A meeting of hundreds of members of the Chinese political elite, which is expected to further consolidate President Xi Jinping’s power, has opened in Beijing.
The four-day closed-door meeting of the ruling Communist Party of China, known as the Sixth Plenum, is expected to produce a resolution on the history of the party, which analysts say will shape domestic politics and society for decades to come. .
Xi opened the plenum on Monday with “an explanation of a draft resolution on the main achievements and historical experience” of the party in its 100-year history, the state news agency Xinhua reported.
The landmark resolution will be only the third since the party’s founding, following in the footsteps of Mao Zedong, who set the party’s goals in 1945 with himself as the only true leader, and Deng Xiaoping, whose 1981 resolution condemned the failures of Mao’s reign while safeguarding the party.
“The 1945 resolution affirmed Mao’s leadership within the CCP, and the 1981 resolution aimed to turn a new leaf of the destructive chaos of a decade of the Cultural Revolution created by Mao,” said Dali Yang, an expert. Chinese at the University of Chicago. “This year’s resolution will be somewhere in between – the party’s past and Xi’s future. “
The resolution will determine how Chinese history is taught and portrayed, and will dictate the context in which Xi’s authority and policies are viewed as successes. The document comes on the occasion of the centenary of the founding of the CCP and at a critical time for Xi’s future leadership. Analysts say Xi hopes to cement his place in history as a historic Chinese leader alongside Mao and Deng.
The Sixth Plenum is the last major meeting in China’s five-year political cycle and sets the stage for next year’s Party Congress, where Xi is expected to run for an extraordinary third term as CPC head after previously abolishing the terms.
The meeting agenda is top secret, with a communiqué of the discussions and resolutions issued once it is completed. At the 2016 plenum, the CPC awarded Xi the title of “grassroots” leader, putting him on par with Mao and Deng, but also stressing the importance of collective leadership.
As China’s relationship with the West continues to deteriorate, many in Western capitals are now wondering what kind of power China will become in the future. In July, Xi said his party had achieved its first centennial goal of building a moderately prosperous society for all and eradicating extreme poverty. He also pledged “unification” with Taiwan as an inevitable and crucial part of China’s “national rejuvenation”. As a leader, Xi waged sweeping anti-corruption campaigns that purged numerous political enemies, launched brutal crackdowns against minority groups, presented his own political theory – the “Xi Jinping Thought” – to students and led an increasingly expansionary foreign policy.
In the run-up to this week’s meeting, Xinhua displayed excessive propaganda, stressing Xi’s central role in many aspects of China’s achievements. “Xi Jinping often visits farms, farmers’ houses… and even inspects pigsties and toilets to get first-hand information about people’s livelihoods,” one tweet read. “President Xi attaches great importance to the cultivation of morality and ethics in all of society …” another wrote.
John Delury, historian at Seoul Yonsei University and co-author of Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the 21st Century, cautioned against placing too much emphasis on Xi in interpreting the events of this week.
“I fear that we are reading Xi Jinping too much in all areas and falling victim to Chinese propaganda agencies,” Delury said. “If we use the 1981 resolution as a benchmark, it was a collective effort to draw a line between the party under Deng and Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Since then, the history of CCP-led China has been largely filled with economic growth and Beijing’s growing role in international affairs, so the story is easier to resolve, so to speak.
“Of course, since 1981 there has been the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989 and in 2012 a huge corruption scandal involving Bo Xilai, then Chongqing party leader, but I guess they will avoid them as much as possible, or integrate them into a more triumphant narrative.