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Denying the truth does not change the facts: Cai Xia (part 1)

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

Link to download RFA video of interview with Cai Xia:


WTPOHK apology: We have incorrectly been using the term "authoritarian' when we should be using "totalitarian'! CCP under Xi now promotes totalitarianism NOT authoritarianism !

According to Cai Xia, "But why would I want to discuss “change”now? It’s because ever since Xi took office in 2012, the party had wobbled unsteadily under his leadership. Whatever hopes for reforms we had were reversed. It has regressed back to totalitarianism. And in this new totalitarianism [3.0] under Xi’s rule, there is one distinction that clearly differs from that of the 1990s and that of the Mao era. That is, the use of advanced technology. Strict surveillance enabled by big data.  He can precisely monitor everyone. He can put you under 24/7 close surveillance."

Below are 4 parts of RFA interview with Cai Xia.

Interview: China's Xi Faces no 'Power to Constrain Him' - Dissident Party Scholar (Part I)

RFA 5 October 2020. Translated by Min Eu.

Cai Xia, a retired professor of the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party, was expelled from the party and had her pension stripped on August 17 for “serious violations of political discipline of the Party” following her criticism of the increasingly authoritarian policies of Xi Jinping, party chief and state president. The dissident in-house scholar called the CCP a political zombie and likened Xi to a “gang boss”. Widely known as one of the “Hereditary [Second Generation] Red,” descendants of founding members or important figures of the CCP, the 68-year-old spoke to Vienna Tang of RFA’s Mandarin Service recently about her hopes for a peaceful political transformation in China.

RFA: Some said that the “Hereditary Red” Cai Xia has brought us a new catch phrase, “Remove the person but not the system.” How would you respond to this comment?

Cai: I don’t agree with this statement. People may have heard about the recording of my conversation in May. In that recording, I did begin with “the most urgent matter now is to get a new person (in power).” Because you know, if you want to change the system, you must first break the deadlock. If Xi remains in office, there is no way to resolve the impasse. So, you have no choice but to remove Xi, then you may be able to remove the deadlock. Therefore, replacing Xi with someone else is only the first step. Unbeknownst to many, there was a second part of that conversation. The first part was the 20-minute recording, in which I talked about having someone new in office. The second clip was about nine minutes long, and I talked about how we must abandon the system.

RFA: Speaking of a new system, you were once a professor at the CCP Party School.  What is your observation of the various political clans within the Chinese Communist Party?

Cai: From the start of the reform and opening-up period until now, there have been approximately three different political views within the Party. One is the reformists. Earlier reformists included Zhao Ziyang and Hu Yaobang, who stood with the people. Rather than saving the Party, they pushed for reform so China could progress towards modern civilization. Meanwhile, Deng Xiaoping felt the party would not be able to stay in power if CCP did not change. There were two examples in which Deng demonstrated his historical limitations, however. One was in the 4,000 Officials Meeting in 1980, when the party was to review on Mao Zedong’s historical status and on the Maoist ideology. Deng prevented the party from further reflecting on Mao’s responsibility (in the Cultural Revolution). Therefore, following this precedent, when Deng Xiaoping ordered the crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square, we said that he had made great contribution to the reform but was guilty of the violent use of force.

RFA: You mentioned that there are three different views. Other than the reformists, what are the other two?

Cai: One is the “Helpless“ faction, which is the majority of the party members. Everyone knows about the reformists, who’ve existed throughout the generations, including Ren Zhiqiang. However, not many people paid attention to the “Helpless.” We could also call them the “Silent Majority” within the Party. I categorize “the Helpless” into two groups: the local bureaucrats including governors, provincial party secretaries, mayors, city party secretaries, minister, and deputy ministers. Meanwhile, the other branch of the “Helpless” is made up of staffers. They are the many workers in the central and local, provincial and municipal agencies. The government workers who do the real work.  The Helpless ones are held hostage (in power struggles), and they lean towards whichever side that is in power.

RFA: What about the “Political Jockeys” that you have mentioned?

Cai: I also categorize the Political Jockeys into two groups. One is “Xi‘s Clan,” or what we call the “Zhejiang New Army,” referring those holding provincial and local posts while Xi was the Communist Party Secretary of Zhejiang province.

RFA: Right, he was the governor of Zhejiang.

Cai: Some of those moved with him to Zejiang from Fujian, where Xi’s political career began. Some of Xi’s closest allies came from Fujian, some others from Zhejiang, and yet others from Shanghai. The political jockeys are in Xi’s inner circle; they are those who he has brought with him. Additionally there are Xi’s “classmates” from Tsinghua University. These are one group of the jockeys.  Members of the other group of political jockeys have never worked with him on the local level, but they want to join Xi’s Clan. These include (The Tianjin Municipal Party Secretary) Li Hongzhong and (XUAR Party Secretary) Chen Quanguo. Hard-core political jockeys make up approximately 10 percent of the party at most.

RFA:  You mentioned that the reformists have existed throughout the generations in the party. You also mentioned your friend, Ren Zhiqiang. However, some observers maintain that there have been no more reformists after Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. What would you say about this?

