Xi Jinping and the System of Succession
By Jin Zhong
At the fourth plenary session of the 17th CCP Central Committee held in mid September, Xi Jinping, contrary to media projections, was not promoted to Vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC). Does this mean the rules of the CCP have changed? Once Xi became a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, Vice-president of China and director of the Central Party School, people gained the impression that he was set to be Hu Jintao’s successor. Moreover, he appeared at the fourth plenary session to announce the resolution on Party construction. Was it some kind of hide-and-seek game? In fact, the basic problem lies in people’s concern for democracy within the Party.
The fourth plenary announced that “democracy within the Party is vital to the Party's life.” However, it was quite another story when the General Office of the CCP Central Committee announced the slogans for the 60th anniversary of the PRC: five among the 50 slogans emphasize “harmony,” and the key one is “organic integration of maintaining the Party's leadership, the people as masters of the country, and ruling the country by law.” The slogan only mentions the people being the masters of the country, but not enjoying democracy. While harping on “harmony,” the leaders are afraid of “democracy.” Does this mean democracy can exist within the Party but is forbidden among the people? Is the government worried that people will make use of democracy to overturn the government? If that were the case, it would be a good thing. ?
What democracy within the Party must face first and foremost is the system of succession. This system is the opposite of that accomplished through universal suffrage in democratic countries, demonstrating the most obvious difference between autocracy and democracy in respect of the origin and succession of supreme power in a country. The constitutions of both China and the CCP state clearly that the top leaders are to be elected. Theoretically, they don’t have the courage and basis to advocate succession of national power or make deals under the table. However, the reality is another story.
From Mao to Deng, the top leaders insisted on choosing their successors, but from Liu Shaoqi to Zhao Ziyang, all met their Waterloo, and the entire nation had to pay a heavy price for it. Relying on the first generation’s power, this system has continued even since Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao came onto the stage. It is clear that Jiang and Hu didn’t have the prestige Mao and Deng had to appoint their successors. As a result, when the fifth generation of the CCP comes to power, i.e., when Xi Jinping takes over from Hu Jintao, the nation will face challenges never before seen in the past six decades, and that is today’s real focus.
From another perspective, this also offers the Party elders a valuable opportunity to see whether they can learn from history and wake up to reality – launching a fair and orderly competition within the Party, enhancing the transparency of the Party and putting slogans such as “further emancipation of the mind” and “construction of an innovative nation!” into practice.???
Regrettably, the arrangements for the great celebration of the 60th anniversary of the PRC did not allow for any “innovation.” As most media pointed out, the celebration was planned like a War on Terror. Beijing, as if facing a formidable enemy, planned the greatest and most impressive military parade ever assembled. Extreme security measures were taken for the parade, with neighbouring provinces serving as moats for the city; defences were set up everywhere; taxis were connected to tracking monitors; supermarkets were ordered not to sell sharp knives…The disruption of daily life occasioned by the extreme measures in preparation for the celebration led to complaints from all quarters, and what should have been a celebration became little more than an oppression for the majority of the populace.
Everybody is asking the same question: why are the Standing Committee members in Zhongnanhai so lacking in confidence? The reason lies in the current situation and also in tradition. There are contradictions between the officials and the people, between the rich and the poor, and between different ethnicities, while pressure from problems in Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan and Hong Kong continues. The mediocrities occupying the seat of power have no choice but to talk of “harmony” all day and threaten the people with armed force, serving the function of a dictatorship that cannot speak its name. And so it has gone for the past 60 years.
The CCP’s “remarkable achievements” were never the result of democracy. On the other hand, Deng Xiaoping in his last words warned future leaders not to introduce Western-style democracy to China. How would his successors, enjoying so much less power and influence, dare to develop genuine “democracy within the Party”? Lies and empty words are also tradition, after all.
25th September, 2009 in Hong Kong
(Translated by Isabella Lam)