Hoover Institution

The Importance of Being Communist—Evolution of China’s Ideological Orthodoxy and Its Vision for Global Dominance

As the world faces the paramount threat from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), it’s imperative to have a realistic perspective on the party’s aspirations for global influence with a focus on its ideological underpinnings.

Senior Fellow and Director, China Center
A statue of Mao Zedong in Lijiang, China. (Wikimedia Commons)
A statue of Mao Zedong in Lijiang, China. (Wikimedia Commons)

As the world faces the paramount threat from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), it’s imperative to have a realistic perspective on the party’s aspirations for global influence with a focus on its ideological underpinnings. This perspective is structured around two main parts: the historical evolution of the CCP as a process of enriching and authenticating its ideological purity and orthodoxy, and its strategies to achieve its ambitions on the contemporary global stage.

First, let’s consider the CCP’s ideological evolution and its innate ambitions for global dominance. The CCP’s foundational ideology is an ecumenical, millenarian, and zealous system of communist theories pioneered by Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. The CCP’s origins are linked to the global communist movement spearheaded by the Soviet Union-led Comintern, aiming for a worldwide communist society. This historical context is crucial for understanding the CCP’s long-term vision and objectives.

The early CCP saw the Soviet Union as a model and leader in the communist movement. This acknowledgment underlines the importance of Soviet influence in shaping the CCP’s strategies and ideologies during its formative years between 1921, when it was founded by Lenin’s agents in Shanghai, and 1953, when Lenin’s ideological inheritor and successor Joseph Stalin died. The subsequent perceived deviation from Lenin and Stalin’s policies by the USSR’s new leader Nikita Khrushchev marked a significant ideological rift within the communist bloc, which. influenced the CCP’s stance towards the Soviet Union and its own commitment to Marxist-Leninist principles. The severing of ties with the USSR in the early 1960s highlights the CCP’s assertion of its own path towards communist orthodoxy, underscoring its desire for global ideological leadership and strategic autonomy.

The survival of the CCP in the 1989 worldwide anti-communist eruptions, via a brutal massacre centering around Tiananmen Square, contrasted with the demise of communism in Eastern Europe by the end of 1989, and the Soviet Union’s collapse two years later. Both events reenforced the CCP’s belief in its ideological purity and its strategic resilience, informing its contemporary global outlook.

The post-1989 era saw the CCP doubling down on its commitment to Marxist-Leninist principles, reinforcing its self-perception as the rightful heir to the communist cause. The CCP aimed for global dominance through non-traditional means such as leveraging economic, technological, and diplomatic engagement to create global dependencies on the communist regime in Beijing. No one can say that the CCP has not done a dubiously admirable job in such an epic endeavor, especially after the global wake-up to the clear and present danger posed by the CCP––an uncomfortable but necessary awakening engendered by the political interregnum of the Trump Administration.

Second, let’s take a look at the CCP’s historical resentment and frustration with its global vision of communism not being taken seriously, but instead underestimated by the West––especially the United States. This animus toward the West, and the U.S. in particular, has been a driving force in China’s foreign policy and its efforts to assert its communist identity, and to demonstrate its global ambitions.

This political psychology of the CCP explains its military and ideological hostilities toward the West, particularly toward the United States as part of its broader strategy to challenge Western perceptions and assert its global ideological preeminence. These hostilities were manifested in the 1950s and 1960s by a series of landmark developments, including the CCP’s dramatic and sudden revelation of its complete ideological symbiosis with Stalin’s Soviet Union; the USSR-PRC-DPRK joint military actions in the Korean War; the CCP’s aggressive attacks on the U.S. supported Republic of China in Taiwan and its offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu during the two Taiwan Strait Crises of 1954 and 1958; the explosive ideological split with the Soviet Union; the anti-revisionist movement of Mao’s Cultural Revolution; and myriad other cantankerous and revengeful reactions against the American government’s stubborn insistence that the CCP was essentially not communistic but nationalistic.

This stubborn insistence, a bizarre doctrine in fact, was perpetrated by many officials from Ambassador John Leighton Stuart, to the two generations of China-born missionary-children-turned-U.S.-China Hands in the State Department, who viewed the CCP as no more than Chinese peasants in straw hats led by a progressive group of Chinese agrarian reformers; and to Secretary of State Dean Acheson, who warned against the Soviet Union’s interference in Asian affairs, but nevertheless placed his hope in a rebellion against Soviet influence in North Korea and the PRC, whose leaders were deemed more nationalistic than communistic.

It was President Richard Nixon and his presidential fixer Henry Kissinger who marked a pivotal moment for the CCP to gain recognition as a formidable communist power, with a global vision for influence and domination. In 1971 and 1972, Mr. Nixon and Mr. Kissinger correctly realized the CCP’s desperate desire to be treated as a global power and performed a rather obsequious adulation both for the ailing and fragile Great Chairman Mao as a global strategist of far-reaching insights; and Mao’s willing executioner Premier Zhou Enlai, who was then promoted ad nauseam in the West as China’s Man of Wisdom and Prince of Sagacity. As a result, the Nixon/Kissinger-certified CCP’s global importance has given China exceptional opportunities to march into the West-dominated international free-market system, and reap enormous economic, technological, and military gains for nearly half a century since 1972––and created the CCP as a Frankenstein monster that today torments its Western creators.

Even worse, today’s Russia, Iran, and North Korea, the three biggest rogue states in the world—and unlike the CCP, all virtually outside the global, free trade international “rules-based” system, and all heavily sanctioned by that system––have become the dangerous proxies of the economically enriched, technologically advanced, and militarily empowered CCP that uses these pariah states to create global strategic distractions and diversions for the U.S. which has since the Trump Administration shifted its strategic focus away from Europe and the Middle East to the CCP in the Indo-Pacific region, where China actively prepares for a final military showdown with the U.S. The CCP envisions winning a decisive victory over the U.S. in this epic showdown which would mark the end of the United States’ global leadership, and the emergence of the CCP’s global hegemony, moving ever closer to the original goal of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, and Xi Jinping’s ideological fulfillment, i.e., a global communist Internationale, no doubt under the preponderant influence and control of the world’s only remaining communist state of consequence led by the forever ideologically correct Chinese Communist Party.

Read in Hoover Institution.