Cai: I do not necessarily agree with this comment. In fact, after Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, there were many reform endeavors pushing the party forward. Let me put it this way. Locally, there are officials who strive to explore opportunities to reform on the local level. Take Zhejiang for example. The small goods market in Yiwu, Zhejiang was the result of the then County Party Secretary of Yiwu. Or, look at Shenzhen. I believe in the 1990s, Shenzhen kept moving forward.

RFA: The examples of reform are at local levels. What about the top party officials? If there was healthy opposition within the party, then how did Xi manage to emerge from the power struggle and achieve ultimate authoritarian rule? Why was there no one to stop him?

Cai: This is not a matter of a person. It’s a matter of the CCP political system. No one could control Mao Zedong, because there was no system set up in the party. Therefore, Deng Xiaoping later stressed the establishment of the system in the party. However, the structure of power is the fundamental element in the system. When power is highly centralized, any effort to reform technical, local, or applications of the system is just moot. If you do not divide the powers and establish checks and balances, then you can never solve this problem. Therefore, when Xi took office, he could easily grasp power, both from the country and the party, and centralize it in his own hands. And there is no other power to constrain him.

RFA: Earlier you said that it is a consensus in the party that Xi be replaced. Should he really be removed, who do you think is the best fit to take over?

Cai:  This is a lot more complicated. Why? I think removing Xi from office is a popular consensus, especially among mid- to top-level officials. I feel that, other than the Xi’s clan, we all know we cannot keep going like this. However, there may not have been a consensus within the party about who would be a good fit. That is, if we openly name someone as a suitable candidate, that person will certainly be eliminated by Xi.

RFA: You have also mentioned that there is no power to constrain Xi. Do you think the current political system is able to remove Xi from office? If not, then what is the solution?

Cai: I think they are incapable of removing Xi through the normal procedures. In my earlier discussion, I talked about whether the former Standing Committee members and the former Politburo members, current Standing Committee members, and current Politburo members could all sit down to have a meeting, in which the minority respects the decision made by the majority, and ask Xi to step down. I’d say, in fact, it is impossible to follow those rules. However, today’s China is complex and dynamic, both domestically and internationally. Maybe an emergency of some sort or an unexpected accident could trigger explosive changes. Maybe he would step down unexpectedly. Who knows?

RFA: In your talk, you mentioned that the elites inside and outside of the system may form a new political party. However, you also talked about how the CCP shell should be discarded during the transformation. What do you mean by the political shell?

Cai: The idea of the party has become a sacred symbol that cannot be challenged. The Chinese Communist Party is great, glorified, and correct; no one shall challenge the party. Therefore, we said that a hard shell like this has prohibited people from reflecting and discussing political issues in China. Therefore, I believe we need to crush this shell and break apart its privileged political correctness. I believe only when we take it down can we truly discuss China’s current situation, what issues we need to address, and how we can solve these problems.

RFA: You also mentioned that no one can question the party. Under such circumstances, how do you realistically form a new party?

Cai: The forming of a new party should happen when a major political transformation in society occurs.  Once the sacred shell of the CCP is broken, those “Helpless” ones within the party who are keen to reform and those who wish to see China do well and evolve into to modernized civilization will break free, too. Then we can move beyond conceptual talks and let those in the party who want to push the country forward to put their abilities to good use.

RFA: I understand that you have been reflecting on how to realize peaceful political transformation in China. You have said that the word “reform” should be replaced with “change.” Can you elaborate on the “change?”

[Cai: ] My discussion about “change” and “reform” was based on my reflection on the system. A political transformation in China is in fact a fundamental change of the system. Why would we have called it a reform in the past? Because we could see that in Mao’s era, the Chinese Communist Party rule that he had established after 1949, whose system lead national development under planned economy, could no longer support him in the Cultural Revolution. Therefore, once they swept Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, and Yao Wenyuan away, they had to propose a new set of ideas different from that of Mao Zedong’s so as to keep the party in power. From 1978 to 1989, China gradually evolved from a totalitarian regime towards authoritarian rule.

Yet like we’ve said earlier, Deng Xiaoping had his limitations, in that he wanted to save both the party and the regime. So, when you advocated for a democratic political system and elections in 1989, Deng wouldn’t have it. In the 1990s, what did Jiang Zemin do in the first three years after he took office? He was all about anti-peaceful evolution. He was aligning himself with the far-left, fighting hard against the waves of democratic movements prevailing domestically and internationally.

However, Deng Xiaoping had a better vision than Jiang did. Deng was aware that if China continued down this path, the regime would not be able to sustain itself. So, he went on the Southern Tour and asserted the development of market economy. Had the party gone along with Jiang’s “Anti-Peaceful Evolution,” it would have had offset what Deng Xiaoping had achieved in that 10 years of opening up.

How come Deng Xiaoping could still have his legacy etched in history then? When we talked about the 1990s, you could call it an era of Totalitarianism 2.0. In this version 2.0, elements of totalitarianism and authoritarianism were intertwined. You could still talk about reforms. Especially when Jiang talked about the Three Represents, he intended to push China towards “democratic socialism.”

