July 14, 2021 Sujeev Shakya

The difference between communism in China and Nepal

Three decades of existence has shown us that Nepali communists have misguided priorities.

Last week, as part of the celebrations of the hundred year anniversary of the Communist Party of China, a high-speed train was inaugurated from Lhasa to Nyingchi, just 17 kilometres from the border of the state of Arunachal Pradesh in India. There will be more such projects announced by China as it would like to take the opportunity to share its economic success story with the world.

During the early days of the pandemic, when the world was grappling with how to deal with the pandemic, China just pushed containment. And now, with vaccination, it proudly claims that it has jabbed a billion doses at home and exported around 400 million. So, it is very strange that Nepal, which has in the past three decades seen different forms of communist government and currently remains the only country ruled by a communist party in South Asia, lags behind so much.

In Unleashing The Vajra, I talk about how the communist parties in Nepal were modelled around the Indian communist parties especially with strong influence of the parties in West Bengal. It was all about rent-seeking on poverty, talking about land rights, disrupting businesses through labour unions, considering wealth to be something bad and the wealthy to be inherently evil.

It was always about hypocrisy, where one talks about the Red Book during the day and drinks Red Label at night. Communists leaders and their children got rich by winning elections talking about poverty. Unlike in China, where the aim was to become a global superpower, communists in Nepal and West Bengal ensured they exploited and extracted, by calling superpowers imperialists and expansionists. If they were to become a superpower then they would have fewer avenues to extract undeserved wealth; therefore, poverty became a great weapon.

No institution building

One of the most admirable systems of the Chinese Communist Party has been the way they groom leaders from the grassroots level and they move up to manage different portfolios and then are promoted like in an efficiently managed corporation or organisation. A leader would have gone through many positions where they would have stood out before getting to the top.

In Nepal, like in India, the organisation did not matter. Therefore, leaders would take up being part of the king’s party or move lock stock and barrel to another party. When so many communist parties in Nepal worked towards federalism and the new constitution, not a single party has till now created a structure where grassroots leaders would then grow in stages to become national leaders like in China.

In the recent power grab perpetuated by Prime Minister KP Oli, it seems ‘horse trading’ (a very popular word used in the Indian democratic system) became the way to manage communist factions rather than to build organisations. Therefore, communist leaders in Nepal do not at all agree with the China model of party building. As one communist leader shared in private, there are too many Xis and no Xi doctrine in this country. The fact that Nepali communist parties have not shown a leadership development processes, means they have very low credibility in front of some of the key thinkers within the Chinese Communist Party. Therefore, the Nepali leaders have no access to the key Chinese ones.

Lack of global ambition

Apart from sending children abroad to study or settle down, there has been no global ambitions of Nepali communist leaders, unlike their Chinese counterparts. When was the last one heard of a Nepali communist leader presenting papers on a credible international platform? Where do you see them during their foreign trips apart from being at their some old cadre’s house in some country eating masu-bhaat?

China’s growth has been about setting global ambitions. Today, global companies look at how Chinese companies act and use that inspiration, whether in e-commerce or technology. Nepali communist leaders think globalisation and capitalism are against their political interests and equate anything that they cannot achieve with these. For instance, if we talk about how dirty Kathmandu is or how bad our urban planning is, they quickly refer to cleanliness and good city plans being a capitalist concept and throw it away. They do not want to compete with the world, and competing with the known for them is an easier path to stay in power.

The hundred years of the Communist Party of China will surely bring about more news on the progress of our northern neighbour. At the same time, we will get to hear views on what they have gone wrong with. For the Nepali communist, its just time to think and act like them rather than mimicking the failed Indian communist model they have continuously being modelled around.