Archive for February 26th, 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Xia Chuntao: How Lei Feng Embodies China’s Political Advantage, and its Soft Power

A remark in advance which might be important for JR’s individual economic interests. My country’s (Germany) leaders seem to see no problem in cooperating with Confucius Institutes (i. e. the Chinese Communist Party), in the education of young people here. On the other hand, there seems to be a tendency to see “Communism” at work in our public institutions. Some 27 “Left Party” members of federal parliament are currently under state surveillance. (They aren’t really left. They only want their money back.)

The fact that I’m not making fun of Lei Feng on the great model soldier’s day, but rather conscientiously translate a celebratory article instead, does not mean that I would identify with the CCP’s lofty goals.

Clear enough? Thank you.

The author of the following article is Xia Chuntao (夏春涛).
Main link:
Links within blockquotes added during translation.

The 17th Central Committee’s Sixth Plenary Session clearly calls for “deepening and developing learning from Lei Feng’s activities, take measures to promote learning the regularization of learning activities. We must deeply understand this instructive spirit, vigorously carry forward Lei Feng’s spirit1), actively promote the building of the system of socialist core values, and make efforts to foster a good ideological and ethical prevailing custom.

Lei Feng is an Eternal Spiritual Monument

49 years ago, Mao Zedong and the other revolutionary elders, one after another, dedicated writings to Lei Feng, on which Lei Feng’s name spread all over the Divine Land2), and the masses rose to activities of learning from Lei Feng, which molded a sound social custom, continuously aroused the enthusiasm to build socialism, and had a profound effect.


Entering a new period, the collective second generation of central leaders with Deng Xiaoping at the core called for building a high-quality and highly socialist civilization. Deng Xiaoping pointed out that spritual civilization was not only about education, science, and culture, but also about a position and principle of Communist ideology, ideals, beliefs, ethics, discipline, and comradely relations between people. He commended the solemn revolutionary slogan of serving the people whole-heartedly, demanded that every party member put all efforts into Communist ideology and ethics, and carried the set of revolutionary spirit, formed over a long period, to the entire people, to make it a major pillar of our countgry’s spiritual civilization. The party’s 12th Central Committee’s sixth session put forward that the fundamental task of building spiritual civilization was to foster idealistic, ethical, civilized, disciplined socialist citizens, to improve the entire Chinese peoples’ ideological and ethical as well as its scientific and cultural quality. Learning-from-Lei-Feng activities sent out new vitality in the new era, and led to spiritual-civilization activities in every place, with “learn-from-Lei-Feng, showing loving warmth” as a theme, which became a factor in pushing forward our country’s reform and opening, and its socialist modernization and construction.

The third collective generation of central leaders with Jiang Zemin at the core also attached great importance to advocating the Lei-Feng spirit. In 1990, a written dedication by Jiang Zemin to “learning from Comrade Lei Feng, carrying forward Lei Feng’s spirit” was officially announced.When meeting with the ranks and files of a “Lei-Feng group” in Fushun, Jiang Zemin praised them for continuing learning from Lei Feng, and urged them to continue their learning activities, thus advancing further. Subsequently, the entire country commonly carried out mass activities to build spiritual civilization. On a gathering in 1993 to commemorate Mao Zedong’s and the other revolutionary elders’ written dedications to Lei Feng, Comrade Hu Jintao pointed out that “a mass activity which goes on continuously through decades can influence the social customs of a whole era. This shows Lei Feng’s great value and meaning for the past of our nation and society, and its continuing value and meaning in the present tense”.

Since the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the party’s Central Committee with Hu Jintao as the secretary general, continues to attach importance to advocating Lei Feng’s spirit. In January 2005, on a conference for the strengthening and improvement of the nation’s university students’ ideological and political education, Hu Jintao emphasized that among the students, all ideology and spirit that benefitted the country’s prosperity and the people’s happiness needed to be advocated: the fine national traditions, as well as the Jinggangshan spirit, the Lei-Feng spirit, and other revolutionary traditions and epochal spirits. The 17th Central Committee’s sixth plenary session put forward that the socialist core-values system should be blended into citizen education, the building of spiritual civilization, and the entire party’s building process, and called for “deepening and developing learning from Lei Feng1), and taking measures to promote the regularization of Learning-from-Lei-Feng activities”.
In short, for nearly half a century, our party has always highly valued and vigorously promoted the Lei-Feng spirit, one after another carried forward Lei Feng’s spirit as a content in the building of spiritual civilizaton, the building of a system of socialist core values, and continuously injected new vitality and connotation into Learning-from-Lei-Feng activities. Lei Feng lives in the hearts of millions, he has become a spiritual monument. Lei Feng’s spirit inspired and influenced several generations, and is a valuable spiritual asset of our party, and our country.

In the Initial Stage of Socialism, and under the Conditions of a Market Economy, Lei Feng’s Spirit must still be Vigorously Carried Forward

Our country’s reform and opening has been going on for 33 years, a socialist market economy has been established nearly 20 years ago, and the yi da, er gong3) pattern has become history. Concepts of making one’s own decisions in one’s own business, getting rich through hard work have been encouraged and widely recognized, and an economy of non-publicly owned business has flourished. That’s why social and economic composition, organization pattern and employment methods have become more diverse, there are fewer “danwei members”, and more and more [fully-fledged] “members of society”, which leads to characteristics such as independent ideological thought, own choices, variety, and diversity, which, objectively speaking, made it more difficult to carry out mass activities to learn from Lei Feng. There are people who believe that because the times have changed, and because the concepts have changed, it would no longer be appropriate to emphasize the need to learn form Lei Feng, and even a belief that Lei Feng’s spirit had become “outdated”.

