Resilience and Rebellion in Contemporary China
Shortly after China’s strongman president, Xi Jinping, came to power in late 2012, the Communist Party of China circulated its now-infamous “Document No. 9,” banning seven topics from public discourse. In addition to the obvious – constitutional democracy, civil society, individual rights – the CPC forbade any speech or writing that might fall into the category of “historical nihilism.”
The CPC’s ideological police were not referring to the work of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, which is infused with the concept of nihilism, but rather to the party’s own past. As a casual reading of the document makes clear, Xi and his lieutenants were worried that a truthful accounting of the events that have shaped contemporary China would expose the CPC’s own lies. “Historical nihilism” thus captures any challenge to the party’s official historical narrative and mythology.