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China today: Yesterday once more

| Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Tempering any optimism about China's Communist Party loosening its repressive grip on its people — and about Western values taking root there along with capitalist-style economics — is new President Xi Jinping's embrace of Mao Zedong's legacy.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Mr. Xi, installed during last fall's once-a-decade leadership transition, in July opened an exhibit at Chairman Mao's lakeside summer villa, saying it should educate young Chinese about patriotism and revolution. Of course, the exhibit omits the millions who died under Mao's rule.

Visiting a village from which Mao attacked Beijing in 1949, Xi vowed that “our red nation will never change color.” He has launched a party purification effort reminiscent of Mao's “rectification” campaigns and ordered officials to keep “seven serious problems” including universal values, press freedom, civil society and judicial independence from spreading. State media are attacking the notion that China's constitution should limit the party's power. And dozens of political activists have been detained.

So much for Western hopes that with new Chinese leadership confronting a slowing economy and an increasingly restive public, Beijing somehow would embrace Western-style respect for human rights, individual liberties and the rule of law along with capitalist economics. America and its allies must treat China as the hostile, authoritarian state that it is, not as what wishful Western thinking would make it out to be.

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