Chinese Communist Party Fears Spread of Communism

Students joined workers of a Shenzhen factory in a protest against efforts to block the workers from forming a union.

A new enemy of the state is rising in China, one that appears to have China’s leadership concerned enough to crack down on a fledgling movement and its leaders. These activists, however, aren’t demanding Western-style democracy, religion, or human rights;  rather they are espousing communism.

After generations of teaching Lenin and Marx in schools, many students have taken the lessons to heart, willing to come to the aid of the proletariat. They had their opportunity after a strike broke out in a Shenzhen factory, a strike which led to an arrest of workers in late August, the largest such arrest since 2015.

Factory workers at Jasic Technology, which exports welding machine parts to U.S. companies, had been demanding the right to form a union but the company rejected their efforts. Learning the news, students from leading universities around the country decide to join the fight and organized rallies, which only really made sense given their education.

(In this tweet posted by members of the student movement, they reiterate their “solidarity with the workers,” refer to their arrested “brothers and sisters,” and call the authorities “reactionary forces.”)

In fact, the very symbols of their resistance were ripped from old communist icons:  they carried portraits of Mao, sung socialist anthems, and repeated old party slogans such as one in a petition that reads, “Our ancestors’ baton is firmly in our hands. Long live the working class!” Like early party activists, they spoke out against poverty, worker rights and gender equality. They also point to the nation’s constitution which dictates that the country is to be led by the working class.

However, despite this, authorities have been reacting more like it was 1989 and quickly moved to crush their efforts, detaining several dozen of the student activists and working to erase their presence online. However, the students appear to be undaunted, arguing that they are only doing what they were taught was right.

“What we are doing is entirely legal and reasonable,” said Chen Kexin, a senior at Renmin University in Beijing who took part in the protests. “We are Marxists. We praise socialism. We stand with workers. The authorities can’t target us.”

Ironically, it was President Xi Jinping who, most recently, implemented a policy to teach more Mao and Marx in schools. It would appear, as is characteristic of students in China, they took their lessons seriously.

About Andrew Burke 145 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Andrew Burke is a lifelong aficionado of all things Chinese. He studied Mandarin while living in Taiwan for six years and now works as a digitization specialist at the Yenching Library, which specializes in Asian books and documents, at Harvard University where he also studies topics related to China, Chinese, Asia and foreign affairs.