Chen Xianyi

Utopia [乌有之乡] contributor Chen Xianyi, from the Kunlun Strategic Research Institute, passionately explains how heated discussions about Lenovo, Marx, and market reform in China culminated in the historic 2021 national call for “Common Prosperity.”


2021 will go down in history.

With everything going on the average person may have not yet realized how extraordinary 2021 was, but it will go down in history. It will not just be remembered because of the rampant global pandemic, but also because it was the year that the masses spontaneously held what came to be known as “A Great Discussion on the Criterion of Truth.” [1] The discussion was ostensibly about right and wrong in the context of transferring and privatizing state-owned assets, but, as the discussion went on, it became a theoretical referendum on Right and Wrong in general, on the direction of national reform and development.

It feels like it was only yesterday that Lenovo voted for Qualcomm’s proposal at the world 5G standard-setting body, forcing China’s Huawei out of the game, thus leaving this particular 5G standard in the hands of the United States. The national anger from 2020 is still palpable today, akin to anger about the “21 Demands” from 1919. [2] The difference is that in 1919 it was foreigners who oppressed us, while this time around it was our own countrymen that did us in. Unfortunatley, despite widespread anger and condemnation, no punishment was meted out to Lenovo for profiting from Chinese people while doing the bidding of the West. Instead, Lenovo continued to be a standard-bearer of domestic private enterprise, of 40 years of “Reform and Opening Up.” In fact, criticism of Lenovo was decried as “a resurgence of ultra-left forces,” and a statement of solidarity with Lenovo was signed by hundreds of well-known entrepreneurs. These PR efforts had the goal of silencing widespread skepticism of Lenovo.

Thus, amid public anger, the “Right and Wrong” of this incident quietly became history.

Although the Lenovo scandal seemed to be behind us, it turns out the discontent it triggered in the masses was not.

Nobody saw him coming, but a young blogger called “Mingde” lit a fuse on the tailcoat of this young history. He boldly exposed the fire-sale of Lenovo’s state-owned assets and brought the matter back to the forefront. [3] Then, through a series of videos, the famous social commentator Sima Nan drew the attention of hundreds of millions, transforming the scandal into a tidal wave of national concern and solidarity. [4] Later still, Professor Zhang Jie described the ins and outs of the incident with scientific rigor and a truth-seeking spirit, fanning the flame no less than Sima Nan’s videos did. [5] The result of all of this was that a patriotic spirit fueled a critical bombardment and widespread boycotts, and thus every last shred of the solidarity that hundreds of entrepreneurs had theatrically extended to Lenovo vanished.

Not long ago it was unheard of to question “Reform and Opening Up” or domestic private entrepreneurs. They stood as unmovable as Mount Tai, intimidating anyone who would dare say “No” to Lenovo. But today is different. Even if this particular incident doesn’t reach a satisfying resolution, even if it hazily fades away, the general public is now awake. The people’s heightened concern for the direction of state enterprise, and with any resistance against the march towards “Common Prosperity,” is now unstoppable. This is unprecedented. From the highest governmental office to the stalls in the streets and alleyways, everyone’s eyes are wide open and focused on these matters.

This is a great struggle.

It is a struggle about Right and Wrong and about the theoretical basis of “Reform and Opening Up.” Lenovo finds itself playing this historical role because of its recklessness, because it gave up its national character. Lenovo thought that the backing of a world hegemon like the United States meant that it could get away with anything it wanted. Lenovo thought that if it hung up the big banner of “Reform and Opening Up” as decoration it could trample on the will and the laws of 1.4 billion people. They underestimated the political acumen of the people, their ability to tell Right from Wrong on matters such as the donation of computers to the U.S. military, such as fire-sale of state assets, such as lavishing 100 million yuan salaries upon themselves amid Party calls to make unremitting efforts towards “Common Prosperity,” such as how they set back the development of the country’s high-tech industry through the manipulation of the government policies for personal gain, such as their indefensible covert cooperation with the U.S., etc. Lenovo’s litany of scandals has made a mockery out of the generous tolerance extended to them by 1.4 billion people.

