The emphasis has been given to ‘security’, ‘struggles’, winning ‘regional wars’ etc., terms that set the direction Xi Jinping would be heading in his ‘new era’.
On 16 October, Xi Jinping, on behalf of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), delivered a report to the 20th CPC National Congress. Unlike the 19th National Congress, Xi Jinping skipped certain sections in his speech and read the 72-page long report within less than two hours. The report enumerated achievements the CPC made in the New Era (2012-2022), and drew a blueprint for the future direction of the party and state. Most of the things in the report conformed to what this author had written on Xi Jinping’s third term, the revised regulations and promotion of his loyalists, as well as the banner and line, the state of economy and great power diplomacy of Xi Jinping. Nevertheless, there are certain newly packaged concepts and terms that require further interpretation. The emphasis has been given to “security”, “struggles”, winning “regional wars” etc., terms that set the direction Xi Jinping would be heading in his “new era.”
First and foremost, by way of inserting “Two Establishes” (两个确立) and “Two Safeguards” (两个维护), and amending the party Constitution, Xi Jinping puts himself at par with China’s helmsman Mao Zedong, and above all the political leaders of the reform era (1979-2012). By incorporating Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era in the party Constitution during the 19th National Congress, had already put Xi above Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin and Deng Xiaoping, for their theories were added to the party Constitution at the end of their terms or after demise as was the case with Deng’s theory. By incorporating “Two Establishes” and “Two Safeguards” in the party’s thoery, makes “Xi Jinping at the core” and his thought sacrosanct, and the CPC as Xi Jinping’s party. This is further established by the fact that Li Keqiang and Wang Yang have been dropped, thus paving way for mr Xi loyalists in the Politburo standing committee.
This could be compared to the cleric’s bond with his Holy Book, especially by the “princelings” who believe it’s they who have the flesh and blood relationship with the masses and are worthy inheritors of the party’s legacy, not the likes of Jiang Zemin, Zhu Rongji, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, having no revolutionary roots. The leaning to the “left” is understood better if we interpret “deviational” tendencies of the reform era, largely held responsible for eroding the party’s control and prestige. Therefore, a crackdown on China’s bigtech companies is a necessary outcome of correcting the errors, restoring the party line and authority of the CPC, albeit there is an element of factional feud in it too. No wonder, Xi Jinping has been emphasizing on to “inherit the good red genes” (红色基因) and pass them down from generation to generation. In the 20th National Congress report, Xi reiterated the rhetoric that “The country is its people (江山就是人⺠) and the people are the country (人⺠就是江山). The CPC has led the people to fight for the country (领导人⺠打江山) and safeguard the country.” If the country is the people and vice versa, then who is fighting whom is really a big contradiction.
Two, the word “security” has appeared as many as 46 times and has been pronounced as the “bedrock of national rejuvenation” (⺠族复兴的根基). The people’s security has been identified as the ultimate goal, political security as fundamental task, economic security as foundation, military, technological, cultural, and social security as important pillars, and international security as a support. Here again, the security of the “unified leadership”, “leadership system” that is related to the “political security” has been emphasized alongwith various other traditional and non-traditional securities with an aim to enhance CPC’s power of discourse internally as well externally. Though economic security has been identified as foundation, but the the report attaches more importance to “politics in command” over “economy in command” of the reform period.
Three, the “struggle” (斗争), has been a continuous theme of Xi Jinping’s discourse on party building, fighting corruption or on various other domestic and international challenges. Not surprising, “struggle” has appeared 14 times in the report. Xi Jinping desires to foster and strengthen the “spirit of struggle” (斗争精神) in the cadres, so as they could safeguard China’s dignity and core interests amidst the struggle and firmly grasp the initiative of China’s development and security. It is owing to these struggles that Xi believes that “severe hidden dangers in the army” (严重隐患) have been eliminated across the party, state and the army. It is only after these struggles that the party has maintained “absolute leadership” (绝对领导) over the army, without which the “command of the great struggle” (伟大斗争), the great project (伟大工程), the great cause (伟大事业), and the great dream (伟大梦想) would be either lost or go haywire. The struggles may range from “dynamic zero Covid policy” to anti-corruption campaign, as well as to the so called “wolf warrior diplomacy”.
Four, the “Chinese style modernisation” (中国式现代化), is a “new wine” in old bottle, meant to differentiate the Chinese model of modernization from the Western model, thus making the model more appealing to the developing countries. Xi Jinping defines it as modernisation of a huge population, common prosperity, material and cultural-ethical advancement, harmony between humanity and nature, and peaceful development. Eradication of absolute poverty (2020), completion of the historical task of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects (2021) and achieving the first centenary goal (2021) have been enumerated as some of the achievements of such a development model. More importantly, the direction the CPC will embark on a new journey of building a modern socialist country (2035), and march toward the second centenary goal (2049). It is also to argue that even if the population of China is much larger than the combined population of the developed countries, China has promised not to seek hegemony unlike the US and believes in “true multilateralism”, mutual respect and benefits.
Finally, Xi Jinping clearly defines the scale of war. While talking about the modernisation of the PLA under the absolute leadership of the party, Xi, apart from asigning the PLA the task of defending China’s sovereignty and developmental interests, also sanctions the use of military power in “regional wars”. In this context, his rhetoric on Taiwan is worth noting. Without setting any timelimit, Xi says in his report that “complete reunification of our country must be realized” (祖国 完全统一) and “it can, without doubt, be realized” (一定要实现). This has been corelated to the great struggle, cause, project and dream of national rejuvenation, and the first five years are deemed crucial.
B.R. Deepak is Professor, Center of Chinese and Southeast Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.