Xi Jinping Consolidates Power in Communist China

The Chinese Communist Party will conclude a meeting on Thursday. It is expected that a resolution will consolidate President Xi Jinping’s authority. This is one year before he is expected to secure a record-breaking, third term as leader of the party.

Since Monday, the sixth plenum, which is made up of 370 members of the party, has met behind closed doors in Beijing, with the accompaniment of state media propaganda.

Officially, the “historical resolution” is about the party’s achievements for the past century. However, it will also preserve the authority of Xi (the party’s core), further strengthening his hold on power and laying the foundation for what analysts widely anticipate to be a third term in a year.

Although there was no media coverage of the plenum’s proceedings, state news outlets were filled with celebrations of Xi’s achievements and that of the party.

Before Xi, only two Chinese leaders – Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping – dared venture into rewriting the historical record. 

Mao, the founder of Communist China, used resolutions as a political weapon in 1945 to criticise the past actions of his opponents – who were already under arrest. The resolution solidified Mao’s absolute authority over the party.  

Almost four decades later, in 1981, Deng Xiaoping dared to criticise the Cultural Revolution Mao unleashed between 1966 and 1976. In coming to terms with a ruinous chapter – which crippled the economy, led to millions of deaths and destroyed thousands more lives – Deng laid the foundations for his political and economic reforms. 

The revisions of the party’s traditional orthodoxy profoundly marked the Chinese political and social landscape over the next few decades. Analysts say this week’s resolution is likely to have similar significance.

Xi’s latest move comes as no surprise to China scholars.  His political – and historical – ambitions were already made clear at a 2017 party congress, when Xi had his “ideas” inscribed in the party statutes alongside those of Mao and Deng, and again at the Communist Party’s centennial celebrations in July. 

Elevating himself to the same stature as icons of the past has become something of an obsession for China’s current president. Xi wants to create a Holy Trinity of Chinese leaders, allowing him to establish an ideological filiation between himself and the two other great political figures in the history of Communist China. 

Xi has vowed to wage war against “historical nihilism” early in his first term. This was defined as any attempt by anyone to question the official narrative of important past events. The Communist Party has been censoring “incorrect” versions of history since its foundation. However, neither Mao nor Deng used this term as often or as enthusiastically as Xi Jinping.

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