Analysts See China’s Xi Moving to Cement Power at Leaders’ Meeting – The Foreigners magazine In tokyo
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Analysts See China’s Xi Moving to Cement Power at Leaders’ Meeting

Written by on November 10, 2021


WASHINGTON – This week, the Chinese Communist Party’s sixth plenum is holding a four-day closed-door meeting that is widely expected to pave the way for a historic third term for Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The conclave, from November 8 to 11, gathers some 400 party leaders, military chiefs, financial leaders and top academics in a heavily guarded Beijing hotel to discuss China’s future. All aspects of the event are highly secretive, prompting widespread speculation about the outcome.

China Ruling Party Plenary to Further Cement Xi’s Grip on Power

It is the last meeting before the 2022 party congress, China’s most important political event, which is held once every five years. Party plenums are held in the intervening years, allowing leaders to tackle specific issues.

For Xi, ‘this year’s plenum has especial significance as he sets the stage for a presumed third term as head of the CCP, military and state, to be ratified at the Party Congress in 2022,’ according to the U.K.-based Council on Geostrategy.

On Monday, Xi delivered a report presenting his interpretation of the ‘important achievements and historical experiences of the party’s 100 years of struggle,’ according to reports by the state-run Xinhua News Agency. Details of Xi’s resolution are expected to be published only after the plenum concludes.

Xi’s report marks the third time a Chinese leader has presented a ‘Resolution on History.’ The resolution is expected to reinforce Xi’s power, present his philosophy against the backdrop of the CCP’s 100th anniversary, and position him as potentially ruler for life.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, waves above a large portrait of the late leader Mao Zedong during a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Chinese Communist Party at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, July 1, 2021. Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, waves above a large portrait of the late leader Mao Zedong during a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Chinese Communist Party at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, July 1, 2021.

The Chinese Communist Party at 100: Hopes and Disappointments

The first resolution, adopted at a party plenum in 1945, declared that Mao Zedong had formulated the ‘correct political line’ to lead the CCP. The document helped Mao consolidate his leadership so he had full authority when he declared the creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Deng Xiaoping, who succeeded Mao as China’s leader in 1978, initiated the second resolution in 1981. The ‘Resolution on Certain Historical Issues of the Party’ denounced the Cultural Revolution, blamed Mao as the one ‘chiefly responsible’ for its chaos and set China on the road to economic reform.

FILE - People wave red flags during the filming of a Chinese Communist Party propaganda video in an upscale shopping district in the Sanlitun area in Beijing, China, Oct. 19, 2021. FILE – People wave red flags during the filming of a Chinese Communist Party propaganda video in an upscale shopping district in the Sanlitun area in Beijing, China, Oct. 19, 2021.

Both Mao and Deng ruled until their deaths, as the Nikkei Asia pointed out in an analysis that found Xi’s trajectory more similar to Mao’s. In part, this is because Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has allowed him to drive out ‘one foe after another.’

The Nikkei analysis added ‘To put it simply, the new document indicates the possibility of Xi becoming the third great figure in the party’s history.’

Like Mao and Deng, Xi has been labeled ‘the core’ of the CCP, a designation made in 2016 after a similar four-day plenum.

According to Song Yongyi, a historian who specializes in the study of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, both the 1945 and the 1981 documents were used to consolidate power and establish new strategic goals for the country.

‘Through both resolutions, Mao and Deng became the absolute leaders of the country. The 1945 resolution set the goal to unite the country, and the 1981 resolution has led China from a closed economy to opening up and reform. So you can see these are important documents,’ he told VOA Mandarin.

Song, who works in the California State University, Los Angeles library, added that through passing his own resolution, Xi’s goal is to elevate himself to the level of Mao and Deng.

‘Eventually, I think he’s looking to become president of China for life,’ Song said.

In 2018, the National People’s Congress passed a constitutional amendment removing the presidency’s two-term limit. Although Xi can now legally serve a third term, some analysts argue that the CCP leadership must endorse the move.

FILE - A man stands near a propaganda display of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the Sanlitun shopping district on a polluted day, in Beijing, China, Nov. 6, 2021. FILE – A man stands near a propaganda display of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the Sanlitun shopping district on a polluted day, in Beijing, China, Nov. 6, 2021.

Xi ‘needs the legitimacy of leading members of the party for an unprecedented additional term, especially when he is not normatively following a term-limit convention – convention, not law – in the post-Mao era,’ Tai Wei Lim, an adjunct senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s East Asian Institute, told Al-Jazeera.

Experts said that strategic goals for China, including its position on Taiwan, may be unveiled in the document. Beijing considers the self-ruled island to be part of its territory.

Li Nanyang is the daughter of Mao’s personal secretary Li Rui, who was critical of his onetime boss. Li told VOA Mandarin that the resolution could reveal whether Xi might be prepared to unite Taiwan by force, something his predecessors Mao and Deng never attempted.

‘There are two main issues that remain to be solved: one is Hong Kong and one is Taiwan,’ she said. ‘Now Hong Kong is on the way to become part of the mainland, I think Xi’s next goal will be Taiwan.’

Whether he can do that, she added, we can only wait and see.

Lin Yang contributed to this report.



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