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China: Historic resolution seals President Xi's grip on power

11.11.2021

Top Communist Party officials in China have approved a resolution that paves the way for President Xi Jinping to extend his rule.

The Chinese Communist Party's powerful Central Committee has passed a resolution that is expected to tighten President Xi Jinping's hold on power.

The agreement by delegates that Xi's position as "core of the party" should be upheld is only the third decree of its kind in the party's 100-year history.

What does the resolution say?

The lengthy document calls for upholding "the correct view of party history," said official news agency Xinhua on Thursday. 

It calls on Chinese society and institutions to unite around the president, adding that Xi's ideology is "the epitome of the Chinese culture and soul."

The text says Xi's presence at the "heart" of the ruling party "is of decisive importance... to promote the historic process of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."

"The Party Central Committee called on the entire party, the entire army and people of all ethnic groups to unite more closely around the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, to fully implement Xi Jinping's new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics," the Xinhua readout stated.

The declaration strengthens Xi's already seemingly unassailable position

What's the significance?

Formally known as the "Resolution on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party," the decision hands Xi status alongside Chinese communism's leading figures.

The declaration puts him on a par with China's revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, along with Deng Xiaoping, who led China from 1978 to 1989.

Analysts have said the resolution will help Xi shore up his grip on power, establishing his vision for China and diminishing the roles of previous leaders.

The first resolution in the party's history, which was passed in 1945, solidified Mao's authority over the Communist Party four years before it seized power.

The second resolution, under Deng, allowed for economic reforms and also recognized the "mistakes" of Mao's ways.

Chairman Mao is mentioned seven times in the latest declaration, while Deng's name appears only five times. Xi, meanwhile, is mentioned 17 times.

Unlike the 1981 paper published under Deng, Thursday's document brushes over the violence of Mao's Cultural Revolution, a brutal purge of elements that were deemed too capitalist or traditional. It instead refers to the time as one of "socialist revolution and construction."

Is the resolution really necessary?

Xi — the son of one of Mao's generals — has accrued more personal authority than any leader since Deng Xiaoping, who launched the reforms that would turn China into an economic powerhouse.

The party removed term limits on the 68-year-old's post as president in 2018, indicating his intention to stay in power. He also has no obvious rivals.

However, an extension of the term would break with a two-decade party tradition, which would require him to step down next year when his second five-year term as general secretary ends.

Xi's period in office has been characterized by a far-reaching anti-corruption crackdown and repressive policies in regions like Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong. It has also featured an increasingly assertive approach to foreign relations.

Xi Jinping: a political history
Slow beginnings

Xi Jinping, the son of communist revolutionary and political leader Xi Zhongxun, started his political career when he was finally accepted as a member of China’s Communist Party in 1974. Xi had applied to join the party several times, but was rejected due to his father’s political history — Xi Zhongxun had been purged in 1962 and was then persecuted and jailed during China's Cultural Revolution.

Xi Jinping: a political history
Rise to the top

Xi studied chemical engineering at Tsinghua University, but after acceptance to the Communist Party he worked hard to reach the top ranks. In 1982, he started out as a party secretary in Herbei province before advancing to more senior roles in the country, such as numerous provincial governor positions and then party chief in China’s second biggest city and financial hub Shanghai.

Xi Jinping: a political history
Presidential success

On November 15, 2012, Xi was elected general secretary of the Communist Party and chairman of the Central Military Commission by the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, which informally made him China’s leader. On March 14, 2013, Xi was officially elected president in a confirmation vote by the 12th National People’s Congress. He replaced Hu Jintao who had served his two terms.

Xi Jinping: a political history
The Chinese Dream

Following his election, the phrase "Chinese Dream" became the political slogan of Xi’s leadership. While some thought it echoed the American Dream, it refers to the rejuvenation of China. Xi has called for the "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" and for his country to take its "due place in the world." He said that China is "resolved to fight the bloody battle against our enemies."

Xi Jinping: a political history
Historic meeting

On November 7, 2015, Xi met with then-Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore, in the first meeting between China and Taiwan's leaders since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. However, in March 2018, Xi Jinping warned Taiwan it would face the "punishment of history" for any attempt at separatism. It was Xi's harshest warning yet to the island, which China claims as its territory.

Xi Jinping: a political history
Core leader

On October 27, 2016, Xi was declared the "core" leader of the Communist Party, a title that is bestowed upon a leader who is seen as central to the leadership of the Communist Party of China. Just three others have been given the title, including Chairman Mao Zedong, who's commonly considered to be the founding father of modern China, former chairman Deng Xiaoping and former president Jiang Zemin.

Xi Jinping: a political history
Military influence

In December 2017, the People's Armed Police in China was put under the command of the Central Military Commission, which controls China's military. It put the 660,000-strong force under the direct control of President Xi Jinping, who heads the Central Military Commission as armed forces chief and commander in chief.

Xi Jinping: a political history
Indefinite power

On March 17, 2018, China’s parliament elected Xi for a second term and unanimously voted in favor of an amendment to the country’s constitution that removed presidential term limits. China previously had a limit of two terms, a system brought in by former leader Deng Xiaoping in 1982, to prevent lifelong dictatorships. The amendment allows President Xi Jinping to stay in power indefinitely.

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Closer to Beijing, Xi has created a leadership cult that has quashed rivals and dissent.

Meanwhile, his own political theory — dubbed "Xi Jinping Thought" — is now being taught in schools to children as young as 7. It highlights such values as "absolute Party leadership" over the military and "improving living standards through development."

rc/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)