Sixth Plenum Communique Endorses Xi's New Era

Below is my summary of the communique issued (Chinese Text/ English Text) after the 6th Plenum. This will be the lead story in tomorrow’s PD, and there will be other related material that will likely be published. I’ll cover those, of course. But here’s a snap take and excerpts that I thought were important.

My brief take on the document is that this is about creating a linear history of the Party’s rule, white-washing all of the turbulence and friction that was experienced. There is some gentle acknowledgement of the divisions in the Party during the new democratic revolution era. But is no mention of Mao’s devastating economic policies after the formation of the PRC; no mention of class struggle being an objective, of the cultural revolution, the Gang of Four, Tiananmen and so much more.

There’s the faintest acknowledgement of some tension when in the Deng era, the document talks about the “shift the focus of the Party and the country’s work onto economic development.” But the language is so mild; nothing about correcting left errors.

In essence, it is, as though, the Party’s leadership has been prescient all along, moving ahead unflinchingly, with a grand strategic vision and mission. The Party as an abstract entity, or rather through its chief representatives, are the key protagonists in this document. These men have thought, acted, innovated and steered the Party, state and society towards goals motivated and set based on the “original aspiration.” There’s also barely any appreciation for the ingenuity, creativity and enterprise of the people or an acknowledgement of the role of international collaborators and capital contribution to China’s growth story.

This focus on what I call men of history is by design, of course. The aim is to set the stage for Xi Jinping. His policies receive a thunderous appraisal. There is no genuine reflection. There is no acknowledgement of whether China’s policies have contributed to the creation of the “complex and grave” external environment. In essence, it is systemic changes, economic progress-related circumstances, others’ actions and natural occurrences like the pandemic that have led to the challenges.

More importantly, it’s worth noting the personal praise that is heaped upon Xi. He is positioned as a man of unique intellect, acumen and leadership skills, who is suited to the lead the country, particularly given the external environment and the endeavour to surmount “difficulties and forging ahead so as to make new and greater contributions toward building a modern socialist country.”

And the Party must fall in line, as cadres are repeatedly told. Political alignment is one part of this, and so is the need for cadres to staying true to the socialist path and system, having a correct view of history and ideology, and viewing the world through the Marxist prism. In this regard, it appears from the readout that there is much confidence. The language regarding the “overwhelming victory” against corruption, and “sweeping and fundamental shift in the ideological domain” indicate this.

Finally, from an overall policy direction point view, this document, as one would have expected, suggests more continuity than any dramatic change.


Introduction:

A total of 197 members and 151 alternate members of the Central Committee attended the session. Members of the Standing Committee of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and leading officials of other relevant departments were present at the meeting in a non-voting capacity. Xi delivered a work report, and then the Plenum adopted the Resolution on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century and the Resolution on the Convocation of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Xi Jinping delivered explanatory remarks on the draft Resolution on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century.

The Plenum “fully affirmed” the work of the Politburo since the fifth Plenary. “It was unanimously agreed that the external environment has grown increasingly complex and grave over the past year under the combined impact of worldwide changes of a scale unseen in a century and the global coronavirus pandemic, while China has faced extremely arduous tasks in Covid-19 prevention and control as well as economic and social development at home.”

Glowing review for the Politburo under Xi:

“The Political Bureau has given full consideration to both domestic and international imperatives, coordinated the Covid-19 response with economic and social development, and placed equal emphasis on development and security. It has continued to follow the general principle of pursuing progress while ensuring stability, fully applied the new development philosophy, and accelerated efforts to foster a new pattern of development. The economy has maintained good momentum, positive advances have been made in building up China’s scientific and technological self-reliance, and further progress has been achieved in reform and opening up. A complete victory has been secured in the fight against poverty as scheduled, the people’s wellbeing has been further improved, social stability has been maintained, steady progress was made in modernizing national defense and the armed forces, and China’s major-country diplomacy has advanced on all fronts. The campaign on studying the Party’s history has produced solid results, and severe natural disasters of multiple categories have been dealt with effectively. Through these efforts, significant progress has been made in all areas of the Party and country’s endeavors.”

Why was a history review important? It was necessary for the following purposes:

  • starting a new journey to build a modern socialist country in all respects in the historical context of the Party’s centenary; 

  • upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era; 

  • strengthening our consciousness of the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, follow the leadership core, and keep in alignment with the central Party leadership; 

  • enhancing our confidence in the path, theory, system, and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics; 

  • resolutely upholding Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Central Committee and in the Party as a whole and upholding the Central Committee’ authority and its centralized, unified leadership to ensure that all Party members act in unison; 

  • advancing the Party’s self-reform, building our fighting strength, strengthening our capacity to respond to risks and challenges, and maintaining our vigor and vitality; and

  • uniting and leading the people in making continued efforts to realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. 

