Children of China's revolutionary leaders on stage at a Spring Festival event in West Beijing. Photo: Sanghee Liu
Beijing: Nostalgic and disillusioned sections of the Communist Party’s "red aristocracy” have rallied strongly behind the new leader, Xi Jinping, in gatherings over the Spring Festival break.
At the largest reunion, held on Saturday at the People’s Liberation Army’s August 1 film studio in West Beijing, children of revolutionary leaders lauded the Xi administration for “correcting” the Party’s course at its “critical moment of life and death”, when it was in danger of abandoning socialism altogether.
"There is hope in the snake year now the Party leadership has shown us the content and direction of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” Hu Muying, the daughter of former Politburo member Hu Qiaomu, told the gathering of about a thousand descendants of revolutionary veterans.
Mr Hu was Chairman Mao’s long time speech writer and the chief ideological authority under both Mao and his successor as paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping.
“We shall prove by our own actions that we, the children of veterans, are indeed worthy of the name ‘Second Generation Red’,” said Ms Hu. “Let’s strive together towards The China Dream,” she said, endorsing Mr Xi’s political motto.
Ms Hu’s affirmation, given as President of The Fellowship of Children of Yan’an, presented a striking contrast to previous Spring Festival gatherings where she had diagnosed social crises and ideological confusion but given no credit to the capacity of senior Party leaders to solve the problems.
Mr Xi enjoys natural prestige among the “Second Generation Red” because he is one. His father, Xi Zhongxun, helped establish the revolutionary bastion of Yan’an in the 1930s.
Mr Xi’s first 100 days in power, which he reached on Thursday, has been marked by high-profile campaigns against corruption, pomp and conspicuous consumption among the Party and military elite.
He has adopted a more nationalistic and militaristic tone in pursuing territorial claims against Japan and making repeated high-profile visits to military commands.
Less visibly, in internal speeches and oblique public references, Mr Xi has elevated the prestige and legacy of Chairman Mao Zedong and held himself out as a leader who has the courage to fight to save the regime - in explicit contrast to Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union.
He has simultaneously recommitted to the cause of economic reform by laying a wreath at a statue of Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader who succeeded Mao.
“Deng’s success was, after all, the result of his close relations with so many groups in the leadership and the party rather than any inflexible ideological or intellectual position,” said David Goodman, academic director at the University of Sydney’s China Studies Centre.
“Like Deng, Xi Jinping has been acceptable because so many groups, including Party conservatives like Hu Muying, think that they have his ear,” said Professor Goodman, who has authored a book about Deng.
Mr Xi’s leaning towards the Mao-era legacy has dismayed many liberal intellectuals, particularly with December comments in which he emphasised continuity between the early revolutionary decades under Mao and the reform era under Deng Xiaoping.
"This is almost like overturning Deng Xiaoping’s rejection of the Cultural Revolution,” said He Weifang, a prominent lawyer. “It seems Xi is trying to fawn over the Left while not offending the Right."
But previously outspoken liberal-leaning members of the red aristocracy have bitten their tongues.
"I don’t challenge him, openly, because I have to support him,” the son of one of the PLA’s ten great marshals, told Fairfax Media.
“Other people who don’t belong to hongerdai [Second Generation Red] will say ‘that’s wrong’, that Xi has leftist colour, but we don’t,” he said.
Other politically active representatives of China’s most powerful families, who hold more conservative views, are also taking care to avoid complicating Mr Xi’s consolidation of power.
Representatives of three of China’s most powerful families, who grew up together in Zhongnanhai and are known as strong supporters of their purged colleague Bo Xilai, all pulled out of a small annual Spring Festival on Saturday night, according to a member of the group.
The absentees included:
· Chen Yuan, head of the China Development Bank, who is an alumni of Bo Xilai’s No. 4 Middle School;
· Bo Xilai’s entrepreneurial and politically active younger brother, Bo Xicheng; and
· Bo Xicheng’s former class mate General Liu Yuan, the son of former president Liu Shaoqi and now Political Commissar of the PLA’s General Logistics Department.
Other supporters, however, are continuing to show support for Mr Bo including by visiting the Beijing courtyard home of his wife, Gu Kailai, who was convicted of murdering Englishman Neil Heywood.
Wang Xuemei, a forensic expert at Supreme People’s Procuratorate who has repeatedly cast doubt on Ms Gu’s case, spent Chinese New Year’s eve with Gu’s mother in Dongcheng district, according to Gu’s lawyer, Li Xiaolin.