the Communist Party battles against equality

The profound irony of this kind of story seems under-appreciated:

The Beijing-appointed leader of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, said Monday evening that it was unacceptable to allow his successors to be chosen in open elections, in part because doing so would risk giving poorer residents a dominant voice in politics. ….

Mr. Leung, who has received repeated backing from the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership, argued that the way to remedy social grievances was to expand the supply of housing and spur economic growth. He stressed the importance of maintaining the confidence of Hong Kong’s corporate elite. …

Recall that the Chinese Communist Party, which backs Mr. Leung, was once totally committed to Mao Zedong Thought, which officially remains one plank in its ramshackle platform. Mao Zedong Thought demands an implacable and total People’s War against all vestiges of capitalism, the Mass Line (perfect identification of the Party with the poor masses), and Cultural Revolution (a struggle against bourgeois tendencies that must continue even after the masses have seized all power in a violent revolution). Now the same organization seeks to “insulate candidates [for Hong Kong’s government] from popular pressure to create a welfare state” and wants instead “the city government to follow more business-friendly policies to address economic inequality. …”

I’m not saying that Maoism was preferable to the present ideology. Maoism was worse, killing tens of millions and ruining countless additional lives. But the Party’s volte-face perfectly exemplifies the limited impact of ideas. During the Cultural Revolution, the government of the world’s biggest nation used every tool imaginable to stomp out capitalist enterprises, norms, and instincts. A generation later, the same government, dominated by the same families, won’t even allow a popular vote in Hong Kong because poor residents might request some modest restrains on global capitalism. So much for ideology. The Chinese Communist Party remains officially Maoist, but it is also a unitary hierarchy that monopolizes the legitimate use of force within the borders of China. Hence, in the long run, it will simply act in the self-interest of its leaders and rationalize its decisions using convenient arguments. The lesson is: pay careful attention to constitutional and institutional design.