History comes to a grinding halt at a hotel in Beijing’s western suburbs this week, as 300 members of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee prepare a course for China’s next five-year political cycle.
The least task before the ruling communist elite would be to consolidate Xi Jinping’s position as China’s most powerful leader, certainly since Deng Xiaoping and possibly since Mao Zedong himself.
Those deliberations will be stamped out at the 20th National Party Congress to be held next year.
Over the next few days, the world’s attention will turn to Xi’s consecration and the resolutions of the sixth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee. Chinese scholars, intelligence analysts and diplomatic representatives will scrutinize every last word that comes out of Beijing’s propaganda machine.
History is being made in these discussions, which will go beyond the borders of China. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of these few days in Beijing, which will be fueled by issues such as China’s mission to reunite Taiwan with the mainland.
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In this centenary year of the party’s founding in Shanghai in 1921, the Sixth Plenum will coincide with three other important moments in the history of the Communist Party.
These three moments comprise the two sixth plenums. For the first time in 1945, Mao defeated his party’s opponents and became the sole leader. In another, in 1981, Deng removed the ideological debris of the disastrous Mao era.
The second event of special significance in the history of the Communist Party is the third plenary meeting of the 11th Central Committee in 1978. That year, a recently rehabilitated Deng re-emerged to take control of his party and his country and eventually shift the world away from one. So far the US-dominated axis.
In Mao’s case, the aim was to remove and sideline his political opponents. In Deng, he used the 1981 Sixth Plenum to bury Maoist excesses in a historical document. This determined that Mao had made serious mistakes, but he recognized his achievements.
Therefore the historical document has long been a weapon for the leaders of the Communist Party of China to impose their will on one party and one country.
In 2021, a contemporary historical calculation will be based not on the past but on the future in the world’s most populous country, the second largest economy and rival of American power and influence.
In 1981, not even the most committed Sinophile predicted that within a generation China would upset the global status quo and transform itself from a development backwater to one that challenged the West on many different fronts Was.
The objective of the Sixth Plenum of the Central Committees is to build consensus and clear the deck of outstanding differences before the Party Congress. Xi may appear omnipotent to the outside world, but internal party brawls, maneuvers and infighting are part of the world’s largest political organization, with some 95 million members.
Many of the comments are tied to the fact that Xi has not traveled outside China since 2020. This is being seen as a possible sign that he is not quite sure of his grip on power.
However, it is more likely that, in addition to constraints on travel in a pandemic, China’s leader would have used his time to prepare for this Sixth Plenum, which would have been an elaborate process of consultation and consensus-building.
Burying a requirement that could have prevented him from serving a third five-year term as China’s new emperor, Xi undoubtedly did nothing in his relentless efforts to consolidate his rule and root out potential adversaries. Don’t miss the chance.
His anti-corruption campaign early in his tenure, and more recently his moves against Chinese billionaires like Alibaba’s Jack Ma, are part of this process as part of efforts to bridge the gap between rich and poor.
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Xi’s “shared prosperity” campaign is central to his efforts to separate his era from the past. This includes sayings such as “It is glorious to be rich” and “It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, as long as she catches the mice” to Deng’s Chinese entrepreneurial instincts.
In this latest period, Xi is facing different challenges from his inspirational predecessor. In Deng’s case, his mission was to foster the creative energy of a country that was subject to a rolling series of disasters that culminated in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of 1966–76.
In Xi’s case, his challenges are perhaps no less than that of Deng’s in transforming China from an export-based low-wage economy to an economy driven by its vast consumer market.
These challenges have been highlighted in recent months by the near-collapse of China’s largest property developer Evergrande, the uncertainty of others in the same space, and power generation shortages and blackouts.
Above all, China’s economy is slowing in a way that would be concerning to Beijing’s central planners; However it is well said that the economic growth of the country should be considered as a multiplier of a much larger economy these days than before when double digit growth rate was the norm.
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Representatives of the Central Committee are unlikely to attend the third plenary session of the 1978 11th Central Committee this week. But its shadow will extend over the deliberation in the sense that without the support of that event, China would not have moved as far and as fast as the process of “reform and opening up”.
It was at the Third Plenum that Deng and his supporters weaponized the phrase “seeking truth from facts” to counter the Maoist grip standing in the way of the process of economic liberalization and opening up to the outside world.
Four decades later, Xi would seek to advance that process, endorsing his “shared prosperity” theme, which itself owes much to Deng’s aim of building a “moderately prosperous” China.
Party theoretician would color the proposals for the Sixth Plenum, the phrase “general prosperity”, given by Xi in the October 16 edition of the Qiushi Journal.
In that contribution, Shea provided more than a hint that he plans to be around for some time. They set 2035 as the goal of realizing their efforts to fix China’s income inequality and achieve their goal of providing more equitable access to basic services.
That benchmark date, 2035, is the National Party Congress’s two- and five-year cycles. In 2035, Xi will be 82, having ruled China for 20 years.