Socialist ‘Core Values’ Don’t Go Down Too Well in China

February 12, 2014 Updated: February 12, 2014

The front page of People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, tried to mix things up on Feb. 12, with an extra “propaganda section” on the top right, striking readers’ eyes.

It had 12 words laying out “Socialism’s Core Values” in large red font, with a yellow and orange background. Just what are these values? According to People’s Daily: “Prosperity, democracy, civilization, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity, and kindness.”

Alongside these values — expressed in print for the first time — the newspaper published a commentary. “When people have belief, the nation has power,” it said. It continued that these socialist values should be inculcated into all Chinese, and Chinese people should uphold those values in order to improve society. 

The response to these high-sounding platitudes should have been predictable. Chinese Internet users found it all richly ironic, and quickly took to harshly mocking the new values, and the Party. 

These core socialist values, they said, were “lies”, “fake values,” and even “shameless propaganda.” 

“All the 12 words are good words, but the problem is that you [the authorities] only say it, and never do it!” Netizen Fengxue Zuitianya responded on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform in China.  

Commentators remarked upon the Communist Party’s attempts to “monopolize” values. “Those sounding words are just to show that the Chinese Communist Party, the only ruling party, monopolizes everything — politics, power, the economy, natural resources, and truth,” Hua Po, a Beijing-based political analyst, told Sound of Hope radio.“That is the Party’s purpose in promulgating the socialist values.”

Others pointed out the fact that the Communist Party has been an active persecutor of spiritual groups, religions, dissidents, and people with independent thoughts. In this context, Chinese say, the Party has no place in promoting these values. 

“It the Chinese Communist Party cannot even reach a basic standard in human rights, how can it make such values on behalf of the people?” questioned Zhu Xinxin, a former veteran media figure, in an interview with Sound of Hope radio.

“The Party has been yelling such slogans for decades. It doesn’t have any effect but to whitewash the regime. Values are something formed naturally in people. It’s not something a dominator can order and force people to accept.”

Some Chinese Internet users also pointed out that the so-called socialist core values are not much different from the values advocated in capitalist societies, except “patriotism.” 

A netizen with the username “My belief is democracy, equality, and freedom” had this to say: “The authorities raised a campaign against bourgeois liberalization on a grand scale 20-some years ago. And now it becomes the core values of socialism. Are they mocking themselves?”