Party conclave opens in China, with Xi's grip set to tighten

The four-day conclave is expected to pass a resolution that will cement President Xi’s grip on power

November 08, 2021 11:46 am | Updated 10:22 pm IST - HONG KONG

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Xinhua via AP

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Xinhua via AP

China's Communist Party on Monday began a key four-day conclave in Beijing, which is expected to pass a resolution this week that will further tighten General Secretary and President Xi Jinping's grip on power and likely ensure his dominance remains unchallenged as he begins a third term next year.

The 370 members of the Central Committee gathered in Beijing on Monday, and Mr. Xi “delivered a work report” and “made explanations on a draft resolution on the major achievements and historical experience of the CPC’s 100 years of endeavours”, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The focus of the gathering this week, an annual meeting called a plenum, is passing what will be only the third such resolution on the party’s history in the past 100 years, following those passed by Mao Zedong in 1945 and Deng Xiaoping in 1981.

The resolution, expected to be made public on Thursday, is likely to largely hail the party’s achievements. It, is, however, not only about questions of history. It will likely emphasise Mr. Xi's contributions and establish his status in the party as a “core”leader on a par with Mao and Deng. This will translate into even greater political control for Mr. Xi in the months ahead, and leave his position unchallenged ahead of next October’s once-in-five-year party congress, where he is expected to begin a third five-year term and appoint new officials to replace those retiring.

A meeting last month that announced the plenum noted that “Chinese Communists, with Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao as chief representatives, led the whole Party and people of all ethnic groups in achieving vital progress in the revolution, construction and reform, with precious experience accumulated”.

At the core

“Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012,” the announcement said, “the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core has led the whole Party and people of all ethnic groups in making new notable achievements and accumulating new precious experience”.

Mr. Xi, who took over in 2012, has abolished term limits and ended the collective leadership model, and has declared the start of a “new era” for China, which the resolution will also likely mention, marking a phase of the country's “rejuvenation”.

The document will “look back at key events in the Party’s 100-year history, reinforce unity among the Party and strengthen the authority and leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi at its core, as well as determine the Party’s direction for the next few decades”, the Party-run Global Times reported on Monday.

Wang Junwei, a research fellow at the Institute of Party History and Literature of the CPC Central Committee, told the paper the two previous resolutions on history in 1945 and 1981 had “profound and long-term effects on unifying the thoughts and concentrating the strengths of the whole Party”, adding that this resolution would have a similar effect. The 1945 resolution established Mao’s ideology as the party's dominant guiding philosophy, while Deng’s in 1981 launched China’s reform era.

“The third one will be similar in its significance and functions — to have a clear and authoritative conclusion on a series of questions or issues in history, and pave the way for the 20th CPC National Congress next year,” Wu Xinwen of Fudan University in Shanghai told the paper, adding that “this one will cover more content compared to the previous two, as it aims to review and sum up the Party’s 100-year history”. He added it would provide an “authoritative conclusion” on debates about the party’s history.

Mr. Xi has sought to clamp down on precisely such debates during his term, for instance between neo-Maoists and those favouring greater reforms. Party scholars have recently called for putting an end to debates that contested the legacies of Mao and Deng, with the current emphasis firmly on party unity, ideological discipline, and, not to mention, unquestioningly following the current “core” leader at the helm, Mr. Xi.

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