The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), the communist government’s top brain trust, has been infiltrated by hostile foreign forces.
So said Zhang Yingwei, chief of the CASS Party Discipline Inspection Office, in a June 10 speech to the Institute of Modern Chinese Historical Research, one of 37 CASS research and advisory bodies.
Mr. Zhang noted four primary “ideological problems” within CASS, widely viewed as the main stronghold for China’s Marxist-Leninist ideologues and regime supporters, that require immediate redress.
He accused CASS scholars of trying to obscure the core missions of the Chinese Communist Party and of using the Internet to produce transnational heretical theories. He also accused them of conspiring to foment dissent during every politically sensitive period and of accepting direct infiltration by unspecified foreign forces.
His comments were first reported by the Communist Party mouthpiece newspaper, People’s Daily online.
Mr. Zhang’s remarks reflect a Leninist dictum deeply rooted in the Communist Party: A fortress is easiest to take from within. The phrase is so often repeated and cited across China that it has become conventional wisdom.
This paranoia over foreign infiltration and internal traitors has wrought unspeakable carnage and suffering for China in 65 years of communist rule — one of the bloodiest in human history — whose climax was reached during Mao Zedong‘s Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1977 that nearly ruined the nation.
Mr. Zhang’s statements elicited a psychological chill throughout China’s academe, ominously reminiscent of Party rhetoric on the eve of the Cultural Revolution that sought to root out “Marxist revisionists,” “traitors” and “foreign agents” within the elite core of the Communist Party.
Over the past three decades, many of the thousands of CASS scholars, some of them China’s best and brightest, have developed normal research relationships with their colleagues in foreign countries. Nonprofit groups such as the Ford Foundation and the Luce Foundation, as well as colleges and universities around the world have established academic and exchange programs with their Chinese counterparts, including CASS.
Yet the collaborations with international organizations are closely monitored and controlled by China’s ideological and security organs, especially for sensitive institutions such as CASS, whose scholars constantly run into trouble with trigger-happy internal security agencies.
In 2006, Lu Jianhua, deputy chief of the CASS Institute of Public Policy, was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison for “leaking state secrets” in four of his articles published overseas.
In 2009, Jin Xide, deputy director of CASS’ Institute of Japan Studies, was charged with being a spy for Japan and South Korea; he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. His alleged act of espionage was revealing that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il was ill.
Last month, CASS philosopher Xu Youyu was detained for attending a private meeting with friends to discuss commemorative efforts for the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre this month.
Mr. Zhang’s warnings do not appear to be an aberration of Chinese policy.
Since Xi Jinping became supreme leader in late 2012, China has shifted into overdrive with a campaign to strengthen the ideological purity of the Communist Party, as well as establish an overarching “national security” state.
Mr. Xi holds a doctorate in “scientific socialism” — a euphemism for Marxism-Leninism — from Beijing-based Qinghua University. He is not only China’s ideologue-in-chief as Communist Party general secretary, but also is chairman of the powerful new Chinese National Security Commission that monitors and polices all major aspects of the nation’s daily routines, especially academic activities with foreign collaborators.
• Miles Yu’s column appears Fridays. He can be reached at email@example.com and @Yu_miles.