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China Table of Contents


Ideology and the Socialist Man

An important goal of Maoist ideology was the inculcation of certain prescribed values in party members and, by extension, in society as a whole. These included selfless dedication to the common good; an egalitarian concern with the uncomplicated expression of ideas in maxims or brief phrases understandable to all; and fervent commitment to ideal social behavior. In contrast, state ideology in the hands of Deng Xiaoping had a different purpose. The orientation was practical and less doctrinaire, aimed at fulfilling the goals of modernization. The official ideology was to be used to channel the individual's attempts to understand and practice modern concepts and methods. For example, in early 1987 the concept of village committees was introduced to give the massive rural population direct experience in self-management. It did not appear that these new bodies were meant to have substantive power but rather that they were intended to indoctrinate the population with modern approaches to social and political relations.

Paralleling this use of ideology as a cognitive tool was the party's policy of "emancipating the mind" and allowing debate to extend into subjects once considered "forbidden zones." China's scholars have argued publicly over issues such as the value of the commune system, the need for market concepts in a socialist economy, the historical impact of humanism, and even the current relevance of Marxism-Leninism. Student demonstrators in the mid1980s went too far, however, by questioning the preeminent role of the party. At that point, the immediate official response was to subordinate creativity and experimentation to public recognition of the presiding role of the party and its ideology.

Data as of July 1987