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China Watch | The Real Reason Why Xi Jinping is Pushing for an ‘Historical Resolution’

It seems Xi’s intent is to use the resolution to announce the start of a “Xi era” that sets him to become a dictator for life on an equal footing – or above – Mao Zedong.

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Chinese President Xi JInping.

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On October 18, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) decided that the sixth plenary session of the 19th CCP Central Committee would be held from November 8-11. One of the main tasks of the Central Committee will be to consider and approve a resolution concerning the historical experience of the party since its founding 100 years ago.

If that resolution is approved, it will become the “third historical resolution” adopted by the CCP, and the first since the time of Deng Xiaoping. 

As the Sankei Shimbun reported in a related article on October 19, the real reason why the regime of Xi Jinping is now pushing this resolution is that it plans to invest President Xi with authority on a par with the power enjoyed by former top leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. 

Actually, I believe that Xi has another related but hidden motive. 

When the CCP adopted its first historical resolution in 1945, it established Mao’s one-man dictatorship by offering a definitive narrative on the intra-party political struggles that had gone before. 

From that point until his death in September 1976, Mao reigned over the party and the state as an absolute dictator. As a result, China descended into the political chaos of the Cultural Revolution and experienced a truly dark period.

In 1981 Deng Xiaoping, who had become a victim when Mao was alive, ushered through the adoption of a second historical resolution. This resolution naturally rendered a verdict on the political turmoil during the Cultural Revolution. And it reflected on the harm done by one-man dictatorships like that of Mao. 

Commemorative medals of Mao Zedong (left) and Xi Jinping (center and right)

As a result of this soul-searching, during the Deng era the CCP introduced the “collective leadership system” and “mandatory age retirement system for leaders” in order to prevent the recurrence of such a one-man dictatorship. Even Deng, although remaining in fact the paramount leader, made it a practice to consult with other party elders and official party leaders before making important decisions. Furthermore, he relinquished all his official positions while still alive. 

This political style was carried on during the later Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao eras. In the case of Hu, Xi’s immediate predecessor, the system of collective leadership remained in place, even though Hu held the posts of both CCP general secretary and head of state. 

During Hu’s time in office, actual governance of the party and state continued to be in the hands of the nine members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Central Committee, who made decisions and shared responsibility collectively. Moreover, after Hu retired from those two posts at the end of two five-year terms, he more or less completely disappeared from the political scene.

Now, however, Xi has gotten rid of or seems determined to get rid of these two “good legacies” put in place by Deng. 

Poster of Deng Xiaping, whose reforms would become “outdated” by the new resolution.

It has been roughly nine years since Xi became general secretary of the CCP. The first thing he did was to consolidate power in his own hands. That included not just the power to make political, military and diplomatic decisions, but also the authority over economic management, which under the Hu administration had been in the hands of the premier as head of the State Council. Xi’s monopolization of power now lines up with that of Mao at its height.

In addition, Xi is now busy laying the groundwork for revision of China’s constitution, so that the term limit for serving as president will be abolished and he can keep that office.

By doing so, he will also be in position to be reelected as CCP general secretary at the party congress scheduled to be held in the fall of next year, bringing him a critical one step closer to his ultimate goal of becoming dictator for life. 

The aforementioned “historical resolution” may be viewed as one facet of the overall effort to prepare public opinion for that eventuality.

Xi apparently intends to use the “resolution” to announce the start of a “Xi era” that is clearly distinguished from the “Deng era.” He aims to do so by consigning to oblivion the “collective leadership system” and “mandatory age retirement system for leaders” of the Deng era as “past history,” and legitimize his own political style as dictator. 

In other words, Xi wants to emulate Mao, who used the first “historical resolution” in the history of the CCP to establish the framework for his personal dictatorship. By establishing a “third resolution,” Xi will have firmly embedded his power to justify his own dictatorial status.

If Xi’s scheme meets with success, that will mark the dawn of a new era in which Xi Jinping will become a dictator for life on a par with ー or even surpassing ー the status of Mao Zedong. One can only imagine the calamities that may beset the Chinese people in the days to come. 

(Read the Sankei Shimbun China Watch column in Japanese at this link.)

Author: Seki Hei

Find other articles by the author in English on JAPAN Forward at this link.

Seki Hei, PhD, was born in Sichuan Province, China, in 1962. He graduated from Peking University’s School of Philosophy, then came to Japan in 1988 and completed a doctoral program at Kobe University’s Graduate School of Intercultural Studies. After working at a private research institute, he began working as an analyst and critic. He has written many books, including The China of Conspirators (PHP Publishing, 2009). He became a Japanese citizen in 2007.