Xi Jinping Personality Cult
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. Early in his first term, Xi declared war on “historical nihilism”, which he defined as any attempt to challenge the official narrative of significant past events. Since its inception, the Communist Party has censored "incorrect" versions of history, but neither Mao nor Deng used the term as frequently or ardently as China's current leader.
The Chinese Communist Party passed a "historical resolution," cementing Xi Jinping's status in political history. A resolution on the Party's major achievements and historical experiences over the past 100 years was adopted on 11 November 2021 following the sixth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee. Thus, there will now be a first political era – that of Mao Zedong’s revolution – followed by Deng Xiaoping’s second era of reforms. Xi Jinping would embody the third era, that of the consolidation of the regime. This divided history into four different periods in which Chinese communists, with Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping as chief representatives, achieved a series of historic achievements - the period of the new-democratic revolution (Mao); the period of socialist revolution and construction (Mao); the new period of reform, opening up, and socialist modernization (Deng, Jiang and Hu); and the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics (Xi).
Unlike the previous two resolutions which focused on summarizing the Party's historical lessons and distinguishing right from wrong in history, this one focuses on summarizing the Party's major achievements and historical experiences in its century-long struggle. The second is that the latest resolution emphasizes the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The document, a summary of the party's 100-year history, addresses its key achievements and future directions. This resolution - a summary of the Chinese Communist Party's 100-year history - is only the third of its kind since the founding of the party. The first was passed by Mao Zedong in 1945 and the second by Deng Xiaoping in 1981. So, leaders at the elite meeting enshrined Xi Jinping among the party's historical giants, paving the way for him to claim a third five-year term.
Analysts said that in the previous period, the major tasks were mainly about development and maintaining a low profile in the international community, so there were "many tough problems that were long on the agenda but never resolved" and "many things that were wanted but never got done," because in the previous period of reform and opening-up, the conditions for resolving those problems were not ripe, and only by successfully accomplishing the major tasks in the previous three periods with the efforts of the Chinese communists of Mao, Deng, Jiang and Hu's generations, the Chinese communists with Xi as the chief representative would have the chance to solve them in the new era. For instance, the problems in Hong Kong and Xinjiang have not just appeared in recent years but have been long-existing problems for decades, and now the CPC has the strength and conditions to solve them with decisive and powerful measures.
Xi Jinping was elected Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission of the PRC on 17 March 2018 at the ongoing first session of the 13th National People's Congress, the national legislature, with no limit on the number of terms he can serve. The national legislature added oaths of allegiance into the newly-amended Constitution. The amendments also wrote Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as a guiding theory for China, making it the sixth political thought-form listed there after Marxism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Thought, [Jiang Zemin's] Three Represents and the scientific outlook on development [of Hu Jintao].
Xi Jinping continued to cement his personal grip on the country’s leadership when the Politburo met on 28 September 2020 and approved an amendment to a set of standing guidelines for party leaders that names Xi as a “core leader” of the party. According to state news agency Xinhua, the move was “an inevitable requirement for strongly safeguarding the authority and centralized leadership of the Central Committee.” It would also be of “great and far-reaching significance” in advancing Xi’s personal brand of ideology: socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, the agency reported. The fact that Xi’s name is now inscribed in the “Regulations on the Work of the Central Committee” meant that he will hold power indefinitely, a process that was begun with the abolition of presidential term limits in March 2018. This is official affirmation in party documents that Xi Jinping must be maintained as the ‘core’ of party leadership.
Since taking power in 2012, President Xi has launched an unprecedented set of ideological controls and boosted the institutions needed to enforce them. Xi has repeatedly warned members of the political class not to go off message in public, and set up a nationwide monitoring agency to supervise and detain anyone remotely connected with the government, including civil servants, teachers and academics, journalists, and contractors. The suppression of freedom of speech and academic freedom are directly related to the ideology of the current leadership, which is engaged in an ideological return to the Mao era.
He has a tight grip on everyone. The advanced surveillance technology is not only utilized in monitoring Xinjiang and Tibet, but it is also applied to monitor CCP members as well as mid- and high-level officials. Around 2013, Xi Jinping also announced a policy that forbids the formation of any alumni associations or hometown associations; additionally, gathering after work is also not allowed. He was worried that such gatherings may provide room for cliques or political factions to grow within the Party. Not only is normal socialization forbidden, but he also requires everyone to be debriefed on what has happened under their own roofs. It is never stipulated in any laws, but you should know better. If you fail to report as required, then it proves that your “Party Spirit is weak.”
Xi had acquired more power than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. According to the Constitution of Communist Party of China [Chapter II, Article 10] "6) The Party forbids all forms of personality cult. It is necessary to ensure that the activities of the Party leaders are subject to oversight by the Party and the people, and at the same time to uphold the prestige of all the leaders who represent the interests of the Party and the people."
The Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee proposed 25 February 2018 deleting the stipulation that "a president shall serve no more than two consecutive terms" from the constitution. Such a move would make it possible for current President Xi Jinping — who is also party chief — to remain in power after 2023 when he would have to stand down under the current system. The 64-year-old Xi, considered to be China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, has been president since 2013. He began his second five-year term in October 2017. Read more: 'The Chinese Dream' and Xi Jinping's power politics. The proposal would also cover the vice president position. Any constitutional reform must be approved by China's parliament. That assembly is filled with members who were chosen for party loyalty, meaning the reform is unlikely to be blocked.
