Only two leaders of the ruling Communist Party of China were powerful enough to rewrite the nation’s history. On Thursday, President Xi Jinping became the third.
His version of the Chinese story is simple: the holiday is great, glorious, and always fair. As long as the people follow the party, China will achieve inevitable greatness. Now he is at the pinnacle of greatness, and a leader will soon turn that greatness into reality: him.
These are the contents of a new historical resolution “on the greatest historical successes and experiences in the party’s hundred years of struggle” approved Thursday in Beijing by the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
The statement says that the Communist Party has “crossed” 100 years of glorious history“E” wrote the most magnificent epic in the Chinese nation’s thousands of years of history. “But the declaration also crucially concerns the future: it sets the stage for Xi to serve an unprecedented third term as president, underlining a political supremacy not seen in China for at least a generation.
“The party’s establishment of Comrade Xi Jinping’s position as the core of the entire party and the center of the party reflects the common wishes of the entire party, the military, the state and peoples of all ethnicities,” the statement said. . “It has decisive significance for the development of the party and state affairs in the new era and for the historical progress of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
Only two former Communist Party leaders, the revolutionary founder Mao Zedong and economic reformer Deng Xiaoping, issued historic resolutions earlier, in 1945 and 1981 respectively. Both resolutions consolidated the power of one man who then led the country through the decades of transformation that followed.
Xi’s resolution does the same, analysts say. He points out his frequent claims that China has entered a “new era” of rejuvenation under his rule. Despite a slowdown in the economy e growing tensions with the United StatesIt’s a declaration of the party’s confidence and unity ahead of next year’s 20th Party Congress, when Xi is expected to have a third term.
“All of this is what we might call the ideological work of the Sherpas, setting the stage for a grand announcement that solidifies Xi Jinping’s position as supreme leader … and solidifies the party as a vehicle of historic destiny for China,” he said. Rana Mitter, director of the University China Center of the University of Oxford.
The resolution postulates a century of continued success, according to the version released by state media on Thursday. Contrary to previous resolutions which admitted party errors while affirming an overall correct leadership, this one it focuses solely on the triumphs of the party.
In the section on the era of Mao, when tens of millions of people died of hunger and violence, the communiqué praises the party for leading the people in the “broadest and most profound social transformation in Chinese history” and making a “great leap” towards socialism.
“The Chinese are not only good at destroying an old world, but also good at building a new one. Only socialism can save China, only socialism can develop China, “he says, without mentioning the famine caused by the collectivization campaign of the Great Leap Forward or the brutalities of the Cultural Revolution.
Such florid rhetoric comes as no surprise to anyone who has heard Xi’s previous remarks on history, read the new versions of the party story released this spring, or seen the banners, slogans and museum exhibits on the “study of party history and following the party forever“On display in every city in China this year.
However, this is a striking divergence from Deng’s 1981 resolution, which followed a careful dividing line between the assertion of the extreme correctness of the Communist Party leadership and the rejection of the Mao-era “mistakes” that ravaged the country. country.
“The big goal in 1981 was to try to make a clear statement about why the party was on the right track now, even if it had made serious mistakes,” said Jeff Wasserstrom, professor of Chinese history at UC Irvine. “This is much more ‘Let’s focus on how well China is doing right now.’ … It’s using the story in a celebratory tone. “
That framing also simplifies the party’s story to one of “well-defined heroes and villains,” Wasserstrom said. As for the latter, “they are not in the party. They are found in the foreign powers that mistreated China during the century of national humiliation and the Japanese and Americans during the Korean War. “
The party has he used history to promote nationalist narratives of united struggle against foreign enemies in recent years, especially with increasing tensions between China and numerous countries over trade, technology, human rights, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet, the South China Sea and other areas.
As many foreign powers respond to China’s military buildup and aggression towards its minorities, neighbors and border regions, the party has cultivated an internal narrative that the world is against China and wants to “contain” it out of jealousy. on its growing strength.
This is also mentioned in the resolution, which states that “major changes not seen in the world in a hundred years” – a euphemism for American decline – have intertwined with the COVID-19 pandemic to create a “more complex and severe external environment. “. . “Internal economic tasks and the containment of the coronavirus are also” extremely difficult, “the statement said.
The party’s response to these challenges was that of suppress any dissent and the discussion of weaknesses or errors, past or present, and to augment the propaganda and cult of personality surrounding Xi. Piles of his books fill the featured shelves in every bookstore. Posters of his face hang in village homes. Its slogans hang in every town and city.
an expansive profile di Xi published by the state news agency Xinhua this week praised him as “a man of determination and action, a man of deep thoughts and feelings, a man who inherited a legacy but dares to innovate, and a man who has a far-sighted vision and is committed to working tirelessly ».
Many observers, including some in China itself, shrink from this exaltation of a single leader. This is exactly what Deng, mindful of the turmoil and violence of the just-ended Cultural Revolution, tried to prevent by setting ten-year mandate limits for Chinese leaders in the 1980s.
“There is no doubt that Xi Jinping is repealing many of the fundamental principles that Deng Xiaoping sought to enshrine in the leadership system,” said Orville Schell, director of the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society.
“Basically he is saying that the Deng Xiaoping phase is over. Our desire to reform, our willingness to welcome foreigners, our more collaborative attitude towards being in the world – all of this is over. China is strong enough and can act as the great power has always done. Can bully other countries and throw his weight around, and it’s either our street or the highway, “said Schell.” This is the new period. “
But the new resolution does not directly repudiate Deng. He praises his economic reforms while ignoring his criticisms of Mao. It ignores all the annoying contradicting historical details to project a new message: that all stages of party leadership were correct and necessary because they were party-led and are now culminating in today’s glory age.
“For the Politburo, history is not an academic investigation. It is another form of political language,” Mitter told Oxford.
There were times in the party’s history – particularly in the early 1980s – when its leaders were willing to admit and examine past mistakes, if only to find a way forward for the nation.
This is no longer the case. “Both Xi and the Party as a whole have decided that open debate on different points of view on history is ideologically uncomfortable for them,” Mitter said. “At the moment, proposing an almost entirely uncritical view of history is more politically useful.”
The statement concludes with the announcement that the 20th Party Congress will be held in Beijing at the end of next year. It will be “a party congress of extreme importance, an important event in the political life of the party and the nation”, he says, without specifying the reason, as if there was room for a surprise.