The world's largest Communist Party today acknowledged a growing public disillusionment with socialism in China and a spreading sense of frustration with the party's leadership.
The party newspaper People's Daily, in a front-page commentary reprinted in papers across China, said that errors made during the party's 31-year reign have prompted some Chinese to lose faith in the nature's future and to look to foreign alternatives.
"These problems and difficulties made by mistake are so numerous that some temporary doubts are understandable," wrote the newspaper's special commentator, a designation which usually signifies a senior party official.
Despite the party's past failings, the commentator argued, current Chinese leaders should be spared blame and be given another chance to prove that "only Marxism can save China.Only socialism can save China."
The commentator, attempting to stir China's power nationalism, called for a revival of patriotism "characterized by a love for the socialist motherland" to help the nation overcome its new "inferiority complex" and "to devote itself to the socialist cause."
Although the party has previously admitted the loss of public confidence because of the chaotic Cultural Revolution, today's commentary went further in pinpointing the malaise felt by millions of Chinese swept from political campaign to political campaign over the years without much material improvement in their lives.
In recent months this discontent has surfaced in a number of dramatic ways that worry the party. Young workers in Shangri have tried to set up independent, Polish-style labor unions. On college campuses, non-Marxist candidates ran for elections to local congresses. Thousands of disgruntled students and workers marched on government offices in Hebei Province.
For several weeks after an important party work conference in December, the official Chinese press harshly attacked what appears to be a small number of dissidents, calling them anarchists trying to create disorder, subvert the party and start a "second Cultural Revolution."
The attacks were followed by attempts to revive a kind of simple, optimistic politicial culture typical of more favorable times for the party. In recent weeks, Chinese have been urged to revive the ""revolutionary selflessness" of the late model soldier Lei Feng and to develop a "socialist spiritual civilization."
This week, the official press has been moderating its tone. In a series of editorials, People's Daily has advocated the use of "ideological education" to rid the party and nation of "leftism" lingering from the days of the Cultural Revolution.
Today's commentary contained a similar didactic style, first presenting dissident views expressed by average Chinese and then knocking them down with orthodox party logic.
"Some people doubt that socialism can still save China," the commentator said at one point, noting that many mistakes made by the party, chiefly the Cultural Revolution, have badly shaken its prestige.
The counter-argument comes a few lines later: "The defects and shortcomings did not come from the socialist system itself, but from the distortion and undermining of the socialist system," said the commentator, laying bame for the Cultural Revolution on its leaders.
The commentator then turned to the popular complaint voiced by intellectuals, scientists and teachers who have contributed to the nation's growth during times of political leniency only to be attacked when the party turned to the rigid left.
The frustration of these people is summed up in a phrase used in today's People's Daily that originally appeared in a controversial film on the Cultural Revolution that has been suppressed by film censors for months: "It's not that I do not love my motherland, but it's that my motherland doesn't love me."
"This is a biased and erroneous view," remarked the commentator, stressing that the party officials responsible for past persecutions have been punished and replaced by new leaders, many of whom suffered during the Cultural Revolution themselves.
"The socialist motherland belongs to and protects the people," said the commentator. "It is mistaken to blame the motherland."