Chinese Xi Jinping seeks “historic resolution” to consolidate reign at party plenary


Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to dominate the future of his country. To do so, he is set to give his past a whole new twist, placing him alongside such leaders as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

This is the opinion of many experts observing a key meeting of the Chinese Communist Party that was due to end on Thursday.

The sixth plenum of the party’s Central Committee, a predominantly male group of more than 300 senior leaders, is the last major meeting before a party convention next year where Xi, 68, is expected to secure an unprecedented third term.

A photo of Xi hovers above the Communist Party Museum in Beijing.Noel Celis / AFP via Getty Images

The crux of the four-day plenum will be whether Xi achieves what is called a “historic resolution”, which would allow him to present his own version of Chinese history – this is only the third time that ‘a party leader does.

Xi’s political philosophy – called “Xi Jinping Thought” – is already embedded in Chinese society, added to textbooks from elementary school to middle school. A landmark resolution would further consolidate his personal leadership as a defining feature of Chinese politics for years and perhaps decades to come.

The resolution will be Xi’s “attempt to further consolidate his power and define his historic legacy in the history of the party,” said Jinghan Zeng, professor of China and international studies at Lancaster University in Britain. .

In the weeks leading up to the plenum, state media praise for Xi was even more enthusiastic than usual. A commentary in the People’s Daily, the party’s flagship newspaper, called leadership “the most critical condition in the face of major historical moments and tests.” Safeguarding Xi’s “central position” and the party’s overall authority, he said, were “the fundamental guarantees for further victories” in China’s modernization campaign.

Mao Zedong inspects the “Cultural Revolution” army in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on August 18, 1966. Hulton Deutsch / Corbis via Getty Images

Mao and Deng both used their historic resolutions to criticize what had happened before: Mao, in 1945, asserting his dominance as ruler at the birth of Communist China, and Deng, in 1981, carefully criticizing the mistakes. of Mao and paving the way for further economic liberalization. . But Xi’s resolution should do more to praise what Chinese state media have called “the major achievements and historic experiences” of the party’s century-old rule – and by extension the last decade under his leadership.

This includes the Mao era, which Xi has already defended despite the millions who starved to death in the Great Leap Forward, Mao’s disastrous attempt in the late 1950s and early 1960s to rapidly industrialize. Chinese society, and the brutal purges of the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.

Chinese peasants on a communal farm in the 1950s.Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Along with Mao and Deng, Xi has already positioned himself among the most powerful leaders in post-revolutionary Chinese history. The removal of the two-term limit for presidents in 2018 effectively allowed him to stay in office indefinitely.

Whether this actually happens will be decided next year at the party congress, a biannual event in which key Chinese leaders are appointed. Between these gatherings, the party organizes seven plenums, or plenary sessions, each with its own theme.

Xi Jinping led events marking the 110th anniversary of the 1911 revolution in Beijing earlier this year. Xinhua News Agency / Xinhua News Agency via Getty Ima

In theory, these sessions are a chance for the Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s most powerful body, to come up with new policies for review. In fact, in the era of the strong man Xi, they allow the president to “assert his dominance” while creating only “the public illusion of collective governance,” according to a briefing from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank. .

“The Sixth Plenums are usually not necessarily the most important annual meetings of the Communist Party,” said Steve Tsang, professor and director of the China Institute at SOAS University in London. “But this particular sixth plenum is really very, very important.”

“The only thing that can stop Xi now is internal resistance within the upper echelons of the party, if he stumbles or makes another big mistake,” he said.

These plans come in the midst of China’s rise to international power. The country is expected to become the world’s largest economy within a decade. Its consumption of coal will determine the global fight against climate change. And he remains stuck with the United States in disputes over everything from trade and intellectual property to human rights and the status of Taiwan.

And with Xi at the helm, China has become increasingly authoritarian, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual ranking index.

He has already started to turn the page on a new chapter in Chinese history, in which “the goal is to create a” great modern socialist nation, “as Xi put it, by 2035,” Andrew Polk, Senior Partner at the Center. for strategic and international studies, said in an online presentation last month.

While Deng opposed Mao’s personality cult, Xi has amassed more personal power than anyone since the country’s founder.

Then-Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping wears a cowboy hat presented to him by his hosts while attending a rodeo during his state visit to the United States in 1979.Dirck Halstead / Getty Images

Under his leadership, tens of thousands of officials – including Xi’s political rivals – have been investigated for alleged corruption, the Chinese military has been significantly overhauled and modernized, and the country has moved away. of low-end manufacturing and is emerging as a technological powerhouse.

In recent months, Xi has shunned the growth-at-any-cost doctrine of his predecessors and instead focused on the slogan of “common prosperity” – attacking tech giants and Chinese superriches with the promise of ‘a greater distribution of income.

It is “not about Xi Jinping as a liberal with a bleeding heart,” Polk added. “His thought is that a strong country does not have a huge amount of economic inequality, as this leads to divisions in the population. “

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