Harvard Professor Writes Fawning Piece About the CCP - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Harvard Professor Writes Fawning Piece About the CCP
China President Xi Jinping defends zero-COVID policy at party congress, Oct. 15, 2022 (CCTV via APTN/Bloomberg Markets and Finance/YouTube)

Where to begin? Communist regimes in their struggles with the West have benefited at various times from Western intellectuals that Lenin called “useful idiots.” Paul Hollander cataloged their naive political statements and harmful (to the West) activities in his book Political Pilgrims: Western Intellectuals in Search of the Good Society. Steve Kelman, a professor of public management at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, has entered their ranks with a fawning piece about the Chinese Communist Party in the Hill.

Kelman writes that “the current Chinese government is probably the least bad they have had in memory,” and he credits Deng Xiaoping with leading the CCP to break “with their Communist ideological past” and “essentially dismantling Maoism and allowing for the flourishing of a private economy.” China, in other words, is no longer communist, according to Kelman. “[M]ost Chinese can pursue their lives more or less as they choose,” Kelman explains, even if, as he admits, they face long prison sentences for publicly criticizing the government. And while Kelman shrinks from calling public debate in China “unconstrained,” he praises the CCP for allowing a “moderately wide range of opinions on current issues” to be voiced. The Chinese people, he claims, are not “terrified by a totalitarian state.”

Kelman acknowledges that “the political environment has become more restrictive under Xi Jinping,” but praises Xi for “the successful campaign against the kind of pervasive and daily corruption that characterized China in the decade or so before Xi.” Never mind that Xi’s anti-corruption campaigns, like Mao’s in the past, are designed to crush potential political rivals and quell any political opposition.

According to a global survey, Kelman writes, the Chinese people trust their government more than Americans trust theirs. It is not clear what Kelman is implying by citing that survey. Does China have a more trustworthy government than the United States or are Chinese citizens more reluctant than Americans to criticize their own government? To anyone other than a “useful idiot,” the answer is obviously the latter.

Kelman even excuses the CCP’s genocide (he uses the term “suppression”) of the Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province by placing it in the context of “terrorist actions … by separatists in the region whose ideology bares a strong resemblance to that of ISIS.” What is important to Kelman is “China’s achievement in lifting nearly 800 million people from poverty.” The CCP under Xi, Kelman writes, is a significant improvement on China’s previous “parasitic emperors,” the “corrupt kleptocracy of Chiang Kai-shek,” and “brutal communist revolutionaries led by Mao Zedong.”

Most China experts, however, believe that Xi has accumulated more power than any Chinese ruler since Mao. And noticeably absent from Kelman’s article are any references to China’s massive military build-up, its aggressive actions in the South China Sea and toward Taiwan, the CCP’s construction and expansion of a “surveillance state” that rivals anything Orwell or Huxley described in their novels, and the CCP’s expressed goal of replacing the United States as the world’s leading power.

Nor does Kelman mention Xi’s expressed commitment to “struggle for communism our entire lives” and his prediction of the inevitable triumph of socialism over capitalism. Perhaps he should read the revealing article by Matt Pottinger, David Feith, and Matthew Johnson in Foreign Affairs that uses Xi’s own words to show his and the CCP’s commitment to the victory of communism.

China is not the flourishing private economy imagined by Kelman, but an economy and a society where the state and the party are everywhere and control everything. In his book The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century, Norwegian political scientist Stein Ringen notes that the CCP is not, as Kelman implies, “single-mindedly dedicated to economic growth, but rather is “single-mindedly dedicated to its own preservation.” The CCP, Ringen writes, is “present in every government agency, central and local, in every unit of the military, in every town and village and neighborhood, in every school, in every university department and every student residence, in every business, and in every registered social organization.”

China expert Stein Ringen calls the CCP the “perfect dictatorship.” China expert Steven Mosher calls the CCP the “bully of Asia.” But useful idiot Steve Kelman concludes that the CCP “isn’t half bad.”


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