Official history stressed to increase consensus

Source:Global Times Published: 2011-4-29 6:24:00

Qu Qingshan ( 曲é'å±±)

Editor's Notes:

The recent publication of The History of the Communist Party of China (CPC) (Part 2), which focuses on the 1949-78 period, has called attention to the Party's need to emphasize its own version of history. Is the primary purpose of official histories to promote social stability? How do distorted histories affect the Party? As the 90th anniversary of the founding of the CPC approaches, Oriental Outlook (OO) magazine talked to Qu Qingshan (Qu), deputy director of the Party History Research Center of the CPC Central Committee, on these issues.

OO: China has been witnessing a fever of studying CPC history since the national work conference on the history of the CPC held in Beijing last July. When did similar fevers take place in the past?

Qu: Party-wide activities of learning Party history all took place during significant historical periods.

The first fever emerged during the Yan'an Rectification Movement in the 1940s. Before that, Zunyi Conference held in Guizhou Province in 1935 put an end to the dominance of left-dogmatism within the Party.

In Yan'an, the Party started a rectification movement to continue expelling left-dogmatism, and Mao Zedong proposed to learn and study Party history. He said that we should fully understand the history and experience of the Party.

The second fever took place in 1981. The Sixth Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee was held on June 27 that year, which passed the Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People's Republic of China. The resolution gave an objective evaluation of Mao Zedong, and determined Mao Zedong Thought remained the guiding ideology of the Party.

The third fever happened in 1991, against the wider background of the revolution in East Europe and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. That year was the CPC's 70 anniversary, and the Chinese just experienced the political unrest in 1989.

In 1991, the CPC Central Committee released a notice, saying that education on Party history and Marxist theory of party building would be launched among Party members and officials. More than 7 million copies of 70 Years of the Communist Party of China, compiled by the Party History Research Center of the CPC Central Committee, were published at the time.


OO: Are there any differences in the latest fever?

Qu: The latest education reaches more people. Previously, those education activities were primarily launched toward Party members and officials. This time, masses and young people are also included.

OO: Why are young people targeted?

Qu: Many young people, including young Party members, now lack a basic knowledge of Party history. Among nearly 80 million Party members, young people under 35 years old take up a large portion. These people have grown up in the post Cultural Revolution (1966-76) period featured by reform and opening-up. They lack a basic understanding of the Party's version of history before 1978.

This may lead to severe consequences. In recent years, a large number of publications that distort Party history emerged outside the Chinese mainland. Such publications have a common characteristic - the authors and readers are from the mainland, but the books are published outside of the mainland. This brings chaos to education on Party history within China.

Besides, historical nihilism also exists in China's academia. Some scholars of literature and arts tend to parody and mock Party history, which also undermines the educational function of Party history.

OO: The main purpose of the last three periods when Party history learning was emphasized is to seek unity of thinking within the Party. Why does the studying of Party history this time involve the whole society?

Qu: Organizing the officials, young people and the public to study Party history under the background of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Party are in the hope of increasing their understanding of the Party and enhancing their confidence in firmly following the Party. Studying Party history is mainly to increase social consensus and unity. 

OO: Is it a task much more difficult than achieving unity within the Party, as the society is more diversified today?

Qu: Since the reform and opening-up, people have had to make choices for their careers and personal interests, so the society is turning more and more diversified. However, that doesn't mean we could twist the history.

For those books in the flea market and online rumors that distort or mock the history of the Party, the Party's functional departments should make their voices heard: What on earth is the truth? They should issue official publication of Party history to eliminate public confusion.

The History of the Communist Party of China (Part 2) is an autobiography of the Party and should play a key role in leading and guiding the mainstream ideology.


OO: After the publication of the revised edition of The History of the Communist Party of China (Part 2), the public focused their attention on the past mistakes and frustrations of the Party, such as the famine during the Great Leap Forward (1959-61) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). How do you view this?

Qu: We should seize the mainstream and essence when looking back the history of the Party. The Party has strived for 90 years in realizing the Sinificiation of Marxism, strengthening Party building and leading people to conduct evolution, construction and reform and has made remarkable achievements.   

We admit that we have made mistakes in the 29 years from 1949 to 1978. We mainly made leftist mistakes: Taking the class struggle as the key link, emphasizing on making the communes large and collective, and being hasty and impetuous in seeking economic development speed, which gives us a painful lesson and brings profound experiences.

We write down these historical errors for educating future generations and avoiding similar mistakes. It is the reflection of a more confident, mature and powerful Party. If the CPC feels nervous about and lacks confidence in controversies on big issues, it will not be able to act. 

OO: Some think that it is harder to describe the latest history. Is that true?

Qu: People hold different opinions on the twists and turns of the 29 years from 1949 to 1978. Therefore, it may be easy to tell an intricate story but hard to reflect the true nature of the history in The history of The History of the Communist Party of China (Part 2).

It is even harder to compile Volume III. Over 30 years' reform and opening-up covers a wide range of subjects.

To accurately record them, the authors should have a wide range of knowledge and particularly excel in the fields of economics and science and technology, as economic construction has been the centerpiece of these reforms.

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