Every Central Committee, whose membership is approved by the CCP’s National Congress at the time of its five-yearly election, holds seven plenums in its five-year cycle.
The Chinese Communist Party is in the midst of a four-day plenum, from November 8 to 11. The plenum is the most important event in China’s political calendar, a meeting of all members of the Central Committee of the party. As general secretary of the party, President Xi Jinping is leading the plenum, attended by all 370 members of the central committee.
Every Central Committee, whose membership is approved by the CCP’s National Congress at the time of its five-yearly election, holds seven plenums in its five-year cycle. Each plenum has a theme — the first two are usually about the party organisation, the third and fourth deal with governance, the fifth is about the next five-year plan, the sixth revolves around ideological issues and sets the stage for a leadership change, and the seventh is about the next National Congress.
The present Central Committee is the CCP’s 19th and this is its sixth plenum.
It was at the sixth plenum of the 18th committee in 2016 that Xi was declared a “core” leader of the CCP, a term that has been used only for three other Chinese leaders: Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin. The following year, Xi was re-elected for a second term.
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The plenum is a closed-door event. A statement is issued at the end of every plenum providing information about the discussions and the resolutions.
What should one expect from this plenum?
Xi is expected to unveil a “historical resolution” titled ‘Resolution of the CCP Central Committee on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party’s Century of Struggle’. The importance of this resolution is that there have only been two other historical resolutions, one by Mao Zedong in 1945 (Resolution of Certain Questions in the History of our Party), and the second by Deng Xiaoping in 1981 (Resolution of Certain Questions in the History of our Party Since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China). Xi’s comes in the centenary year of the Chinese Communist Party.
Mao’s resolution debunked rivals within the CCP and cemented his position as the supreme leader of the party. Deng’s was an acknowledgement of Mao’s failures, including the “Cultural Revolution” and “Great Leap Forward”. It set the stage for the economic reforms, or “Opening Up” of the economy to Chinese-style capitalism.
Xi’s commentary on the 100-year history of the CCP is expected to be less critical of the party’s mistakes, or individuals in it, as he has faced no serious threats to his leadership. Nor is it expected to dwell on controversial events such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square youth protests. It is expected to draw a line of continuity from Mao to Xi and his push away from Western-style capitalism in favour of “common prosperity” towards building China as a “modern Socialist power”.
Why is the plenum significant for Xi?
By pitching himself in the same league as Mao and Deng with a “historical resolution”, Xi is also expected to cement his bid for a third term next year.
Announcing the sixth plenum in August this year, the CCP Politburo said a “historical resolution” was required for building “a modern socialist country and promoting socialism with Chinese characteristics”. And, “for upholding General Secretary Xi Jinping’s core position at the CPC Central Committee and in the whole party, as well as the authority of the CPC Central Committee and its centralised, unified leadership”.
The stage for Xi’s continuance was already set in 2018, when the National Congress voted to amend the Chinese Constitution to remove the two-term limit for the presidency.
The 2018 Congress also wrote into the Constitution “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, a set of policies derived from Xi’s speeches.
It is now enshrined in the Constitution alongside Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, and the Theory of Three Represents, as the guiding principles of China. Xi Jinping Thought is studied at schools and universities.
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