a totalitarian despot. China practices multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the CCP’s leadership. That is the CCP’s significant contribution to the world’s political party system.

4) Distinguishing socialist culture from feudalist and capitalist rotten cultures

In today’s world, the importance of culture is becoming increasingly more evident. The competition and struggle between superior cultures and backward/rotten cultures is also becoming more intense.

We should learn how to properly handle the following relationships. The first is the balance between cultural diversity and a dominant culture. We should respect differences and tolerate diversity; we should not label various social trends and thoughts as rotten culture; but we still have to clarify the dominant position of socialist culture in society. The second issue deals with “breaking” and “re-building.” We need to identify feudalism and capitalist rotten cultures; we should firmly disapprove of feudalist superstition, official-rank based policy, nepotism, money-worshiping, hedonism and extreme individualism. We must promote Marxism’s Sinicization, adapt it with the changing times, and change it into a popular belief. We should greatly popularize patriotism, collectivism and socialism. The third topic is what to inherit and what to toss. We can find bad stuff in feudalism and capitalist cultures, but at the same time, they also embody some superior legacy of human civilization. We should be mindful here, and follow the guidelines of “learning from the past and from foreigners, taking the best and discarding the ugly, putting China at the center, and taking all things to serve our cause.” We will learn and absorb the superior elements from all cultures of the world.

[1] Qiushi journal, July 16, 2010