Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, the eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union, considered by die-hard Communists to be the gravedigger of a great idea, was born on March 2nd, 1931 in Privolnoye, a rural locality near Stavropol in the Northern Caucasus Krai, to a Russian father and a Ukrainian mother.
Nicknamed Gorby by his numerous fans in the so-called Free World, who thought that Bolshevism could somehow be reformed and survive as an alternative to evil Capitalism, many former Soviet citizens blame him for destroying a system that, although keeping them quite poor by Western standards, at least covered their basic needs and offered stability.
Somebody who definitely can’t be counted as one of his followers is Chinese President Xi Jinping (born 1953). The first pledge Xi made after becoming General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in November 2012 was to never allow the party to suffer the same fate as its counterpart, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).
During an internal speech the next month not carried by state media he stated that the collapse of its former rival and ideological partner in 1991 was due to wavering ideals and convictions.
Xi reportedly said that at the end all it took was one quiet word from Gorbachev to declare the dissolution of the CPSU and clearly regards the sad fate of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) as a cautionary tale.
In consequence, in China Gorbachev isn’t regarded as a far-sighted reformer but as a disastrous failure, a man who led his homeland and his party, to national calamity.
For the last three decades, the CCP has generated tens of thousands of internal papers, roundtables and even documentaries on the issue which all more or less came to this very same conclusion.
That’s perfectly understandable, as the Middle Kingdom has no desire to lose a quarter of its territory, watch GDP drop by 40% and see male life expectancy cut short by seven years due to alcoholism, drugs, HIV/AIDS and suicide as reborn Russia did in the 1990.
The new Great Helmsman has witnessed what can happen if too much criticism of the establishment is allowed. When the public was invited to rise up, the CPSU fell into oblivion.
Therefore, Xi is determined to retain full control of any reform process and won’t allow the people to drive any process of change, including the crackdown on corruption, lest the unleashed forces spin out of control.
The Supreme Red Mandarin seems very aware of the great dangers that international isolation and an inward focus as well as economic and political stagnation represent, the rot within that brought the Soviet regime to its knees.
At the same time, Xi resolutely combats the infiltration of Western values, including a free press, democratic elections and the constitutional separation of powers, all of which he believes pose an insidious threat to one-party rule.
Though his growing ideological control on sectors ranging from the news media to the military, is contradictory only at first sight and for those who don’t see what progressive thinking can do to once proud nations.
The lessons to be drawn from Gorbachev’s personal history as well the continuing decline of Europe and the United States make Xi resist forces that can be described as wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Xi considers himself the antithesis of a weak fool who turned out the light on the Soviet empire. He rose to the top more or less at the age when Gorbachev was excluded from the highest echelons of politics.
For the moment Xi apparently is doing much better than the caretaker of Eurasian Communism, but it remains to be seen if he was the right choice to steer the country that in the medium run will become a superpower.