The Chinese Military History Society held its 2021 annual conference online on May 14. Six papers were presented:
Clemens Büttner (Goethe University Frankfurt), "Recontextualizing the 'Struggles' of Xi Jinping: Comparing Current CCP Ideology to the New Life Movement of Chiang Kai-shek"
Since Xi Jinping's ascendancy to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the People's Republic of China in late 2012/early 2013, renewed emphasis on ideological work and increased efforts to reinforce the party's socio-political control have become characteristic of his rule. Accordingly, parallels between Xi Jinping and his -- presumed -- spiritual predecessor Mao Zedong (1893-1976) have been drawn. The revival of the terms "struggle" (fendou) and "fight" (douzheng) since around 2017 has also corroborated the belief that Xi is increasingly resorting to militant Maoist ideological precepts to consolidate his party's grip on power. While this paper acknowledges the recent de-ideologization drive in Chinese politics, it argues that it is hardly leftist: As Xi is neither willing to relinquish his party's exclusive claim to political power nor to abandon his ideological persuasions (and after slowly exhausting pragmatic means to legitimize his rule), he has begun to make use of syncretic ideas and concepts that -- in their entirety -- only converge in the militaristic ideology of fascism: the invocation of increasingly belligerent nationalistic, holistic, (pseudo)-palingenetic, and capitalist-socialist ideas, coupled with renewed party control and charismatic leadership. In order to substantiate this claim, this paper will juxtapose Xi's measures to fortify CCP rule with those taken by Chiang Kai-shek in the 1930s, when he, at the suggestion of military circles, initiated the -- often deemed fascist -- New Life Movement (Xin Shenghuo Yundong) to militarize and mobilize society in an attempt to modernize China and destroy the Communist threat to his claim to national power.