But why would I want to discuss “change”now? It’s because ever since Xi took office in 2012, the party had wobbled unsteadily under his leadership. Whatever hopes for reforms we had were reversed. It has regressed back to totalitarianism. And in this new totalitarianism under Xi’s rule, there is one distinction that clearly differs from that of the 1990s and that of the Mao era. That is, the use of advanced technology. Strict surveillance enabled by big data.  He can precisely monitor everyone. He can put you under 24/7 close surveillance.

Interview: Xi Brings 'Era of Exquisite Totalitarianism' to China-Party Scholar Cai (Part II)

RFA 6 October 2020. Translated by Min Eu.

Cai Xia, a retired professor of the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party, was expelled from the party and had her pension stripped on August 17 for “serious violations of political discipline of the Party” following her criticism of the increasingly authoritarian policies of Xi Jinping, party chief and state president. The dissident in-house scholar called the CCP a political zombie and likened Xi to a “gang boss”. Widely known as one of the “Hereditary [Second Generation] Red,” descendants of founding members or important figures of the CCP, the 68-year-old spoke to Vienna Tang of RFA’s Mandarin Service recently about Xi's controls with the party and the reaction of Chinese intellectuals.

RFA: That is Totalitarianism 3.0?

Cai: Totalitarianism 3.0

RFA: Is this something no one has ever encountered in human history?

Cai: Yes. A few years ago, some scholars in mainland China, a small group of us, already shared the same three views. However, some differences exist. Some scholars thought that we were already in the post-totalitarian era. In that view, the society has opened up to the outside world, and people are not as shut down as they used to be. A civil society is developing. However, some other scholars, myself included, felt that we were not in the post-totalitarian era at all; instead, we have regressed from authoritarian back to an era of “exquisite totalitarianism.” This exquisite totalitarian era has surpassed that of the Mao era in history. It is as barbaric and ferocious as Hitler’s rule. It could be even more ferocious than Hitler’s.

I summarized a few characteristics of “exquisite totalitarianism.” First, the high-tech, 24/7, comprehensive surveillance of the entire party and the entire society. Second, he forcefully suppresses different opinions within the party. From the totalitarian 1950s to the authoritarian 1980s and to the market economy of the 1990s, China’s political system has gradually loosened and given party cadres some room for corruption. Therefore, in such a system no one’s hands are clean. When you voice a different opinion, he can accuse you of corruption. He has been using this tactic to cleanse different opinions in the party.

Additionally, there are the “rules.” If he thinks that you have broken the “rules”, then you have committed serious crimes. But if you have done something that is not allowed in the system, but he deems it as fitting the “rules” in the party, then you have done a great job. By using the “rules” and anti-corruption tactics, he could overpower anyone and everyone within the party. Under such circumstances, the opposition within the party is unable to place any restrictions on his moves. This is the second characteristic of totalitarian rule.

The third characteristic lies within the society. We knew China does not have a sound legal system. In the CCP Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee, Xi said that CCP should rule the country in accordance with the laws. So, is it a right to pass many laws following his comment? It seemed so. However, what did he really do with the laws? He uses them as tools to oppress the people. More importantly, since the party has a monopoly on the country’s resources, it takes hold of everyone by their throat. What do I mean by that? Take Xu Zhangrun, the (Tsinghua) university professor that you all know. ‘After I fired you, no other universities would dare to hire you as a professor.’ He also uses this against many retired senior party members. ‘If you express different opinions, then I would take away your pension, cancel your retirement benefits.’ There is a good number of seniors who have to remain silent. He’s silencing them by the throat. Look at Inner Mongolia. Recently many Mongolian cadres stood up against him to safeguard their ethnic language. This is a right thing to do. But he said, if you do not send your children to school, you will lose your government job.

Moreover, in the past, I thought that if you hold a job outside of the party then you should be ok. You could be a business outside of the system. But no, he now uses class struggle slogans and calls the businessmen in the private sector “private capitalists.” Isn’t capitalist exploitation a crime? Then you will be discriminated against in the country’s politics. I can then use various reasons to oppress you.

RFA: What [is] a description of exquisite totalitarianism. Given a social system like this, how can change be accomplished?

Cai: So, I want to be clear that a system like this cannot be reformed internally. It is impossible. Therefore, the system must be changed. The system must be completely discarded. If we use the term “liberalization,” then we’re talking about the liberalization of the entire 90 million party members. To free the 1.4 billion people from being kidnapped by the party, to liberate them, we must abandon this system.

RFA:  You have mentioned that a “Party Dominated Constitutional System” would not work. So, other than the Communist Party, what is the main subject of the constitution? How could this be established?

