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Is China sympathetic to the Maoists?

April 13, 2010 13:14 IST

While the official media is silent on the issue, Chinese blogs and websites are much kinder to the banned Maoist rebels in India, writes China expert D S Rajan.

Reports with a bias in favour of the Communist Party of India-Maoist, which stands banned in India, have been appearing for some time in a few unofficial Chinese language Mao-loyalist websites in China. Separately, papers from Chinese scholars analysing the implications of the growth of Indian Maoists, are also being brought out. Without the knowledge of the Chinese authorities, such assessments would not be coming. Overall, signs of a new Chinese attention towards the increasing role of the CPI-Maoist are surfacing; in what directions it will develop in future, remains unclear.

Two Chinese language unofficial Mao-loyalist websites of the People's Republic of China, www.maoflag.net and www.gjgy.org, run respectively by the Mao Zedong Flag Net Executive Council and the Contemporary International Communist Movement web journal (Dang Dai Guo Ji Gong Yun), have come out with their prompt coverage on April 7, of the killing of Indian CRPF jawans in Chhattisgarh the previous day by 'Indian Maoist anti-government armed guerrillas'; besides, a third website, www.reviewing.cn/gongyun, (also in Chinese), operated by 'Marxist Review' (Ma Ke Si Zhu Yi Ping Lun) has been regularly giving the readers in the PRC a factual account of the activities of the (CPI-Maoist).

The Maoflag website represents a fringe group in China which proclaims that "at all times and situations, the Mao Zedong flag should be held high". Its articles appear to differ in essence from the official assessments on 'mistakes' committed by Mao, even viewing the Cultural Revolution in somewhat a positive light. The website at the same time gives the impression that it does not want to challenge the policies of the current leadership of Hu Jintao; it has complimented him and other leaders for their adherence to Mao Zedong thought.

Against the background above, the Maoflag website's favourable inclination towards the CPI-Maoist should not come as surprise. In its latest report on the massacre of jawans in Chhattisgarh, it has observed that the Indian armed forces remain incapable of dealing with the "growing strength of Maoist armed guerrillas" who could expand their influence in one-third of India's 630 districts located in the country's eastern, central and southern parts, thanks to their programme 'aimed at protecting the interests of India's poor peasants and workers deprived of their lands'.

The International Communist Movement website is also positively viewing the activities of the Maoist guerrillas in India under a regular column on 'New Democratic Revolution in India' covering events like those relating to historical development of CPI-Maoist, specifically the situation in the Maoist-affected areas. One of its blogs has described Lalgarh, till recently a Maoist-base in West Bengal as India's 'Jinggangshan' (mountain location in China where the forces of Mao and Marshal Zhu De joined to form an army which ultimately established New China).

On the April 6 killings, the website has carried a despatch from a correspondent named Sujeet Kumar inter alia assessing that the happening has only shown that the people in a majority of India's regions have not come to enjoy the benefits of the country's economic rise.

Why the authorities in China seem to be closing their eyes when some of the country's websites, no doubt unofficial, but still controllable by the government, tend to sympathise with the cause being promoted by a banned Maoist party in India? Is it a sign that Beijing can review its policy towards the Indian Maoists when the time comes? There are no straight answers yet to these questions.

It is however certain that in the current stage of Sino-Indian relations, China at state-levels would be careful and prefer not to interfere in India's internal affairs by making any moves suggestive of any encouragement, even indirectly, to the CPI-Maoist.

Regarding party-level relations with the Maoists on the other hand, the Chinese Communist Party may be facing a complex situation. On international contacts, the CCP now follows a policy, which provides for relations with political parties abroad on the basis of the principles of 'independence', 'complete equality' and 'non-interference in the internal affairs of each other'.

'Proletarian Internationalism' has ceased to be a basis for the CCP to carry out inter-party exchanges. These principles have facilitated its forging of ties with Indian political parties of all hues including the Congress and the BJP, while maintaining relations with fraternal communist parties like the CPI and CPI-Marxist.

Beijing has not so far recognised the CPI-Maoist as a Communist party. The official Xinhua news agency reports call the Indian Maoists only as 'left-wing rebels'. To discern likely future trends in this respect, Nepal's example could be relevant. In China's eyes, the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists was an 'anti-government rebel' group 'misusing' Mao's name, but once the latter under the leadership of Prachanda was able to capture power shifting to a parliamentary road, the CCP did not hesitate to set up party level contacts with it.

The CPNM Chairman has been received in China as a party leader in October 2009; the CCP's International Department has started interacting with the CPNM and Chinese party delegates attended the 8th Convention of the latter held at Butwal in February 2009.

Will the CCP follow the Nepal model to establish relationship with the CPI-Maoist at an opportune time? While nothing definite can be said on this account, the Chinese appear to be receptive to the idea of Indian Maoists choosing a parliamentary path to come to power as their Nepalese counterparts did; indicators to this effect have been some authoritative comments from scholars in China (Professor Shi Hongyuan of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 'Contemporary World Socialism Issues', No.1/2009 issue). By implication, they seem to mean that China of today does not expect the Indian Maoists to capture power through armed revolution. On its part, the CPI-Maoists may not be willing to give up the path of armed struggle, at least at this stage.

In such conditions, the CCP may only like to keep a 'wait and watch' stand vis-à-vis Indian Maoists in the near future. China may especially be careful by not extending any arms or material help openly to the CPI-Maoist in conformity with its present policy of not getting involved in the insurgency movements abroad, especially in the neighbouring countries. It is another matter, if the CPI-Maoist is able to get Chinese-made arms supplies from across the border, say through smugglers as Indian reports suggest.

The CCP and the government in China are both expected to respond, if required, by denying their involvement with the concerned online publications, as they are unofficial. Also, as a new practice, China's websites are themselves disowning responsibility to the articles being published by them attributing the viewpoints to individual writers.

Notwithstanding such situation, as well known, the Chinese one-party led system provides for checks and balances with respect to all media reporting. In the specific cases of the websites mentioned, such a systemic supervision seems to be not existing, revealing a tendency, on the part of the authorities to tacitly allow showing of sympathy to the cause of the CPI-Maoist. The tendency, which could be deliberate, may naturally cause misgivings in India; suspicions may especially arise on whether Beijing desires to keep its options open regarding its approach towards the Indian Maoists in the coming years.

D S Rajan is director of the Chennai Centre for China Studies.

D S Rajan