Glossary of Chinese Communism

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Big-Character Posters (大字报): Wall-sized political posters written in large characters be read from a distance. It was essentially a mass media for big crowds, similar to today’s social media. These posters were used throughout the Chinese Revolution but were particularly prevalent during the Cultural Revolution.
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Capitalist Roader (走资派): A Cultural Revolution term used to label CCP officials accused of attempting to restore or reintroduce elements of capitalism was used by Mao to identify and purge those he wanted to remove from positions of power.
Propaganda poster reads “Eradicate the High-Ranking Capitalist Roaders within the Party”
Class Standpoint (阶级立场): Communist belief holds that individuals’ perspectives are shaped and determined by their class status, whether proletarian or bourgeois. The proletarian perspective is deemed correct, while the bourgeois perspective is considered incorrect. Everyone is expected to affirm their proletarian standpoint and eliminate the bourgeois standpoint by actively participating in political studies and activities. The real goal, however, was to eradicate critical thinking and individualism, ensuring compliance with Party-defined group thinking.
Class Status (阶级成份): A system of classifying people by their classes (see Five Black Categories and Five Red Categories). It was believed that family class statues would determine one’s behavior and thinking. Therefore, those born in the family with a “red” class statues were assumed to be revolutionary, while those born into a “black” family were assumed to be state enemy, or at least unreliable for the Communist revolution.
Class Feelings (阶级感情): The emotional ties and loyalty individuals were expected to have toward the proletarian class, or the “Red Class,” highlighted a sense of solidarity and collective identity among the so-called “oppressed” or “exploited.” People were encouraged to cultivate their class feelings as a demonstration of their commitment to socialist ideals. Those who displayed strong class feelings were considered loyal and trustworthy, while those who did not were often viewed with suspicion and could be subject to criticism or persecution. Displaying one’s correct class feelings was akin to today’s “virtue signaling.”
Class Struggle (阶级斗争): This was the core theme running through Mao’s era. Mao believed that class struggle persisted and even intensified after the CCP secured its power and technically eliminated class distinctions by confiscating land and properties from the “haves” and redistributing them to the “have-nots.” The focus of class struggle shifted from economic and political struggles to ideological struggle, emphasizing the need to resist and counteract bourgeois ideology within the Party and in the daily lives of every Chinese person. Mao’s motto was “Never forget class struggle.”
A struggle session with a big banner in the background that reads “Never Forget Class Struggle”
Collectivism Spirit (集体主义精神): This principle is a fundamental aspect of the communist worldview, where the needs and well-being of the collective take precedence over individual desires and ambitions. The highest standard of collectivism is that all words and actions must align with the collective interests of the people. This approach aims to foster a society where cooperation, mutual support, and shared responsibility are paramount, ultimately contributing to the achievement of communist ideals and the advancement of the proletarian cause. It is heavily promoted as the most noble aspiration for every Chinese citizen, emphasizing the elimination of individualism and the cultivation of selflessness.
Continuous Revolution (继续革命): This is an important part of Maoism that revolution is never complete and involves continuously working through contradictions to attain a higher state of socialism. According to Mao, class struggle persists even after a socialist state is established, and it is necessary to remain vigilant against counter-revolutionary elements and bourgeois influences. Mao believed that contradictions within society and within the Communist Party itself must be addressed through continuous struggle, criticism, and self-criticism to prevent stagnation and regression, thereby ensuring the progressive advancement towards a more complete form of socialism. In the West today, this concept manifests as never-ending political campaigns. Issues evolve from recycling to protect the environment, to addressing the climate crisis, to more extreme views that see humans themselves as pollutants that must be managed or eradicated.
Counterrevolutionary (反革命): A popular label during Mao’s era for anyone condemned by the Party or the “People” was a one-size-fits-all term, similar to how the term “racist” is used today. This label was used to discredit and target individuals, ensuring their alignment with Party ideology and suppressing dissent.
Cow Demons and Snake Spirits 牛鬼蛇神): A term used during the Cultural Revolution to demonize perceived enemies was a catch-all label that could apply to anyone. Its modern American equivalent could be “bigot.” This label served to discredit and marginalize individuals, ensuring their alignment with the Party’s ideology and suppressing dissent. It created a culture of fear and conformity, as people were wary of being branded and the severe repercussions that followed.
A village struggle session with banner that reads “Eliminate Cow Demons and Snake Spirits”.
Criticism and Self Criticism (批评和自我批评): Criticism and self-criticism were fundamental practices within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and broader society, rooted in Mao Zedong’s belief that continuous ideological and political struggle was essential for maintaining and advancing the revolution. Criticism involved receiving denunciations from others, while self-criticism entailed self-denunciation and public confession of one’s mistakes and ideological deviations. During the Cultural Revolution, these practices became routine political rituals that every Chinese citizen had to undertake.
More to come…