Cai: The main subject of the constitution should be the 1.4 billion people. But to realize this constitutional process is very difficult. It is difficult because we must abandon our conventional thinking. What do I mean by that? Currently, the reformists within the system are oppressed cruelly by Xi, and they failed to earn understanding from those outside of the system who hope for reforms and who wish to push China forward. Those outside of the system would consider you guilty as long as you are within the system and a CCP member. In fact, (if) both the left and the right are oppressing this force within the Party, then this thinking must change, so we wouldn’t be fighting against CCP with CCP-like thinking. Can we break away from this thinking and unite all the forces?

RFA: You talked about the 90 million party members should not be held hostage. You also talked about the democratic forces outside of the system do not understand the reformists within the system. Will the evolution that you mentioned lead China down the path of the Soviet Union under Gorbachev? Will the CCP he eventually manage to survive in a different format?

Cai: I don't think so. Why? Take Soviet Union for example. Gorbachev promoted party-wide changes. The Soviet Communist Party members, I remembered so clearly, walked out of the Kremlin in disdain. People despised this party. How many Soviet party members were left? Only a few old ones. They still cling on to the Soviet communist doctrines, but that party posed no threat anymore. That's why we said the Chinese Communist Party is unlikely to become a dominant party in the future. Yet would those elites in the society and in the CCP join hands to form a new political force and collaborative to move the country forward? I think it is possible.

RFA: Some said that one important reason why the CCP system cannot be shaken is because up until today, this system is still supported by the majority of the Chinese people. And like you’ve said, Xi silenced his opposition in the name of anti-corruption, and it is working, because many Chinese people hate corruption. They do not care about the power struggles among the top officials. What is your take on this view?

Cai: It makes sense to some degree. This is what I think. Many only see parts of the problems but not the roots deep down. Is there anything wrong with anti-corruption? No. But have you ever wondered why there are so many corrupt officials? Why do you only get another batch of corrupt officials after the previous ones were replaced? Only when you change the system can you truly be protected with job security and secure lives. This is something that people at the bottom of society cannot imagine. This is the first point. The so-called social elites shoulder more responsibilities. When we talk about the differences between the elites and the common public, this is where the difference lies. The elites should shoulder more responsibilities and more obligations. They must do so.

What’s the second issue? Frankly, for thousands of years, Chinese society has been an imperial ruled society. People worshiped power.  It was natural that power was not constrained.  But people didn’t care; they only cared about whether this person was good or bad. There is a Western concept called “Stockholm Syndrome.” The abused would be grateful to the abuser at the slightest improvement of the situation. The victim appreciates the abuser. A person with Stockholm Syndrome does not change, because fundamentally he worships power and the authoritarian political system. It has become a deep-rooted cultural mindset within the society. This mindset is very different from that of the Western society. We can see that people in Western society are not afraid of power, rather, they want to oversee and restrain power.

RFA: We know that ever since China started reforming and opening up more than 40 years ago, there have been many who benefited and developed vested interests, that is, the middle class. How do you persuade them that, by overthrowing this government, they will enjoy a better life and that changing the party would be in their best interest?

Cai: Let me tell you a story. Bo Xilai was abusing his power in Chongqing; he even killed a very well-known local businessman. Later we invited that man’s daughter to Inner Mongolia to speak with the Inner Mongolia business association. We talked about what businesses could do when political powers are abused. Do they push for political reforms or do they submit themselves to the powerful one? You know we had hoped, or we had expected, that the businessmen would have said that “we will join forces together to promote a national political reform.” But do you know what the businessmen said? They said, our force alone cannot beat them, so we can only protect ourselves.  So, I felt there needs to be a process for political awareness to emerge and grow in society. Just because your income reaches the middle-class level doesn’t mean that you are then equipped with essential ideological and political qualities needed as the backbone of society. There is still room for that development in society.

RFA:  You also criticized the CCP as a political Zombie. Your comment drew oppression from the Chinese government against you. Nonetheless, some thought that CCP has always been a political zombie. Your criticism of Xi Jinping could be applied to and suitable for any CCP leaders. These people think that your anti-Xi actions represent a political power that has been suppressed for years. What’s your response to this comment?

Cai: I don’t think the CCP is a political zombie from the get-go. When democratic development within the CCP was good, and when people were allowed to talk about democracy, when everyone was allowed to express their opinions, CCP might have been able to correct its mistakes. Then it might have changed a little bit in response to these comments. But when the top leaders strictly and cruelly suppress different opinions, and it completely fails to self-correct its mistakes, then the CCP will become a political zombie.

Therefore, the CCP we’re seeing now is a political zombie, because it has no energy to restrain power. And I and people who share the same ideas as mine hope to change this situation. We’re not doing so to save this party, but we want to bring the country out of this stalemated situation, to make our people and country progress forward. This is particularly important. Therefore, I agree if you say people share similar ideas like mine, and that we all share the same hope. However, I don’t see myself as the representative for all, because I’m only able to speak for myself.

RFA: You look quiet and peaceful on the outside, but you are very “defiant”. What shaped your personality? Who and what have influenced you the most in your life?

