15 December 2018
It is increasingly apparent that President Xi Jinping is trying to mimic Mao Zedong and re-establish personality cult within the party. Photo: Reuters
It is increasingly apparent that President Xi Jinping is trying to mimic Mao Zedong and re-establish personality cult within the party. Photo: Reuters

New guidelines signal return to leftist track under Xi Jinping

The 6th Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) was held from Oct. 24 to 27 in Beijing.

During the meetings, two important documents were discussed and approved, namely, Several Guidelines on Political Life within the Party under New Circumstances and The Chinese Communist Party Inner-Party Oversight Ordinance. 

Media and public attention was focused on the “new guidelines”, which lays down a new set of rules and principles governing the conduct and ideology of party members.

For many political analysts, the new guidelines are a clear indication that President Xi Jinping is further tightening his control over the party and reinforcing his personal dictatorship.

The new guidelines, aimed at establishing a Stalinist leadership within the party under Xi, are indeed a radical departure from the set of guidelines laid down by a similar document, Several Guidelines on Political Life within the Party (or the “old guidelines”), which was approved during the 5th Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the CPC by Deng Xiaoping back in 1980.

The old guidelines were announced by the party leadership at that time in an attempt to reverse the ultra-left party line laid down by Mao Zedong and the Gang of Four during the Cultural Revolution, ease off state control of the lives of the people, and put the entire party back on the normal track.

They were also aimed at preventing corruption among party officials as the entire nation was embarking on sweeping economic reforms.

The old guidelines emphasized that it was of the utmost importance for the Communist Party to adopt and stick to a system of collective leadership, and warned of the danger of one-man rule, personality cult and political persecution within the party.

In particular, the guidelines called on the the entire party to stay vigilant against ultra-left frenzy and any attempt by any party leader to establish personal dictatorship and demigod status, because these were the major elements that had led to the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution.

The 1980 guidelines in fact illustrated a consensus among the party’s top leaders at that time on the importance of correcting the ultra-left mistakes made by Mao and avoiding the repeat of any political catastrophe like the Cultural Revolution, so as to allow the nation to concentrate on rebuilding itself in the wake of that decade-long disaster.

Setting the tone for the party leadership in the post-Mao era, the old guidelines represented a relatively moderate and tolerant approach to governing both the party and the country.

In fact, the 1980 guidelines had been embraced by the party as the gospel for decades, until President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, and since then China has witnessed a massive return to the leftist track in almost every aspect of society.

Moreover, it has become increasingly apparent that Xi is trying to mimic Mao and re-establish personality cult within the party, the very toxic legacy of the Cultural Revolution that his predecessors tried very hard to avoid.

Contrary to the 1980 guidelines, the “new guidelines” approved by Xi put emphasis on absolute obedience to party leaders, and call on party members to prepare for an imminent life-and-death struggle against enemies of the state, both foreign and domestic, and not to hesitate to use force whenever necessary.

In the meantime, under the new guidelines, the mechanism of bottom-up oversight within the party stated in the 1980 guidelines is replaced by top-down organizational control, under which party members must never question the decision of their superiors.

Even though the new guidelines still mention the importance of fighting corruption, apparently it has taken a back seat to ensuring absolute loyalty and obedience of party members.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 27.

Translation by Alan Le

[Chinese version 中文版]

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