All Party members should uphold historical materialism and adopt a rational outlook on the Party’s history. Looking back on the Party’s endeavors over the past century, we can see why we were successful in the past and how we can continue to succeed in the future. This will ensure that we act with greater resolve and a stronger sense of purpose in staying true to our Party’s founding mission, and that we more effectively uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era.”

We are then told that the Plenary held that the Party, since its founding, has held the happiness of the Chinese people and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation as its original mission. It has always been committed to “communist ideals and socialist conviction.” It has united and led the people of all ethnic groups in the unremitting struggle for achieving “national independence and the liberation of the people and then to make our country prosperous and strong and bring happiness to the people. The endeavors of the Party and the people over the past century represent the most magnificent chapter in the millennia-long history of the Chinese nation.

We then go through the different periods:

First, during the new-democratic revolution, the Chinese Communists “established Mao Zedong Thought, which charted the correct course for securing victory.” “This put an end to China’s history as a semi-colonial, semi-feudal society, to the rule of a handful of exploiters over the working people, to the state of total disunity that existed in the old China, and to all the unequal treaties imposed on our country by foreign powers and all the privileges that imperialist powers enjoyed on our land, marking the country’s great transformation from a millennia-old feudal autocracy to a people’s democracy.” This ensured that the “Chinese people had stood up and the time in which the Chinese nation could be bullied and abused by others was gone and would never return.”

Second, during the socialist revolution and construction period, the Party “lay down the fundamental political conditions and the institutional foundations necessary for national rejuvenation.” Also we are told that “Mao Zedong Thought represents a creative application and advancement of Marxism-Leninism in China. It is a summation of theories, principles, and experience on China’s revolution and construction that has been proven correct through practice, and its establishment marked the first historic step in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context.” The work done during this period laid “a great transformation from a poor and backward Eastern country with a large population to a socialist country.” This period showed the world that the “Chinese people were not only capable of dismantling the old world, but also of building a new one, that only socialism could save China, and that only socialism could develop China.”

With no bumps on the road ahead, the communique directly moves to the third plenary session of the 11th Central Committee, as though it was just the most obvious direction that the Party was moving in at that moment in history. The communique talks about Deng Xiaoping Theory and the “historic decision” “to shift the focus of the Party and the country’s work onto economic development and to launch the reform and opening up drive.” It also says that the “Chinese communists brought the essence of socialism to light, set the basic line for the primary stage of socialism, and made it clear that China would follow its own path and build socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

We then get a paragraph on Jiang Zemin’s era. His theory gets mentioned and we are told that during this time, the Communists “defined building a socialist market economy as an objective of reform and set a basic framework in this regard, and established a basic economic system for the primary stage of socialism under which public ownership is the mainstay and diverse forms of ownership develop together, as well as an income distribution system under which distribution according to work is the mainstay while multiple forms of distribution exist alongside it.” 

Then under Hu Jintao, we are told that “taking advantage of an important period of strategic opportunity, they focused their energy on development, with emphasis on pursuing comprehensive, balanced, and sustainable development that put the people first. They worked hard to ensure and improve people’s wellbeing, promote social fairness and justice, bolster the Party’s governance capacity, and maintain its advanced nature.”

Now we are told that the New Era began with the 18th Party Congress:

At the 6th Plenum, it was agreed that the Party has:

  • “upheld and developed Marxism in light of new practices and the features of the times, and effectively answered a series of basic questions regarding socialism with Chinese characteristics”

  • “led the people in freeing their minds and forging ahead” 

  • “China achieved the historic transformations from a highly centralised planned economy into a socialist market economy brimming with vitality”

  • It has “achieved the historic strides of raising the living standards of its people from bare subsistence to an overall level of moderate prosperity and then ultimately to moderate prosperity in all respects”

It was also agreed that since the 18th Party Congress, China’s been in a new era. In this era, the Communists have established Xi Thought. This adapts “the basic tenets of Marxism to China’s specific realities and its fine traditional culture” and draws on other past leaders’ thinking too.

“Comrade Xi Jinping, through meticulous assessment and deep reflection on a number of major theoretical and practical questions regarding the cause of the Party and the country in the new era, has set forth a series of original new ideas, thoughts, and strategies on national governance revolving around the major questions of our times: what kind of socialism with Chinese characteristics we should uphold and develop in this new era, what kind of great modern socialist country we should build, and what kind of Marxist party exercising long-term governance we should develop, as well as how we should go about achieving these tasks.”

Xi, thus, is the “principal founder” of Xi Thought, which is “Marxism of contemporary China and of the 21st century. It embodies the best of Chinese culture and ethos in our times and represents a new breakthrough in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context.” Xi is the core, and Xi Thought occupies the guiding position.

“This reflects the common will of the Party, the armed forces, and the Chinese people of all ethnic groups, and is of decisive significance for advancing the cause of the Party and the country in the new era and for driving forward the historic process of national rejuvenation.”