Cai: Let me put it this way. My parents and extended family joined the CCP back in the 1930s. My maternal grandfather joined the party even earlier. I believe my parents truly wished to promote advancement of the country. This is what they had taught us at home. You emerged in such an environment, and when you and I started working, we had always been within the system. We heard about the positive things every day. You mistakenly took these lies seriously. This is how we’ve formed some fundamental values when we were young. And these values will not change. Secondly, to us, our parents have fought for this ideal for so long and so hard, but China did not move towards democracy. If you think you’ve been raised well by your parents, then I think you should take it upon yourself to carry on your father’s wish and push the country forward, rather than enjoying the status (you have inherited). Should you have become another privileged class, then that is certainly not what your parents had joined the CCP and fought the revolution for. Therefore, with this, I feel we are obliged and charged to bring it forward.

Interview: 'Not All Heredity Reds Are Out to Preserve Their Political Power'-Scholar Cai (Part III)

RFA 20 October 2020. Translated by Min Eu.

Cai Xia, a retired professor of the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party, was expelled from the party and had her pension stripped on August 17 for “serious violations of political discipline of the Party” following her criticism of the increasingly authoritarian policies of Xi Jinping, party chief and state president. The dissident in-house scholar called the CCP a political zombie and likened Xi to a “gang boss”. Widely known as one of the “Hereditary [Second Generation] Red,” descendants of founding members or important figures of the CCP, the 68-year-old spoke to Vienna Tang of RFA’s Mandarin Service recently about the international ramifications of Xi's consolidation of power and authoritarian style. Cai has been under surveillance by Chinese authorities since 2011, her lectures have been banned since 2013 and she has been censored and blocked on the Chinese internet since 2016.

RFA: In your opinion, eventually what forces will facilitate change in China?

Cai: I cannot tell you whether an external force would eventually play that decisive and fundamental role, because there is no other country in the world whose political changes are as complicated as that of China.  Nevertheless, I feel what would bring about change within China may come from cooperation among domestic and international forces.

RFA: What is your view on the outlook for U.S.-China relations?

Cai: It is hard to say whether the Cold War between U.S. and China will evolve into a hot war. It depends on whether the Chinese Communist Party has the guts to fight this war. If the CCP indeed wants to engage in a hot war, one does not have to worry about who wins and who loses, because the CCP will lose for sure. Once this war is lost, the collapse of the CCP regime will follow.

RFA: Do you think Xi Jinping has the ambition to “recover“ Taiwan?

Cai: I believe so. He does have this intention.

RFA: The ancient Greek Historian Thucydides believed that when facing challenges from an emerging power, the current great power would most likely resort to war to resolve the competition for international dominance.  Harvard University professor Graham T. Allison coined the term “Thucydides Trap” to depict the dangers that current U.S.-China relations face. Nevertheless, Professor Cai, you considered it a false statement?

Cai: The Thucydides Trap theory has twisted the nature of the contradictions and conflicts in U.S.-China relations. The nature of the U.S.-China relations is not a “number one and number two” relationship. Firstly, let’s talk about the national power. This number two is nowhere near a real number two. There is an expression “the nation is wealthy and its people are strong.” However, if the people are not wealthy and if the people are not strong, the country is just a bluff. So, this is my first point. Secondly, let’s look at the GDP. The GDP number looks good, but behind the number it is hollow. The structure that is. Have the wealth and the quality of the people truly improved? No. Why have U.S.-China ties become the intense confrontation that we face now? It is because the fundamental systems and the fundamental concepts are not the same.  On this side there is the new totalitarian system, while on the other side there is a free and democratic system. This situation shares similarities with the 1930s, when appeasement policies gave Adolf Hitler room to expand across Europe. Eventually, the entire world’s peace and order were threatened, thus (igniting) World War II. This is what Xi is doing now. His goal is a “community of a shared future for mankind.”  Follow this concept and look at Wuhan and Hong Kong, you see that he has ruined the civic order, the rule of law, and the freedom of Hong Kong. So, it is not a Thucydides Trap in which number one and number two fight for dominance. It is in fact a confrontation between two systems. Therefore, we call it a false statement.

RFA:  A while ago, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s performance made people think that Xi has softened his stance towards the United States. However, we later saw that Xi unveiled his “Five Musts” and the “Five Never Allows.” What is your interpretation of the signals behind these recent moves?

Cai: Western countries, the U.S. included, only began to understand the nature of the CCP in recent years. More specifically, as the COVID-19 spread to many parts of the world, the CCP was exposed of concealment, deception, and extortion in its handling of (the early onset of) the pandemic. Only until then did people realize the gangster nature of the CCP. Therefore, at this point, it is crucial to contemplate how to deal with China. In the past, people used to talk about “China,” but now people realize that China and the CCP are not the same, right? It (the Chinese government) intentionally mixes the CCP and China together. Why? By doing so, he holds the 1.4 billion Chinese people hostage. He would say you are anti-Chinese; you are against the people of China. However, once you separate the two, as it turns out, the CCP has been bullying and fooling the Chinese people. Once you make this distinction, you essentially peel away the CCP’s skin and expose its true nature to everyone. Not only can the people outside of China see the message and the way of thinking, but the people inside China can also see it clearly once this perspective is shared to mainland China. I think this is something the CCP is particularly afraid of.