What does Xi as core mean in a historical context? It was Deng Xiaoping who introduced the concept when he designated Jiang Zemin as "core of the third generation" of central leaders, bolstering Jiang's stature following his unexpected appointment as Party leader in 1989.
Speaking at a press conference following the 18th CPC Central Committee's Sixth Plenum in October, Huang Kunming, Executive Deputy Director of the committee's Publicity Department, said the "central and local departments as well as the military all expressed their support" for Xi's position as Party core, adding that this decision was "based on the valuable experience of the Party, and we feel keenly about it."
When, at the Party plenum, President Xi Jinping was designated as "core" of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), some Western media were quick to condemn the rise of a new "strongman." While recognizing the significance of Xi as the core was correct, conjuring up visions of an emerging dictator was not. In an article originally published in Hong Kong's South China Morning Post in NOvember 2016, Robert Lawrence Kuhn, a renowned commentator on China, says interpreting the appellation core leader as indicating a type of "strongman rule" is to misunderstand its significance for a nation navigating its way through immense challenges.
Chinese scholars argue that "core" is a unique characteristic of Chinese political theory—however inapplicable (even inexplicable) in Western political theory. They call Western concerns that labeling Xi as core leader means that "a new emperor is born" wildly unfounded, even paranoic. In China's historic feudal society, the emperor ruled unconditionally with arbitrary imperial power, and in such a "command-obey" system, goes the argument, there is simply no need for a core. Rather, given today's Party political structure, the concept of a core both strengthens cohesion and serves to prevent a personality cult, not to promote one.
At the start of his second five-year term as leader of China’s ruling Communist Party, Xi Jinping was at the center of China’s most colorful efforts to build a cult of personality since the death of the founder of the People’s Republic, Mao Zedong, in 1976. Efforts range from the trivial to the borderline hysterical, such as when state broadcaster China Central Television led its evening national news bulletin November 21, 2017 with more than four minutes of uninterrupted clapping for Xi as he met with adoring citizens.
Universities and colleges across the country have established research centers for “Xi Jinping Thought.” Such moves are driven more by competition for research funding than genuine regard for Xi’s political consciousness.
With the inclusion of the "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era" in the constitution of the Communist Party (CPC), the president had taken a huge step toward consolidating his leadership beyond 2022. Xi has been given the customary second five-year term as the CPC's general secretary and has laid the foundation for a possible, unprecedented third term. The moves hinted at Xi's plans to be China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.
The Communist Party in China announced on 24 October 2017 that it was adding the name of President Xi Jinping and his political philosophy to the country's constitution. "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era," is set to be enshrined alongside that of Mao Zedong, the founder of modern communist China. Former President Deng Xiaoping had his name added after his death. The unusual step highlights the speed and tenacity with which Xi consolidated power since his ascension in 2012.
The president opened the congress by hailing a "new era" that would see China become a "a global leader" by 2050. Xi has cultivated an image as a responsible, level-headed leader during a tumultuous time for Western politics.
The 19th Communist Party of China, CPC national congress that held from October 18-24, 2017, has been described as "historic" because of the achievements recorded in the past five years. Moreover, China has now entered a new era as it draws closer to rejuvenation for the first time since the 19th Century, explained Xie Chuntao, a Professor of CPC Affairs.
Prof. Xie assured that though Xi Jinping is at the core of the CPC, the collective leadership of the Politburo Standing Committee, PSC of the CPC Central Committee remains in place as stated in the party constitution. "There will be no personality cult of Xi. As General Secretary, he only takes the floor after other party members so as not to sway discussions. He summarises what is said, builds consensus and takes the final decision. Xi spent 46 years to rise from a grassroots leader to a national political leader," Prof. Xie recalled.
According to Xie Chuntao, speculations about Xi Jinping being leader for life are premature because he has only begun his second five-year term. "It is a hypothetical question. The CPC has a tradition of respecting its rules," Xie reassured. He described China-Africa ties as good, given that both sides have been long-time friends. "China's ties with Africa are a model to others. It is not neocolonialism as suggested in some quarters," Xie underscored.
The cadres’ adherence to party ideology has become a decisive criterion. Today, party members are expected to be able to mechanically recite the autocratic ruler’s current slogans. Public contradiction is unwelcome. Being loyal to party principles becomes the key to success, not only in state-owned enterprises, but also in private companies.
The Chinese Ministry of Education (MOE) issued on 24 July 2021 a guiding document to incorporate Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era into the curriculum. Incorporating Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era into the curriculum is significant in helping teenagers establish Marxist beliefs and strengthen confidence in the path, theory, system and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics, according to the guiding document. The guiding document requires that Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era be integrated into the curriculum covering basic, vocational and higher education, and be integrated with various subjects.
Primary schools will focus on cultivating love for the country, the Communist Party of China, and socialism. In middle schools, the focus will be on a combination of perceptual experience and knowledge study, to help students form basic political judgments and opinions. In college, there will be more emphasis on the establishment of theoretical thinking.
Studying Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is the primary political task of the Communist Party of China and of the country, read a statement published on the MOE website. To cultivate the builders and successors of socialism with an all-round moral, intellectual, physical and aesthetic grounding and a hard-working spirit, we must arm students' minds with Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, said the statement.
The teaching materials must grasp the essence of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, systematically summarize its content, and clarify the scope of learning, read the statement. Also formulated are guidelines on labor education for students to cultivate their hard-working spirit, and on education of national security.
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