Xi Jinping cements his future by rewriting history

Xi Jinping has become China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, inscribing his name in China’s history, philosophy and future in a historical resolution unanimously adopted by China’s Communist Party.

The communique from the Party’s sixth Plenum announced on Thursday night will see Xi elevated to the top pantheon of Chinese leaders and cement his claim to a third term as President when the 20th Party Congress meets next year.

Xi Jinping at the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing in June.Credit:AP

The broad narrative had already been dictated by the high-ranking Politburo ahead of the meeting, but the endorsement by the Central Committee will allow Xi to continue his policy agenda unimpeded, and with the theoretical backing of “Xi Jinping Thought” now embedded alongside former leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in China’s psyche.

The Central Committee said in a communique on Thursday it would uphold Xi Jinping’s core position as the principal founder of Xi Jinping Thought and as the driving force of “the historic process of national rejuvenation”.

“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,” the communique said.

Chinese state media has been blanketed in propaganda in the lead up to the resolution, shoring up popular support for Xi, who will use his management of COVID-19, international disputes and the economy to claim a mandate as the only person capable of leading China through turbulent times.

China’s People’s Daily – the highest-profile mouthpiece of the Party – said in an editorial on Wednesday that under the guidance of Xi, the Party’s leadership, as well as the “fields of economy, politics, culture, society, ecological civilisation, military affairs, and foreign affairs have undergone historical transformations”.

“Marx pointed out that every era must have its own great personage,” the newspaper said.

Term limits installed by the Party in 1982 were designed to prevent a cult of personality after Mao’s destructive final years, but in 2018 Xi successfully amended the constitution to allow a president to serve unlimited five-year terms. Xi is only the third Chinese leader to deliver a resolution on Chinese history after Mao and Deng Xiaoping.

The timing of the historical resolution will allow Xi to shape the second century of the Chinese Communist Party after it celebrated its centenary in July.

“The Party’s hundred years of revolution, construction, and reform have already come to an end,” the People’s Daily said. “The comprehensive building of a modern socialist country has commenced.”

Nationalism had been building as the Plenum began this week. Credit:Sanghee Liu

Over four days this week, more than 300 Party officials discussed the resolution at the highly secretive plenum in Beijing.

“The Party made the Chinese people – who have suffered slavery and bullying for more than a century in modern times – stand up,” the draft resolution said. “The Party Central Committee, with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, has united and led the entire Party and people of all ethnicities across the nation.”

The endorsement will now also allow Xi to formally move on from Deng’s market-era of “reform and opening up”, towards “common prosperity” where the proceeds of capital will be distributed more evenly among the Chinese population. That will require the strengthening of Chinese state control over more aspects of Chinese society and the elimination of internal and external threats to China’s economy.

Globally, the extension of Xi’s term in office coupled with rising nationalism in China will embolden China on the world stage. Xi has accused the US of fostering a “Cold War mentality” as China threatens Taiwan, suppresses democracy in Hong Kong and maintains trade sanctions against Australia.

“Attempts to draw ideological lines or form small circles on geopolitical grounds are bound to fail,” Xi told the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum on Thursday.

Alfred Wu, a Chinese politics expert from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said dealing with a Xi-led China was going to become more difficult as he continues to dominate the Chinese Communist Party and China.

“It is going to be very tough,” he said. “Especially for democracies. Today’s China is very different from the Deng period. It’s going to be very difficult dealing with misinformation and economic hegemony.

“Australia knows this very well. It is going to get more intensified in the future.”

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