This is a great struggle. It is great because the people spontaneously stood up to defend Marxism and Mao Zedong Thought, and because the people spontaneously began to educate themselves. This is a Marxist self-education movement. The people, especially a large number of intellectuals, began to re-read Capital and re-read the classic works of Marxist political economy. They needed to understand how these so-called theoreticians who claim to understand capital theory and Western economics have used those bizarre Western theories to deceive our people and our society over the last few decades. In many bookstores, we found that people began to look for and buy classic works of Marxism, especially the six books that Chairman Mao once recommended to CPC members, including The Communist Manifesto, Capital, and Critique of the Gotha Programme as representative classics. People are looking for answers from classic original works. The process of reading is also the process of people’s self-education. People have gradually understood that those super-rich who have become monopoly compradors are no longer our fellow travelers. [6] What they want to do is to fully implement privatization in socialist China, so as to disintegrate and destroy our socialist system.

This is a great struggle. It is great because the people, after a series of shocking revelations, saw through it all. The compradors and their dreams of monopoly care nothing for the people. Immense wealth is not enough for them, they want China to adopt the Western system, where the rich also have complete political control. They envy that arrogant and extravagant lifestyle, one that goes beyond even the lifestyles of the Liu Wencais and Huang Shirens that we once suppressed. [7] History teaches us that these people are simply biding their time until they can launch a decisive strike on the political realm.

This is a great struggle. It is great because it is a struggle to defend massive achievements, obtained through generations of struggle since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. What must be defended are our red rivers and our red mountains, our great socialist system. These capitalists have nothing to do with “Reform.” Private entrepreneurs, together with corrupt bureaucrats, abuse the banner of “market reform” to amass unethical wealth and fund a united front against socialism.

“Zero Tolerance,” a recent TV series on CCTV, explored a large number of corruption cases against government officials such as Sun Lijun. It showed that behind every individual corrupt official and collusion case there is massive network of financial support and cooperation funded by the super-rich. To put it bluntly: the compradors and their bureaucrats are our enemies. The future of this country hinges on whether we achieve victory in this struggle.

This is a great struggle. It is great because the stakes are high. People understand the painful historical lessons of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; the misleading promise of “Peaceful Evolution.” [8] Today it would seem that the CPC Central Committee, with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, has grasped the problem by the root, putting forward the goal of “Common Prosperity” for a new era. Over time it will become more and more clear that the reason why this goal took root so quickly in Zhejiang is because the challenges faced there are directly related to the future of this country and its people as a whole. The super-rich compradors, and their bureacurats, and the scholars who provide them all with theoretical cover, all hate and fear “Common Prosperity” above all. Like their counterparts in the United States, they deeply hate this pursuit. As one of many U.S. officials remarked: “the Chinese people are becoming rich, and it will be a huge disaster for the world.” [9] The super rich in China are no different. When the Central Committee put forward the keyword “Common Prosperity,” they panicked and did everything possible to sabotage the implementation of this strategic decision. Thanks to their actions, millions today clearly see their sinister natures and dark hearts.

I’m afraid that this is a struggle in which patriotic Chinese citizens cannot stand on the sidelines. Because this is a struggle against an all-out anti-socialist offensive, a struggle for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, for the realization of the dream of Chinese people. In order to emerge victorious in this struggle to defend the great principles of socialism, we must stand together as one.


  1. “Two Whatevers” on Wikipedia. [web] 

  2. “21 Demands” on Wikipedia. [web] 

  3. 2022-01-22. Shanghai Stock Exchange terminates Lenovo’s sci-tech innovation board listing, netizens issued 6 consecutive articles to question. min.news. [web] 

  4. Zhou Xin, 2021-12-10. Lenovo’s parent defends 2009 equity stake deal after storm of online attacks. SCMP. [web] 

  5. Zhang Jie’s YouTube channel. [web] 

  6. A comprador is a native-born agent employed by a foreign business to serve as a collaborator or intermediary in commercial transactions. 

  7. Liu Wencai and Huang Shiren are two of the “Four Evil Landlords.” [web] 

  8. “Peaceful Evolution,” formulated by US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in the 1950s, is the US foreign policy objective of “peacefully” realigning China and Vietnam into its world system. 

  9. Barack Obama, 2010: “If over a billion Chinese citizens have the same living patterns as Australians and Americans do right now then all of us are in for a very miserable time, the planet just can’t sustain it.” [web]