RFA: So, his stance has not softened.

Cai: No, it has not.

RFA: Is he afraid?

Cai: He is afraid. What lies behind that fear is mania. He is struggling. Externally, he cheats with lies. Now that he knows he can no longer hide it from you and deceive you, he turns inward to suppress the people in China and party members. Why? When the pressure from abroad is mounting, he must stabilize his own backyard. This is what he really is about. He is not softening.

RFA: Speaking of which, I would like to hear your take on this: When Xi talked about the “Five Never Allows,” Wang Qishan, who has been away from the public eye, also reemerged. We all know that Wang used to be his right-hand man when Xi was getting rid of his political foes. There is various speculation about his relationship with Xi. I wonder what your observation on this is.

Cai: The relationship between Wang and Xi is quite delicate, very delicate. The reason being that Wang’s reputation, qualifications, and capabilities are all better than Xi’s. This is something everyone knows for sure. What is the sentiment about Wang in the Party? People hate him; people are afraid of him; people cave to him; people are cautious about him. The logic in authoritarian totalitarianism is that I will eliminate anyone who may possibly threaten my ruling status. Following this logic, Xi will never collaborate with Wang again. Nevertheless, Xi will not let Wang go either. Why? If Wang leaves, there may be complications that Xi cannot handle himself. So Xi’s mindset is that “I want to use you (Wang), but I also must make sure that you will not go against me.”

RFA: When Ren Zhiqiang was arrested, Wang stayed silent. Do you think he couldn’t or wouldn’t say anything?

Cai: It’s not that Wang wouldn’t; he couldn’t. He could not say anything, because he must be cautious. At a time like to Ren Zhiqiang, or it would look as if Ren was the front man, and he was backing Ren. You may ask whether Ren Zhiqiang and Wang Qishan are a duo, with one being vocal upfront while the other backing him from behind. I do not think so. It is truly Ren Zhiqiang’s goals and objectives that the whole country moves towards a democratic political system.

RFA: So Ren truly hopes to change the system? I am asking because some say that the “Heredity Reds” like Ren Zhiqiang never talk about changing the system.

Cai: In fact, Ren does want to change the system. His view has been evolving. Back in 1989 during the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests he might not have had a clear view on the issue. However, over the years he has been learning and reflecting based on the concept of a democratic political system, and he continued to identify with constitutional democracy and liberal democracy. He does want to promote reform and development of this country. Therefore, I think his views differ from Wang Qishan’s fundamental political objectives and choices.

RFA: So Ren not only wishes to give up the privileges of the Heredity Reds, but he also wants to change the system?

Cai: I believe the group of people around me all hope for the change of the system. We hope that constitutional democracy and liberal democracy can truly be realized. In fact, sometimes when we were discussing these issues, their language was stronger and more intense than mine.

RFA: One issue is that very few have dared to come forward like you and Ren Zhiqiang did to express their opinions. You also mentioned earlier that there are many “helpless ones” within the CCP and that they are the majority in the Party. Meanwhile, some have said that ever since the Jiang (Zemin)/Hu (Jintao) era, the CCP has been gradually eliminating dissent in the society. Those who were able to make their voices heard but chose to remain silent, they pretty much supported such oppression with their inaction. That was also why when Xi took office, there was no countervaling power of checks and balances. As a result, he was able to amend the constitution and to pass the “National Security Law” for Hong Kong almost unanimously. What do you think?

Cai: There is a problem with this view. That is, the “helpless ones,” or what we called the “silent majority” are those who follow the party’s lead. Often, they would become what we called “sandwich biscuits,” meaning that they sustain pressures from both above and below. There is another expression that calls them “the mice in the wind box,” meaning that they take anger from both ends. The oppression back in the Jiang/Hu era was not as bad as what they sustain now, but what they had experienced in the Jiang/Hu days already made them realize that such oppression was not acceptable. Therefore, we have witnessed some democratic changes in the party at the local levels. While it could not have fundamentally changed the political system, it has allowed the general public to participate in some specific matters related to their livelihood. Hence, there was a time when democracy and reforms at the local level were taking place. However, it regressed after 2008, 2009. Why was that? It was because moving forward would inevitably involve the shifting of the entire power structure. This is something that the entire system and top leaders would not allow. That is why changes at the local levels were well received, but as they progressed, they would hit a wall. This is an unbreakable wall because superiors’ power is now being challenged. That is why you are helpless. That is why I feel that there is no hope in pushing for reforms within the system. You must crush the entire power structure. That is why we propose “change.”

RFA: Some also said that Xi chose the path of authoritarian totalitarianism after he took office because he was trying to protect the “Heredity Reds” and the CCP members. He knows very well that should China become a democracy, the Chinese Communist Party will collapse, and very likely the CCP may be purged. The “Heredity Reds” like you may be purged too. What is your observation?

