President Xi tightens his grip on the Party and China

CCP elite rubber-stamp his ‘Resolution on History’ doctrine, paving the way for a third term in office

Branded a party of the people, it is terrified by the power of the people. Since it was founded in 1921, the Communist Party of China has brandished its common touch. 

Focus groups, internal discussions and consultations between smaller political organizations have always been used to highlight the CCP’s “democratic” credentials.

A red mirage in a changing world, and perfectly illustrated by the “closed-door” gathering of the political elite in Beijing this week. At the heart of this de facto one-party state is CCP General Secretary and China’s President Xi Jinping.

His political doctrine, encapsulated in a “Resolution on History” policy statement, will dictate Beijing’s agenda for years to come.

“In other words, just as Deng [Xiaoping] used the resolution in 1981 to wrap up Mao [Zedong’s] rule, Xi is doing the same with Deng. The new official document on Party history closes the chapter on Deng and sets in motion the “new era” under Xi,” Valarie Tan, an analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies, said earlier this week.

“As with the previous two resolutions [from Mao and Deng], the new document will no doubt reinforce Xi’s legitimacy and position in the Party,” she wrote in a MERICS analysis, entitled Xi Jinping cements his power with resolution on history, for the German think tank.

President Xi’s circle of power
Graphic: Courtesy of MERICS

What it means:

Delve deeper: Behind the rhetoric, China is facing a raft of domestic problems, including a slowing economy and an energy shortage.

Economic challenges: “The push for positive optics would be timely for the Party as it battles challenges at home. Economic growth has slowed. An energy crisis has resulted in blackouts and forced factories and households to ration electricity,” Tan, of MERICS, said.

Property slump: “Close to the brink of bankruptcy, the country’s second-largest property developer, Evergrande, is only the first in a string of heavily indebted firms struggling to repay millions of dollars in debts,” Tan pointed out.

Big picture: China’s global reputation has taken a massive hit during Xi’s second term in office. Amid the howls of Beijing’s diplomatic “Wolf Warriors,” major global democracies have pushed back at predatory trading practices, moves to flout maritime law in the South China Sea, and the bullying tactics used to threaten Taiwan.

More hold favorable views of the US than China
Graphic: Courtesy of Pew Research Centre

Reputation trashed: “Confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping remains at, or near, historic lows in most [democracies] surveyed, while confidence in the US president is up substantially following [Joe] Biden’s inauguration,” Laura Silver at the Pew Research Center said earlier this year about the Washington-based think tank’s annual China survey, conducted in 17 advanced economies.

Cold comfort: Xi revisited one of his favorite topics on Thursday. “The Asia-Pacific region cannot relapse into the confrontation and division of the Cold War era,” he told a CEO APEC Summit in a virtual address, despite being a guilty party in initiating the freeze with the United States.

China Factor comment: Xi is set to have an online chat with President Biden as early as next week. He also rubber-stamped an unexpected US-China climate cooperation deal after failing to turn up for the COP26 Summit in the United Kingdom last week. But issues, such as the fate of democratic Taiwan, remain huge stumbling blocks with Washington and its allies.