BEIJING -- The Chinese leadership is trying to redefine its people's sense of values to prevent Western values from undermining the de facto dictatorship of the Communist Party.
The Sichuan-based Chengdu Daily carried a unique editorial on Sept. 25, in which it said the Japanese cartoon "Doraemon," which is also popular in China, has a hidden political agenda -- namely that it tries to take Chinese eyes away from a Japan that does not squarely facing its past history by highlighting such values as friendship and trust.
There are countless numbers of newspapers in China. The editorial of one local paper does necessarily represent Chinese opinion. But the editorial's -- and by extension China's -- somewhat excessive sensitivity to political intentions comes from the fact that the government itself often covers up political intentions.
Meanings to an end
Slogans that say, "Freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law" can be seen everywhere in Beijing these days. The government calls prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendship "socialist core values."
Of course, the words "freedom" and "democracy" here have a different flavor from what they do in Europe and the U.S. -- namely they have meanings recognized under the one-party rule by the Communist Party.
China cannot outright deny the words "freedom" and "democracy." But if the country accepts Western values as they are, the de facto dictatorship would be threatened, which means the government has to redefine these values.
President Xi Jinping and his government are tightening control over universities, research institutes and the media. The Organization Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, which fosters party executives, in July told its party members not to become swayed by Western ideas, such as constitutional democracy, universal values and civil society. It also warned them not to become yes men to Western morals.
The government also declared a break with the fast economic growth period by calling the slow economic growth a "new normal." As for history, the government this year designated Sept. 3 as a day to commemorate the victory of the global anti-fascist war and China's victory in its war of resistance against Japanese aggression -- basically World War II.
A ceremony was held on the morning of Sept. 3 at the Museum of the War of the Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression with the attendance of Xi and other top government officials.
Xi said on the same day, "China wants to promote the long-term, steady and healthy development of Sino-Japanese relations."
But as for history, he said: "What is black is black, and you cannot turn it into white by denying it 10,000 times. What is white is white, and you can never turn it black by denying it 10,000 times." It was a lashing out at the historical views of the Japanese government led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Talks without voice
The redefinition of values and the emphasis on history of being the victor are part of national strategies to firmly maintain the party's regime and to show "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" to people at home and abroad.
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang, when he met with a group of visiting Japanese business leaders from the Japan-China Economic Association on Sept. 24, said he would like to see Japan demonstrate good faith in its handling of the territorial dispute between the two countries and in its recognition of history.
On the following day, Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers met in New York. China is likely to participate in a summit talk with Japan on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to be held in Beijing in November, as a Communist Party source says, "save its face" as the host country.
The key is whether the two countries can find new values in common. Throwing values and historical views at each other and trying to sniff out the smells of conspiracy will not help any moves forward.