Cai: If we are to discuss this matter, we should look at it from various aspects. One, where is the term “Heredity Reds” derived from? It has something to do with the parents of the Heredity Reds. Some of them were hoping to become an elite class by gaining political power, and as a result, they (and their children) may strive to maintain this regime. This is one type of mindset. Are there people like this? I think there are. Meanwhile, there are some others whose parents had sincerely considered, sacrificed, and fought for the future of the people. They had taught their children the same ideals. Now these children, fully grown, do not care who is in power. They believe that if the people truly realize democracy, if China can progress towards modern civilization, the power will belong to the people. I believe not all Heredity Reds are out to preserve their political power. Quite a few of us are trying to push the country forward.

Interview: Under Xi, 'Confrontation Will Only Worsen And Intensify’-Scholar Cai (Part IV)

RFA 21 October 2020. Translated by Min Eu.

Cai Xia, a retired professor of the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party, was expelled from the party and had her pension stripped on August 17 for “serious violations of political discipline of the Party” following her criticism of the increasingly authoritarian policies of Xi Jinping, party chief and state president. The dissident in-house scholar called the CCP a political zombie and likened Xi to a “gang boss”. Widely known as one of the “Hereditary [Second Generation] Red,” descendants of founding members or important figures of the CCP, the 68-year-old spoke to Vienna Tang of RFA’s Mandarin Service recently about the international ramifications of Xi's consolidation of power and authoritarian style. Cai has been under surveillance by Chinese authorities since 2011, her lectures have been banned since 2013 and she has been censored and blocked on the Chinese internet since 2016.

RFA: You mentioned earlier that it is a good thing that the U.S. is separating the CCP and the Chinese people. As a former scholar from within the party, what other suggestions do you have for the United States’ China policy?

Cai: I think the U.S. has to separate Xi and “Xi’s gang” from the 90 million party members so as to strip Xi of the ability to hold the 90 million members hostages in the name of the party center. This is an important issue. When you say “eliminate the Communist Party,” can you physically eliminate the 90 million party members? If you really do so, it will be another catastrophe for the Chinese people. Can you believe 90 million people being killed for the sake of changing the political system? That will be a bloody massacre. That is why we said we should get rid of the shell, abolish the system, and change the political system. Nevertheless, we, everyone’s fate and rights, should be respected and protected. So, what should happen in the future?

I personally believe that the leader of the Chinese Communist Party and top officials should be held liable for the party. This liability is determined in accordance with the country’s constitution made by the people, with social equality and justice, and with transitional justice. They should bear historical responsibility. I think this is an important issue.

Second, I think there needs to be… Of course, the (US) government is only addressing it from the policy aspect. However, I feel that the government could work on exposing the CCP system and revealing the nature of the authoritarian system, rather than focusing on a particular person. In the past, we thought Fascism had come to an end with the demise of Adolf Hitler. Or when the USSR collapsed the system in the Soviet Eastern Europe also ended. Some had said that China has reformed because it adopted a socialism system with Chinese characteristics. While some others thought China was moving forward and no longer a totalitarian regime because it allowed a market economy. Quite the contrary. The current totalitarian rule in China is more ferocious than that of the USSR or Adolf Hitler. It is also more deceptive than before.

RFA: You have shared quite a lot about the changes in China from the aspect of political theory. What collaborative forces do you think there will be to accomplish the changes in China? It seems that some are of the view that constitutional democracy in China cannot be achieved from within and that eventually it is external forces, particularly forces of the U.S., that could ultimately lead to such changes. What is your take on this?

Cai: This question reminded me of the time when I read “The Third Wave” written by (Samuel P.) Huntington. In “The Third Wave,” Huntington said that there are five factors that affect a country’s democratic transition and political transformation. One of the factors is external influence. At that time, I did not believe in this theory, because I feel this might be achievable in the case of a small country, but it is unattainable in such a large country as China. However, my view has changed since. I believe the external forces may sometimes play an important role. I cannot tell you whether an external force will eventually play that decisive and fundamental role, because there is no other country in the world whose political changes are as complicated as that of China.  Nevertheless, I feel what would bring about changes within China may come from cooperation between domestic and international forces. We can see that should the CCP become internally divided, then Xi could step down, and if the CCP is willing to, it can shed the shell of the party and discard the system. Then we can discuss about a peaceful transformation. By then the external forces can help us systematically because we don’t have to fumble forward.

Mankind has accumulated tremendous experience in political transformation. I believe no countries in the world, and the U.S. included, would want to see Chinese society lose control on a large scale, because that would be catastrophic. Not only would it be devastating for the people in China, but it would also be disastrous for the entire world. What other country has a population of 1.4 billion people? Think the Islamic refugees from the Middle East and North Africa already overwhelmed the European countries? International organizations would strive to avoid such a catastrophic outcome. Should it happen, it would be a disaster for China, and it will be a disaster globally. Therefore, at a time like this, the international society will strive to foster communication and collaboration within and outside of the system. It will be the medium to bring all players to the table for peaceful negotiations. I think this is a possible approach. Yet it would be impossible to rely solely on external forces.