This argument is untenable. Lei Feng is known as a Communist soldier and embodies the Communist spirit. Our country will for a long time remain in the initial phase of socialism, [but] “the Party’s highest ideal and final goal is the realization of Communism” – this has been explicitly written into the party’s constitution. It must be noted that China’s ownership structure still maintains public ownership as the mainstay, “no work, no pay”4) as the mainstay in the distribution system, the emphasis on people-orientation, and “fairness and justice” to promote and to achieve common prosperity. This shows that our country’s socialist system and socialist core values have not changed, and that our country’s socialist nature and development path have not changed. Therefore, the spirit of Lei Feng represents a lofty level, worth to be aimed for, which is by no means “outdated”. Lei Feng was and remains an advanced model who deserves admiration.

The author mentions inherent market deficiencies, money worship, hedonism etc. as ills which would be hard to cure under a capitalist system. However, under China’s socialist system, these ills could be overcome, or at least be checked on. Learning from Lei Feng was one of socialism’s superiorities (开展群众性学雷锋活动,正是发挥这种优越性的一种有效途径).

[…] The 17th Central Committee’s Sixth Plenary Session emphasized: “the Socialist core value system is the spirit of rejuvenating the country, is the quintessence of advanced Socialist culture and decides the development orientation of Socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Therefore, in the initial phase of socialism, and under market economy conditions, it is necessary to carry Lei Feng’s spirit forward.
[…] 十七届六中全会强调:社会主义核心价值体系是兴国之魂,是社会主义先进文化的精髓,决定着中国特色社会主义发展方向。因此,在社会主义初级阶段和市场经济条件下,需要继续大力弘扬雷锋精神。

Under the third subtitle – “Advocating Lei Feng’s Spirit, Establishing Sound Ideological and Ethical Customs” (弘扬雷锋精神 树立良好的思想道德风尚) – the author continues to commend Lei Feng’s healthy influence when it comes to the temptations of office (or power), and makes (not very specific) recommendations on how to implement the use of Lei Feng. He also emphasizes why Lei Feng in particular should be the adequate model for center the eyes of the party members attention on the lofty goals:

Lei Feng was in an ordinary position, but achieved results which weren’t ordinary at all. As revolutionary elder Xie Juezai said, “Comrade Lei Feng was a common man, someone everyone can lern from. Comrade Lei Feng is great; and only through efforts, people can learn from him.” By now, our standards of living have increased a lot, and these conditions can be much more conducive than they were at Lei Feng’s time. The key is if there will be awareness.” […]
雷锋从身边小事做起,在平凡岗位上作出了不平凡业绩。正如老一辈革命家谢觉哉所说:“雷锋同志是平凡的,任何人都可以学到;雷锋同志是伟大的,任何人都要努力才能学到。”现在我们的生活水平大大提高,比雷锋当年更具备帮助别人的条件,关键在于有没有这种意识。 […]

[…] For nearly half a century, advanced collectives and individuals have emerged from Learning-from-Lei-Feng activities. Under the new historical conditions, the reproduction of Lei Feng’s spirit and style can help to promote our country’s social development and progress. From this perspective, Lei Feng’s spirit is manifestation of our political advantage, and of our country’s soft power.
[…] 近半个世纪特别是新时期以来,在学雷锋活动中涌现出许多先进集体和先进个人,在新的历史条件下再现了雷锋精神风采,有力推动了我国社会的发展和进步。从这个角度说,雷锋精神是我们政治优势的体现,是我国文化软实力的体现。



1) Lei Feng didn’t feature prominently in the document in question, but he did get a mention. Do a browser search of Lei Feng here. The translation linked to doesn’t make it entirely clear if the adoption of steps to promote the regularization (or normalization) of study activities relate to Lei Feng in particular,or if they are meant to be more general “studying activities”. My own translation doesn’t make that clear, either, but reading the original Chinese line in question again – 深入开展学雷锋活动,采取措施推动学习活动常态化 -, normalization, regularization or habitualization should indeed refer to “Learning-from-Lei-Feng activities” in particular.

2) 神州大地 – Shénzhōu is a more sublime term for China.

3) From Village China under Socialism and Reform, by Huaiyin Li, Stanford, 2009, page 83 (chapter “The Great Leap Forward and its Aftermath”):

The people’s communes were characterized in official propaganda as being “big and collective” (yi da er gong). They were “big” because each commune had, on average, 4,797 households, which was ore than 30 times the size (164 households) of an average former advanced co-op [footnote/sources], they were “collective because the commune controlled to varying degrees all the resources and production within its boundary.

4) 按劳分配 – “no work, no pay”, apparently.



» Lei Feng to Inspire New Generation, China Daily, Febr 23, 2012
» When Lei Feng meets Modernity, Global Times, Febr 23, 2012



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