We are told that Xi as the core has “demonstrated great historical initiative, tremendous political courage, and a powerful sense of mission.” Under him, the Central Committee has “solved many tough problems that were long on the agenda but never resolved and accomplished many things that were wanted but never got done. With this, it has prompted historic achievements and historic shifts in the cause of the Party and the country.”

Since the 18th Party Congress, 

  • “the Central Committee’s authority and its centralized, unified leadership have remained robust, the Party’s leadership systems have improved, and the way in which the Party exercises its leadership has become more refined. There is greater unity among all Party members in terms of thinking, political resolve, and action, and the Party has significantly boosted its capacity to provide political leadership, give guidance through theory, organize the people, and inspire society.

  • “the problem of lax and weak governance over Party organizations has been addressed at the fundamental level. An overwhelming victory has been achieved in the fight against corruption...Through revolutionary tempering, our Party has grown stronger.”

  • “China’s economic strength, scientific and technological clout, and composite national strength have reached new heights.”

  • “The system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is now more mature and well-defined, and the modernization of China’s system and capacity for governance has reached a higher level.”

  • whole-process people’s democracy has been better developed

  • “solid progress has been made in building China into a rule of law country, and the Party’s ability to lead and govern the country through law-based methods has been notably enhanced.

  • “we have seen a sweeping and fundamental shift in the ideological domain, a notable boost in confidence in our culture among all Party members and all Chinese people, and a major increase in cohesiveness throughout society. All of this has provided solid ideological guarantees and powerful inspiration for opening up new horizons for the cause of the Party and the country in the new era.”

  • “Public participation in social governance is growing; social governance is smarter, more law-based, and more specialized.”

  • “Our environmental protection endeavors have seen sweeping, historic, and transformative changes.”

  • “The people’s military has been through an all-around revolutionary restructuring in preparation for the next stage.” Armed forces have “taken concrete actions to safeguard our national sovereignty, security, and development interests.”

  • “We have enhanced security on all fronts and withstood the many political, economic, ideological, and natural risks, challenges, and trials. This has helped ensure that the Party and the country thrive and enjoy lasting stability.”

  • Steps have been taken to address “symptoms and root causes” with regard to one country, two systems in HK and Macao and on the Taiwan issue. 

  • On Taiwan: “We uphold the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus. We firmly oppose separatist activities seeking “Taiwan independence.” We firmly oppose foreign interference. We have maintained the initiative and ability to steer cross-Strait relations.”

  • “China has broken new ground in its diplomatic endeavors amid profound global changes and turned crises into opportunities amid complex situations on the international stage. These efforts have resulted in a marked increase in China’s international influence, appeal, and power to shape.”

In summation, efforts over the century have:

  • “fundamentally transformed the future of the Chinese people, who have been freed from bullying, oppression, and subjugation, become the masters of the country, of society, and of their own fate”

  • “opened up the right path for achieving rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” i.e., economic development path primarily.

  • “demonstrated the strong vitality of Marxism”

  • created a “uniquely Chinese path to modernisation, creating a new model for human advancement, and expanding the channels for developing countries to achieve modernisation.”

  • made the Party a forerunner of the times...The Party has proved to be a great, glorious, and correct party. 

The document then highlights the importance of the original aspiration, and the importance of having “a precise grasp of historical trends, stand firm in our ideals and convictions.” It warns that “We must remain modest and prudent, guard against arrogance and rashness, and work hard. We must not be intimidated by any risks or led astray by any distractions, and we must be absolutely certain that we make no catastrophic mistakes on fundamental issues.”

It also calls to “use Marxist positions, viewpoints, and methods to observe, understand, and steer the trends of the times, deepen our understanding of the laws underlying governance by a communist party, the building of socialism, and the development of human society.” Maintain four consciousness, four self-confidences and Xi’s position as the core via the two safeguards and follow the core. After this, the document ends by reiterating the agenda of economic development, new development philosophy, high-quality development, common prosperity, maintaining whole-process democracy, move faster to modernize national defense and the armed forces, pursuing law-based governance, balance development and security, build strength in science and technology, etc.

“All Party members must keep in mind that one thrives in adversity and perishes in laxity, see things from a long-term, strategic perspective, and always remain mindful of potential dangers. We will continue to advance the great new project of Party building in the new era, exercise full and rigorous self-governance, and remain committed to improving Party conduct, upholding integrity, and combating corruption. We must be able to overcome all difficulties and withstand all pressures, and steer the great ship of socialism with Chinese characteristics to cleave the waves and sail ahead with unstoppable momentum.”

And finally we are told that the 20th Party Congress “will be a highly important meeting and an event of great political significance for both the Party and the country. The entire Party must unite and lead the Chinese people in surmounting difficulties and forging ahead so as to make new and greater contributions toward building a modern socialist country in all respects, securing great success for socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, and realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation, and to ensure that excellent results are achieved by the time the 20th National Congress is convened. The Central Committee calls upon the entire Party, the military, and all Chinese people to rally more closely around the Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, to fully implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and to champion the great founding spirit of the Party.”