RFA: A few years ago, no one had imagined that Hong Kong would become what it is today. Additionally, we have seen the announcement by the Taiwan government about changing its passport design. Do you think there will be a “last straw” incident that triggers a domino effect and eventually brings down the CCP regime?

Cai: It is hard to say at this point. I think the biggest issue still lies domestically. Currently in China the economy and people’s livelihood are suffering. With the crackdowns, it is hard to say what would become a trigger. We had thought that maybe the Hong Kong issue could bring on a domino effect, but instead, we now see heavy-handed suppression and strict blocking of information. So, the effect that Hong Kong issue has created is non-existent. As of now, I cannot see a series of events that would create a domino effect, because the impact of that event must be quite significant. If China were to attack Taiwan with military force, then it might be possible. Military moves as well trouble in hotspots in the South China Sea could likely backfire and trigger a coup. This is a possible scenario.

RFA: Do you think Xi has the ambition to “recover “Taiwan?

Cai: I believe so. He does have the intention. After Xi took office, everyone was talking about the historical legacy he might leave as the leader of a great party. Deng Xiaoping created the path of market economy, which may bring Deng a spot in history. If you could realize liberal democracy and accomplish political transformation, you could also earn a spot in the history. This is the first perspective. As for the second perspective, it is a fact that China and Taiwan have been separated for decades. If you could unite the two sides while you are in office, then you could also earn a spot in history. So, he may want to earn that spot through unification. Therefore, I believe that he does have that intention. Moreover, “unification” is a traditional concept in an imperial system. He may feel that he wants to achieve this goal, even with the use of force, to conquer Taiwan. He may think “If I succeed, I will become a modern emperor who accomplished national unification.” So, I do believe that he has the intention to do so.

RFA: The American China Expert Michael Pillsbury has mentioned in his “The Hundred-Year Marathon” that the Chinese government has a “secret strategy to replace America as the superpower” and dominate the world in the one hundred years between 1949 and 2049. What is your view on this theory?

Cai: According to the slogan proposed by the Chinese Communist Party, it does depict a vision by the year 2049 (with several milestones). Starting from Deng Xiaoping, he said that by the year 2000, China should enter the initial phase of escaping from poverty. Then he said by the time of around 2010, the GDP should double. We should by then achieve the initial phase of moderate prosperity. By 2049, our system will be more well-rounded, and our national power will have caught up with moderately developed countries. The entire system is relatively sound. This was based on the initial idea that the country could be reformed.  If you give up totalitarian rule, you could realize political transformation through reforms, then by 2049, it could be a process in which everyone could peacefully coexist. If (the party) insists on a system of totalitarian rule, then by 2049, it will want to take over the world and pursue global dominance. Objectively, whether you admit it or not, it would be using 100 years to annex countries in the world. Meanwhile, I do not believe that the Chinese Communist Party has, from the beginning, considered ruling China with totalitarianism for 100 years and to take over the world after 2049. I truly do not think so. However, it is true that Mao and his comrades believed in the liberation of mankind. It is possible, then, to apply a kind of communist concept of liberating mankind to this.

RFA: What is your view on the outlook for U.S.-China relations?

Cai: With regards to the outlook of the U.S.-China relations, I believe that as long as Xi remains in power and as long as the political system in China does not change, confrontation will only worsen and intensify. Whether the Cold War will evolve into a hot war is hard to say, because it depends on whether the CCP has the guts to enter a war with the U.S.. There is no need to guess who would win because China will lose for sure.  Once this war is lost, the collapse of the (CCP) regime will follow.  Frankly speaking, the Cold War has already begun. However, should a change occur domestically in China – say Xi steps down – then the progressive forces in the party could take the lead and initiate the changes; that is, to shed the party shell, to abandon the fundamental system, and to pursue the political progress of all of China. I believe there will be external forces to facilitate such changes when that time comes. By that time, the U.S. and China can repair their relationship, which will then move in a positive direction.

RFA: You were born into a “Red Family.” You have experienced the Cultural Revolution and you were a Red Guard. As someone who has been within the system for many years – in your words, a former Communist Party member who just recently “returned” to the ranks of the people. In terms of your academic research and your experiences, what do you think you can offer as an example for today’s young people in China?

Cai: This is hard to say, as everyone’s experiences and reflections are different. However, I do believe in the trends of history. There is an expression that says, “the trends of history are mighty”. That means the history will move towards whichever direction people’s hearts desire. I believe everyone hopes to lead a life that is fairer and freer. Every generation has its own process and experience. We, too, have gone through such living experiences to come to today’s realization. I was not like this. When I was in graduate school, my classmates called me the “Mrs. Old Marxism.”

RFA: Mrs. Old Marxism?

Cai: Yes, that was my nickname. “Mrs. Old Marxism.” Because I faithfully believed…… we truly believed in what they had used to fool people.  But when you witnessed that what he said was different from the reality, and when you truly believed we should move towards equality and justice, you would think like me. I believe future generations would be like this too. They will have a lot of reflections on the current situation. And I personally believe that they may move at a faster pace than we did.

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