Dancing in Shackles: On Xi Jinping and the 18th Party Congress–HRIC Commentary

Dancing in Shackles: On Xi Jinping and the 18th Party Congress–HRIC Commentary


Dancing in Shackles: On Xi Jinping and the 18th Party Congress The Chinese Communist Party’s 18th Party Congress is now over, do you have any comments? With more than half a year of tortuous twists and turns
before the 18th Party Congress, now that it is over, everyone is probably breathing a sigh of relief. Human Rights in China’s political commentary series can also come to a close. How to assess the 18th Party Congress? I study history, the history of the Chinese Communist Party. I would say that this Party Congress
will have a very negative place in history. You can say it is comparable to the Ninth Party Congress
during the Cultural Revolution. Why? This is because at this important historical juncture, those in power once again missed a historic opportunity. This will cause even greater complications
in the future social transformation of China. I believe this will become increasingly clear. Originally, the Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun incident
gave Party leaders the opportunity to turn over a new leaf and change course. The incident itself also dealt a big blow to senior CPC leaders, causing disarray, anxiety, and a sense of uncertainty in the Party. The 18th Party Congress re-stabilized the CPC. Two key points showed that. First, the inter-generational transfer of power was accomplished. But most of the Politburo Standing Committee members
are very conservative. The most typical figure is Liu Yunshan. He has been, for many years, the biggest hit man responsible for blocking the Internet and cracking down on the press, intellectuals, and the publishing industry. With him joining the Standing Committee, do you think people can still
have high hopes in the 18th Party Congress? Furthermore,
regarding political direction after the 18th Party Congress, it was announced during the Congress that the CPC will not take the “old path” or the “evil” path,
but will follow the “correct path”— that is the so-called socialism with Chinese characteristics path. This is in fact a rejection of political reform, blocking off the reform path. It is also a refusal to repudiate Mao Zedong thought. The overall impression that this gave people is a determination to not make any changes
and an insistence on the status quo. As a result, different social circles, I noticed, have expressed disappointment in the 18th Party Congress. This is very natural. The second point that I want to emphasize is, although the CPC Congress is very important— according to the Party Constitution,
the Congress is the highest authority within the Party— we also don’t have to put too much emphasis on it. This is because in the history of the CPC, all significant turning points
have occurred not during the Party Congress, but between congresses, during the CPC Central Committee’s Plenary Sessions
or expanded Politburo meetings. For example, the Zunyi Conference of 1935,
which established Mao’s leadership, was an emergency expanded Politburo meeting. And in May of 1966, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution
during an expanded Politburo meeting. Then there was Lin Biao’s Lushan Conference–
the Second Plenary Session of the Ninth CPC Central Committee. Most recently, the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee actually repudiated the political direction of the 11th Party Congress. So we should not be too pessimistic either. What are the challenges Xi Jinping is facing? I think Xi Jinping’s has some tough days ahead. Why? Because the first thing he faces is the mess that Hu Jintao left him— a tough situation both domestically and externally. Additionally,
he himself is in a fairly bad political environment. One could say that he has two mother-in-laws, one is Jiang Zemin and the other is Hu Jintao. And inside the CPC ancestral hall there are two shrines—
for Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping— which he has to make offerings to. So, we can use this metaphor to describe the constraints on Xi Jinping: he has to dance in shackles. In particular, Hu Jintao’s “not taking the old path or evil path” statement at the 18th Party Congress
has put Xi Jinping in a political straightjacket, and is confining the administration of
Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang within a circle. They would have to govern while being tied up. How to view Xi Jinping’s challenges?
He has accepted Hu Jintao’s legacy. What is this political legacy? Stability maintenance with an iron fist. Hu Jintao has done nothing in his decade in power,
except for being a “captain of continuation,” pushing China’s various conflicts toward critical breaking point. The situation is now one of discord and conflict,
with dangers lurking in every corner. Hu Jintao has used high-pressure stability maintenance to
suppress these problems, but did not really solve them. These have been left to Xi Jinping,
and this is the situation he faces. So ultimately,
what strategy do I think Xi Jinping will adopt on these issues? It will be strategy that:
rolls-up the Party flag without destroying it, the so-called “signal left, turn right,”
strategy of trying hard to avoid disputes within the party. So I think Xi Jinping is facing a very grim situation. Unlike Jiang Zemin,
he can’t act like an emperor in a peaceful era for a decade, and unlike Hu Jintao,
Xi does not have the historical conditions
to spend 10 years as a “captain of continuation.” Therefore,
Xi Jinping is facing a very grim situation in the coming decade. My view is that if Xi Jinping, facing fundamental problems,
does not implement fundamental changes, China’s social conflicts will increasingly sharpen, leading to large-scale street protests. At that time, Xi Jinping’s decisions will determine his own fate, and the fate of China’s future. You can put the question this way:
what strategy will he use to deal with large scale street protests? Crack down or not crack down? I think Xi Jinping’s tenure has three possible outcomes. In the event of large-scale protests, if he chooses political reform, he will become a second Chiang Ching-kuo
(who democratized Taiwan). If he chooses to crack down and succeeds,
he will become a second Deng Xiaoping, who, as they say, “killed 200,000 people for 20 years of stability.” But if he fails in cracking down,
or if the soldiers turn their guns in the other direction, he may become the next Ceausescu. History has not given Xi Jinping much time.

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