Four-day plenum cements President’s place among the party’s tallest leaders and boosting his status ahead of congress next year
China’s Communist Party on Thursday adopted only the third “historical resolution” in its 100-year history, concluding a four-day plenum by enshrining current leader Xi Jinping’s place among the party’s tallest leaders and boosting his status ahead of a congress next year that will mark the start of his third term.
A communique adopted after the annual meeting of the Central Committee, called a plenum, said the party had adopted a “Resolution on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century”, which devoted considerable space to praising Mr. Xi’s leadership and calling for the party to “resolutely uphold his core position”.
It also announced the holding of the 20th Party Congress next year. It made several mentions of the need for party members to “resolutely uphold” Mr. Xi’s “core position in the party” and to “ensure that all party members act in unison”.
Observers said this will ensure Mr. Xi’s dominance — and further squeeze the already narrowed space for dissent within and outside the party — ahead of next year’s congress, when he is expected to begin a third five-year term, having abolished term limits.
This was the third resolution on history passed by the party, and the previous two marked significant changes in its political direction. In 1945, Mao Zedong passed a resolution that heralded a turn away from Stalin’s influence and established what the party calls “Mao Zedong Thought” as its leading political ideology. In 1981, Deng Xiaoping passed a resolution that marked another turn — away from the excesses of Maoism and a one-man personality cult to the reform era that launched China’s growth and propelled it towards becoming the world’s second-largest economy.
Unlike Deng’s resolution which acknowledged past mistakes under Mao such as the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution that led to millions of deaths, Thursday’s communique painted an entirely rosy picture of the party’s 100-year history, saying that under its leadership “the Chinese people had stood up and the time in which the Chinese nation could be bullied and abused by others was gone”.
The communique called on all party members to “adopt a rational outlook on the party’s history” and said that “looking back on the party’s endeavours over the past century, we can see why we were successful in the past and how we can continue to succeed in the future.”
It hailed the legacies of Mao and Deng and their ideological contributions, with the two former leaders receiving seven and five mentions respectively in the more than 5,000 word-long English version of the communique. Mr. Xi’s two predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao received cursory single mentions. Mr. Xi’s name was mentioned 17 times. It referred to “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, his ideology, as “embodying the best of the Chinese culture and ethos in our times and representing a new breakthrough in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context.”
The significance of the communique goes beyond the past and is not merely about burnishing the legacies of party leaders. It establishes Mr. Xi as among the party’s tallest leaders since Mao and Deng. Moreover, its references to history, and airbrushing of past mistakes, will likely herald a change in how history is taught in Chinese schools and colleges, for instance by emphasising only the party’s successes and by highlighting Mr. Xi’s contributions. The many references to his “core” status and the need for “unified centralised leadership” will also mean a continuation of the centralisation of power seen during Mr. Xi’s two terms at the helm.
The communique hailed his leadership in responding to the pandemic, in tackling corruption, ensuring “more balanced” economic growth, and in restructuring the military, saying that the military had "taken concrete actions to safeguard national sovereignty and security”.
It defended the crackdown in Hong Kong where a sweeping national security law passed last year, in the wake of months of protests calling for universal suffrage, all but decimated the pro-democracy movement, saying the moves “helped to restore order”. On Taiwan, it said the party “firmly opposes separatist activities seeking Taiwan independence” but made no reference to unification, for long a goal of the party leadership, amid recently rising tensions across the strait.
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