The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will pass a resolution at a top political meeting from Nov. 8-11, in what looks to be a defiant message to the international community that the country will continue to “stand up” to foreign oppression in its quest for “national rejuvenation.”
State media have reported that the resolution relates to party history, and that the previous two history-related resolutions both heralded significant changes in the party’s direction.
However, a summary of its content published by state news agency Xinhua is short on specific historical detail and long on declarations about China’s future under CCP general secretary Xi Jinping, and appears to underline the country’s increasingly assertive approach to foreign policy.
“Both of the previous resolutions were passed at a critical stage for the CCP, heralding a new era in China,” Xinhua reported on Oct. 18.
While previous resolutions on CCP history have signaled major shifts in the party line, they have also signaled the ascendancy of a particular faction within the CCP, according to Patricia Thornton, associate professor of politics at Oxford University.
“Party history resolutions also serve to consolidate the balance of power & *resources* among the partyâ€™s internal divisions in the hands of one faction, and seek to bring an end to the competition, internal division & struggle,” Thornton said via her Twitter account, commenting on the Xinhua announcement.
The wording reported by Xinhua is in stark contrast to the CCP’s 1981 “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China,” in which the CCP under Deng penned a 13-page historical commentary that laid the responsibility for the “leftist errors” leading to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) at Mao’s door, while also lauding his leadership at great length.
The 1981 resolution was largely addressed to the rank-and-file of the CCP and the people of China, who needed to know the likely direction in which Deng would take them following the death of Mao (1976), the power struggle that led to the fall of his designated successor Hua Guofeng, and the trial of the Gang of Four inÂ November 1980.
But Xi’s 2021 resolution contains a “declaration to the world,” suggesting that its target audience is the international community, some of whom may be wondering whether to fall in with Xi’s ambition to export China’s model of authoritarian governance overseas, or to strengthen defenses against it.
More ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy?
According to Thornton, the language used by Xinhua to describe the resolution also appears to double down on China’s recent brand of “wolf-warrior” diplomacy and efforts to extend its political influence far beyond its borders.
“The news release suggests this new resolution is no mere victory lap for the #CCP: it’s defiant, even truculent, in tone,” Thornton tweeted. “With an affirming nod to the “wolf warrior” discourse of recent months & years, it notes the #CCP has “increasingly consolidated #China’s international position.”
The inclusion of late supreme leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, as well as former presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, in a pantheon of political leaders culminating in Xi Jinping appears to suggest that Xi is claiming credit for carrying on their work, while backing away from any appraisal of their actions.
Deng Yuwen, a researcher at the India-based Centre for China Analysis and Strategy, said he reads the language in the report as an insistence on party unity ahead of Xi’s likely third term in office, likely to be decided at next year’s 20th Party Congress.
“There is definitely a connection between the two: the higher the status of Xi Jinping, as enshrined in this resolution on party history, the greater his claim to legitimacy [for a third term],” Deng said.
Meanwhile, a reference to “people of all ethnic groups” as being united under the leadership of the party suggests that the CCP leadership will likely power ahead with its repressive policies of surveillance, assimilation and cultural erasure targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples, Mongolians, Tibetans and Koreans.
The text also seems to stake Xi’s claim to Mao’s legacy, with the use of the phrase “flying leap,” suggesting that Xi has succeeded in bringing Mao’s Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) — a failed bid to catch up to the economic prowess of the U.K. and the U.S. — to its successful historical conclusion.
And, far from commenting on, or engaging with the judgment inherent in earlier political appraisals of CCP history, the Xinhua text appears to offer a position statement on China’s future; an assurance that China is progressing smoothly towards a predetermined historical outcome, in which resolutions like the 1981 report card will no longer be needed.
Chen Kuide, executive chairman of the Princeton Chinese Society in the United States, said Xi is likely looking to establish his personal place in party history.
“Xi Jinping is leading the third resolution on party history to set in stone the third historical stage [of national rejuvenation] and to ensure his place in history,” Chen told RFA.
“[The idea is] to establish himself as the third most important leader in the history of the CCP,” he said.
CCP ‘Hall of Fame’
The first resolution on party history set in motion the “rectification” campaign while the CCP was still encamped at Yan’an during World War II, before it took power in 1949, Beijing-based independent historian Zhang Lifan said via Twitter on Oct. 18.
It resulted in Mao’s ascendancy as lifelong party leader, while the second resolution paved the way for decades of reform and breakneck economic growth under Deng, he wrote.
Bao Tong, former top aide to late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, tweeted that the resolution would likely focus on singing the party’s praises.
“Finally, they’re coming out with their Hall of Fame,” Bao wrote. “But we can be 100 percent certain that it will be filled with positive major achievements and historical experiences.”
“This isn’t going to be a list of the negative stuff.”
Chen Kuide said the phrasing used in the Xinhua news story echoed that of the officially approved “Brief History of the Chinese Communist Party” published earlier this year.
“I think the tone of the third resolution seeks to demonstrate that, since Xi Jinping took office, his efforts to bring about the realization of the Chinese dream and national rejuvenation have been epoch-making, successful and correct,” Chen said.
“This is an attempt to compensate for the fact that China’s relations with the rest of the world have deteriorated sharply during the past few years, and also a plethora of problems at home,” he said.
“It’s an attempt to block out that ‘noise’.”
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.