Xi uses 100th CCP celebration to promote “two safeguards”|Lui Yue

Published (HKT): 2021.04.08 10:45

The “profound changes unseen in a century” as previously described by Xi Jinping are likely to happen this year. The year 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It also makes the end of the first of the “two 100 years” that form an important part of his “China Dream”. On November 29, 2012, less than six months after he took power at the 18th CCP National Congress, Xi led the newly appointed CCP Politburo Standing Committee members to the National Museum of China to see the “Road Toward Renewal” exhibition. During the visit, Xi proposed the notion of the “China Dream”, saying that “the revival of the Chinese nation is the greatest dream of the nation since modern times”. His comment triggered heated discussions. Rumor had it that Wang Qishan, then secretary of the Central Discipline Inspection Commission (CCDI), also joined the discussions. He allegedly said: “During the Mao era, there was Mao Zedong ‘thought’. Then there was Deng Xiaoping’s ‘theory’. Jiang Zemin’s ‘Three Represents’ was also a kind of ‘thought’. For Hu Jintao, there was his ‘perspective’. How come we have a dream now? Can 1.3 billion people dream together?” If Wang had such a response, one can imagine how Jiang, Zhu Rongji, Li Ruihuan, Jia Qinglin and Li Changchun reacted to Xi’s proposal. When the Regulation of the Communist Party of China on Disciplinary Actions was amended at the Fifth Plenary Session of the CCDI in January 2015, Xi highlighted the notion of “highlighting the important points and targeting current social ills”. He also added a rule banning CCP members from “improperly discussing the fundamental policies of the central government. There were also the new rules banning party members from “vilifying the image of the party and the country, and smearing and slandering party and state leaders”, and from “distorting the history of the party and the military”. All these were meant to demonstrate the fact that party discipline was stricter than national laws.

Xi’s eight-year “anti-corruption” campaign resulted in the arrests of most high-ranking members of the 17th and 18th Central Military Commissions. When Jiang and Hu were respectively in power, there was this norm which held that Politburo Standing Committee members were immune from prosecution. But Xi broke the norm and arrested Zhou Yongkang, a former Politburo Standing Committee member and former secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, as well deputy ministerial-level officials of four public security organs. Today, the task of “cleaning up” the commission and fishing for officials with “two faces” is still ongoing.

It so happens that the “first 100 years” falls on a Gen Zi year on the lunar calendrical cycle, which some people believe is a year riddled with danger and catastrophe. Guided by Xi’s claim that “the East is on the rise and the West in decline”, and encouraged by its wolf warrior policy, Beijing thought there would be a new wave of nationalism boycotting multinational companies such as H&M and Nike in retaliation for the 36 countries boycotting Xinjiang cotton. But that actually set off a new trend of people in the mainland snapping up foreign designer products. In the morning of March 23, the CCP Central Committee held its first media conference in 2021, briefing journalists on events marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CCP. To people’s surprise, no military parade will be held to mark the event. That is at odd with the fact that the Liaoning aircraft carrier formation is going through the First Island Chain. China’s Ministry of Finance is well aware that even though China has increased its military budget this year, it is unable to afford a military parade costing billions of yuan. Since 2018, and especially since Trump launched a trade war on China, Beijing key economic task has always been able to maintain a six percent GDP growth rate. Meanwhile, by cracking down on Hong Kong and spreading the Covid-19 virus around the world, China has inflicted harms on itself as well as others. All this has exacerbated China’s economic woes.

Who will get the July 1 Medal?

Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the party’s founding probably offers the best chance for the CCP to boost its prestige and authority. Perhaps that is why Xi will for the first time give out the July 1 Medals, of which the medal certificates will be signed by him. The July 1 Medal, the highest honor of the CCP’s honors system, was launched on July 22, 2017. At the said press conference, Fu Xingguo, deputy head of the CCP Central Committee’s Organization Department, announced four criteria for candidates for the medal. First, they should have “firm ideals and beliefs”, be loyal to the party, “consciously strengthen their ‘four consciousnesses, enhance their “four self-confidences”, and “achieve two safeguards”. Second, they have made great contributions to the Chinese revolution, the building up and reforms of the country, and the new, great party-building projects. Third, they should have “noble morals” and can create “valuable spiritual wealth”. Fourth, they should have major influence in the party and society and are highly praised. The medal can be awarded posthumously, but because there is a rule stipulating that it is “generally awarded posthumously to party members who died after the implementation of this rule”, it will not be granted to former statesmen like Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, and Chen Yun.

In theory, Jiang and Hu should top the list of the July 1 Medal awardees, but whether they are willing to be conferred it by Xi is another matter, in light of the first criterion. The same goes to former Politburo Standing Committee members from the times of Jiang and Hu, including Zhu Rongji and Li Ruihuan. It looks like Li Peng, who died in 2019, and Song Ping, who is still alive, are most likely to be granted the medal.

In the latest issue of the semi-monthly magazine Qiushi, the full text of a speech Xi delivered at the “Mobilization Conference on Party History Studies and Education” on February 20 was published. The speech, which carried more than 10,000 words, revealed some details that CCP-run media outlets have never publicized before. Xi called for party members to be alert to certain “wrong tendencies” when studying party history. These include exaggerating certain mistakes and twists and turns in the history of the CCP; “wantonly smearing and twisting party history”; attacking the CCP leadership; deliberately linking certain part of past incidents with current issues and playing things up; not believing in the official versions of party history but believing in unofficial versions; “vulgarizing” party history or turning it into entertainment, earnestly spreading gossips, and indulging in illegal overseas publications. In effect, the speech dismissed the ideological emancipation movement following the fall of the Gang of Four, the campaigns that vindicated people who were wrongly prosecuted, the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CCP Central Committee, and the decision to pass the “Resolution on Several Historical Questions for the Party Since the Founding of the Country” at the Sixth Plenary Session of the 11th CCP Central Committee. The speech represents a even bigger step backward in the CCP’s history. The underlying aim is to strengthen the “two safeguards”, which refer to safeguarding the position of Xi as the core of the CCP Central Committee and the core of the party, and safeguarding the authoritative and centralized leadership of the CCP Central Committee. Xi is trying to pave the way for securing his presidency at the 20th party congress.

During the Ching Ming Festival this year, people in Wuhan snapped up all chrysanthemums again and some 300,000 people visited ancestral tombs. In Beijing, the authorities started to put in place control measures targeting specific spots on March 24. The measures will be removed on April 10. The most sensitive place is the tomb of Zhao Ziyang. The authorities covered it up so that no one can see it. Zhao’s children Zhao Erjun and Wang Yannan and Wang’s husband, together with more than 10 relatives from Henan and a few friends, had to inform the cemetery authority of their visit in advance. On the day they visited the tomb, they were only allowed to stay for 20 minutes and the number of people gathering for group photos was four. This is sheer fear. The self-proclaimed biggest political party in the world is in fear of its own sins. The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China has already applied to hold an event on June 4 this year at Victoria Park to commemorate the Tiananmen event in 1989. Our memories of the crimes committed by some people in the past are not to be eradicated by guns or jail sentences.

(Lui Yue, veteran Chinese journalist)

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