The Communist Party of China (CPC) is bringing back a revolution-era greeting that has since been adopted by the country’s homosexual community.
“All cadres should now greet each other as comrades within the Party,” the Chinese government’s anti-corruption division demanded of the party’s 90 million members earlier this month, reports the South China Morning Post. The term “comrade” is commonly used as a form of address among Chinese homosexuals; however, the government is retaking the expression to eliminate the significance of ranks and titles in the party.
The revival of the term, the alternative meaning for which has never been acknowledged by state leadership, is intended bring about greater equality within the party.
“Comrade,” or “tongzhi” in Chinese, was the standard greeting for both males and females under Mao Zedong’s leadership. As an official form of address, “comrade” faded from Chinese society and was largely considered outdated by the 1990s, the Financial Times explained.
Only top party officials still use the term regularly.
“Comrade” was picked up by China’s LGBT community in Hong Kong in the late 1980s and then spread to Taiwan. Shortly thereafter, the term — with its new meaning — appeared in mainland China. The term is used to show affection, unity, and comradery in a society that does not accept homosexuality.
In some cases, the term can also be used as a slur expressing disdain or contempt for persons outside traditional heterosexuality and heteronormativity.
Some argue that the government’s efforts to retake the word “comrade” is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts to cement absolute control over the party.
“It’s a retreat to stressing faith in Communism, going back to Chairman Mao’s era of unified thinking and control,” Zhang Lifan, a Chinese historian and political analyst, told the SCMP, adding that, “The decision makers don’t pay attention to history, neither do they learn from historical lessons.”
“We can’t simply go back to that period given the current age of diversity,” he said. “Only Lenin would use such greetings. Only those from secret societies would address each other that way. No modern political party would do this today,” Zhang further commented.
The move to revive “comrade” could also be designed to divert attention away from Xi’s centralization of power as the “core” of the CPC, Chen Daoyin, a professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, told reporters.
The party asserts that the term will bring about an “atmosphere of equality.”
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