The first act of the new leadership is a pilgrimage to Yan’an, where Mao “rectified” the Party by executing 10,000 “weak” members.
by Massimo Introvigne
To understand the Chinese Communist Party, look at symbols. In the middle of a COVID crisis that is particularly dramatic in Tibet and rising international tensions, the first act of the new Party’s Standing Committee, the group of six people who effectively rule the country under the seventh, Xi Jinping himself, was to go to Shaanxi for a pilgrimage to Yan’an.
All Chinese know the name Yan’an. It was the site of the bloody Yan’an Rectification Campaign (整風 運動), which took place from 1942 to 1944. While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was headquartered, after the long March, at Yan’an, Shaanxi, Mao, following Stalin’s suggestions, decided to destroy any possible challenge to his absolute authority by inventing a non-existing “Trotskyist” dissent, and arresting, torturing, and executing CCP members perceived as “weak” or “at risk.” Scholars believe that at least 30,000 were purged, and some 10,000 executed, in a campaign that shaped the CCP as we know it today.
Yan’an is synonym of crushing dissent, real or invented, by torturing and killing. In leading the Standing Committee to Yan’an, Xi called it a “holy site” for the Communist Party. By visiting Yan’an, he said, the Standing Committee will learn how to “continue the red bloodline and inherit the spirit of struggle” of Mao and the early CCP. They should “carry forward the spirit of Yan’an.” What happened in Yan’an, according to the General Secretary, is part of the “glorious tradition” of the CCP and should be passed “from generation to generation.”
Appearing slightly emotional, Xi reminisced that “I lived and worked in the Yan’an area for seven years, my father’s generation also went out from here, I am very familiar with this place. When I was in northern Shaanxi, every time I passed through Yan’an, I had to come to the site of the Seventh Congress, Yangjialing, Zao Yuan, Phoenix Hill and other old revolutionary sites to see. After working in the central government, I came to Yan’an three times to study and research. This time the Central Politburo Standing Committee comrades come here together, to declare that the new central leadership will inherit and carry forward the excellent revolutionary traditions and style of the Party formed during the Yan’an period, will carry forward the spirit of Yan’an.”
Forewarned is forearmed. Do not behave like “weak” members of the Party and show your enthusiasm for the new “Great Helmsman” (Mao’s preferred title, increasingly used for Xi Jinping)—or a new Yan’an-style purge will hit you.