Xi Jinping’s green language is about party power

During a visit to Kazakhstan in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed for the first time his vision of an environmentally friendly development policy. He announced, “We want to have not only mountains of gold but also mountains of green. If we have to choose between the two, we prefer green to gold. And anyway, the green mountains are themselves mountains of gold.

Since 2013, this “two mountains” theory, as Chinese state media call it, has become central to Xi’s political rhetoric and strategic vision for China’s eco-friendly economic future. China. This might seem like an odd choice for an ecological view that is generally more associated with forests and fields than with jagged slopes. But mountains, metaphorical and otherwise, have played a key role in the history of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

According to CCP folklore, the “cradle of the Chinese revolution” is the Jinggang Mountains. It was in this mountain range that Chinese leader Mao Zedong established the first rural revolutionary base in 1927 for his communist forces. Seven years later, Mao’s Red Army began its long march through the steep, snow-capped mountains of northern China. This treacherous journey later formed the backbone of Mao’s hagiography and reinforced his status as a charismatic leader. In a December 1935 speech, Mao declared: “The Long March is propaganda. He announced to some 200 million people in 11 provinces that the Red Army road is their only path to liberation. The use of mountains as a metaphor is not new to Chinese political culture. In a 1948 speech to party cadres, Mao said his revolutionary forces must topple the “three great mountains” of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism.

During a visit to Kazakhstan in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed for the first time his vision of an environmentally friendly development policy. He announced, “We want to have not only mountains of gold but also mountains of green. If we have to choose between the two, we prefer green to gold. And anyway, the green mountains are themselves mountains of gold.

Since 2013, this “two mountains” theory, as Chinese state media call it, has become central to Xi’s political rhetoric and strategic vision for China’s eco-friendly economic future. China. This might seem like an odd choice for an ecological view that is generally more associated with forests and fields than with jagged slopes. But mountains, metaphorical and otherwise, have played a key role in the history of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

According to CCP folklore, the “cradle of the Chinese revolution” is the Jinggang Mountains. It was in this mountain range that Chinese leader Mao Zedong established the first rural revolutionary base in 1927 for his communist forces. Seven years later, Mao’s Red Army began its long march through the steep, snow-capped mountains of northern China. This treacherous journey later formed the backbone of Mao’s hagiography and reinforced his status as a charismatic leader. In a December 1935 speech, Mao declared: “The Long March is propaganda. He announced to some 200 million people in 11 provinces that the Red Army road is their only path to liberation. The use of mountains as a metaphor is not new to Chinese political culture. In a 1948 speech to party cadres, Mao said his revolutionary forces must topple the “three great mountains” of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism.

For the CPC, the mountains represent the difficulties of building a socialist China while embodying the heights the Chinese people can reach under the supposedly benevolent care of the party. The mountains symbolically served as sources of spiritual rejuvenation that linked party aspirations to the land itself. It signifies the unity of China’s revolutionary policy with its agrarian origins.

The CCP’s use of mountain metaphors is one of those rare elements of communist language whose origins can be traced back to Chinese cultural traditions. According to Taoist philosophy, mountains serve as communication channels between heaven and earth. In ancient times, emperors made sacred pilgrimages, combining religious and political power, to the Five Great Mountains that stretch through the heart of China. This idea of ​​mountains as refuges has deep cultural roots in China, a rhetorical heritage that the CCP is happy to use.

Under Xi, the mountain metaphor has taken on greater symbolic prominence in official CCP discourse. The “two mountains” theory connects Xi directly to Mao’s revolutionary legacy and legitimizes Xi as a historically significant Chinese leader on par with Mao: the “great helmsman”. Much like Mao’s encouragement to the Red Guards to retrace the Long March via pilgrimages, Xi also encouraged Chinese citizens to review the party’s revolutionary history. “Only by experiencing the hardships of the revolutionary era can people truly receive an education,” Xi said in a 2016 speech. From 2016 to 2020, the Chinese government has allocated nearly 370 million dollars to the promotion of “red tourism”.

Other communist regimes attached great political importance to their regions and mountainous terrain. For example, North Korean state media refers to its dynastic rulers as part of the “Mount Baekdu Revolutionary Line”, and the Castro regime in Cuba has proudly declared its goal of “transforming the Andes Mountains into the Sierra Maestra of Latin America”. America.”

In reality, communist parties have an extremely poor record when it comes to environmentalism and sustainability. The Chernobyl nuclear accident and the decimation of Lake Baikal and the Aral Sea turned the end of the Soviet Union into an ecological hell. In rural areas of North Korea, highland deforestation has led to landslides and soil erosion, compounding food insecurity issues in the countryside. China is no stranger to environmental problems in mountainous areas. For example, in northwest China near the city of Lanzhou, hundreds of mountains have recently been leveled to make way for urban planning and more urban housing complexes. However, due to dirt from the excavation, the removal of the mountain peak exacerbated the already poor air quality in Lanzhou.

With rising temperatures and air pollution problems in China, Xi has taken the lead in tackling climate issues and promoting ecological sustainability both at home and abroad. In a September 2021 speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Xi promised not to build coal-fired power projects overseas and pledged to make China carbon neutral by 2060. an official document of the CPC Central Committee on rural revitalization in February, the party announced their tough measures “with teeth” to improve agricultural land, such as guiding the new development of forestry industries and orchards on hills and flanks mountains.

Resolving the dialectical relationship between environmentalism and economic development has been one of Xi’s own theoretical contributions to Chinese socialist doctrine. At the 2021 Climate Leaders Summit on Earth Day, Xi said, “We must commit to green development. Green mountains are gold mountains. Protecting the environment is protecting productivity, and improving the environment is increasing productivity – the truth is as simple as that. Rapid industrial growth at all costs was no longer the only rallying cry to the party’s economic vision. Amid the U.S. pushback on global environmental issues, the CCP leadership recognized that environmentalism and sustainability was a global and national economic issue on which Beijing could take the lead.

Xi’s “two mountains” concept is part of his leadership’s focus on tackling climate change alongside promoting economic growth. In 2014, Xi said, “Protecting the ecological environment means protecting the productive forces. Clear water, green mountains and mountains of gold and silver are not opposites. The key is people and ideas.

The CCP leadership has made a significant shift from a vision of economic growth to the extraction of resources from the natural environment, such as mining in mountainous regions, to a vision of technologically advanced cities and cyberpower as the future of sustainable economic development. Official Chinese rhetoric has recognized that “industrial greening” must take place. For example, in 2017, Miao Wei, one of China’s top industry and technology regulators, wrote in a report for the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology that “green manufacturing is a key trend in the development of the manufacturing industry. It is also the only way to solve the resource and environmental constraints encountered in China’s industrialization.

But while mountains can be symbols of prosperity, they can also be obstacles. Chinese citizens now say that the “three great mountains” facing China’s growing middle class are the rising costs associated with education, housing and health care. It’s a language the party hasn’t embraced but an issue it still mistrusts. The CCP has moved from the literal mountain to the metaphorical mountain in its economic outlook. However, a constant feature of official CCP discourse is the inflexible role of party discipline and control in all matters of socio-economic life. Men can literally move mountains in China, but the party commands them.

The use of mountains in Xi’s slogan is not empty rhetoric. This points to the important ways in which Xi sees himself as the next torchbearer of Chinese socialist construction – building on the Maoist legacy and transforming the nature of China’s economy from resource extraction to one based on human capital, tightly controlled by the party.

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