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  • Hu Jintao and the Ascendancy of China: A Dialectical Study
  • Xiaorong Han (bio)
Peter Yu Kien-hong. Hu Jintao and the Ascendancy of China: A Dialectical Study. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic, 2005. xiv, 240 pp. Paperback $22.00, ISBN 981–210–423–2.

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese Communist leaders have made many drastic policy changes, to the extent that their policies during one period often seem to contradict or negate those of another and that sometimes it seems they do not practice what they preach. For example, to most observers, Deng Xiaoping’s open door policy obviously negates Mao’s radical policies adopted during the Cultural Revolution, and there are apparent contradictions in China today between the Chinese leaders’ claim that they are still real Communists and their whole-hearted promotion of a market economy. These policy changes and contradictions are among the subjects of Peter Yu’s most recent book, and what he tries to prove in this book is that the many inconsistencies in the Communist theories and policies can actually be reconciled and justified based on a thorough understanding of the mind-set or dialectics of the Chinese [End Page 296] leaders. His book represents an effort at interpreting aspects of the domestic politics of the People’s Republic of China as well as the mainland-Taiwan relationship and China’s foreign relations through a study of the beliefs or doctrines of the Chinese leaders. He believes that in the perspective of the Chinese leaders, there is consistency and order in the seeming contradictions and chaos.

The author seems to take the term “dialectics” to mean the interactions (contradiction, conflict, competition, and so on) between two extremes. He discusses many pairs of opposites in the chapters, such as communism versus capitalism, socialism versus capitalism, one-party dictatorship versus the multiparty system, the party commands the gun versus the gun commands the party, the third world versus the first world, and so on. These pairs or frameworks serve as guiding principles for the Chinese leaders. The left extreme in each pair—for example, communism or socialism—represents the ideal and goal of the communist leaders, whereas the right extreme—for instance, capitalism—stands for the opposite of the ideal. The ultimate goal of the political leaders is to achieve the left extreme and eliminate or avoid the right extreme. Between the left and right extremes are two zones divided by the middle point between the two extremes. Located between the left extreme and the middle point is the safe zone and between the right extreme and the middle point is the danger zone. The author uses the numbers 1 through 5 to indicate the degrees of safety in the safe zone and the letters A through E to designate the degrees of danger in the danger zone, with 1 representing the ideal or the safest point and E standing for the opposite of the ideal or the most dangerous point. Policy changes can be tolerated and justified if the new policies fall within the safe zone, even if they are different from the ideal. Sometimes the party leaders would create new pairs of opposites or frameworks to facilitate radical policy changes. One example was Deng Xiaoping’s replacement of Mao’s communism versus capitalism framework with the socialism with Chinese characteristics versus capitalism framework in the post-Mao era, which helped legitimate the adoption of market economy. There would be one dominant framework or pair of opposites during any given period, and it would serve as the foundation of all other frameworks. These frameworks are created by the party leaders for the purposes of rationalization, self-protection, control, guidance, and struggle.

The book is divided into two parts, providing a micro-level perspective and a macro-level perspective respectively. The central theme of the five chapters in part 1 is political-military relations in the PRC. Chapter 3, the heart of part 1, summarizes the seven frameworks and twelve mechanisms guiding and determining political-military relations in the PRC. The seven frameworks or pairs of opposites include rule of law politics versus rule of men politics...