Was the recent Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 18th Party Congress really a victory for former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) over his successor, President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤)? Did it really bring conservative factions to the fore? Did it really signal the death knell of hopes for reform in China? I would say no to all of the above. My feeling is that the combination of Hu, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) and their respective successors, Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) and Vice Premier Li Keqiang (李克強), is actually a historic victory against Jiang’s hardline faction. I say this for two reasons.
First, there has been a fundamental revision of the “guiding ideology.” Hu’s address to the Congress stuck very much to the party line, as was to be expected. He came out with platitudes such as the need to uphold “Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) Thought, Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) Theory and the important thought of Three Represents,” but this was just a mark of respect for previous leaders, following Deng’s exhortations that “we cannot discard the ancestors.” Yet who still pays any attention to Mao’s “centrality of the class struggle,” Deng’s insistence on “upholding the Four Cardinal Principles,” or Jiang’s “Three Represents?”
The central theme of Hu’s address was what is being called the “scientific outlook on development” as the guiding ideology within the party’s constitution. He emphasized putting the people first; considering both the needs of the state and the collective, and having comprehensive, balanced and sustainable development to create a democratic, culturally advanced, ecological, harmonious society with a market economy.
This is a fundamental revision of the anti-scientific outlook on development of the anti-liberalization, anti-democracy, and anti-human rights model of the special-privilege capitalist monopoly market devised by Deng and continued by Jiang. This has led to corruption, waste of resources, ecological damage, yawning wealth disparity and widespread social discontent.
Second, the transfer of power represents a major renewal. Xi has been elected the CCP general-secretary and the chairman of the CCP’s Central Military Commission (CMC), and in the National People’s Congress meeting in March he will be elected Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). When this happens, the power transfer at the very top will have been achieved. Hu’s complete retirement will signal a major change, the end of the era in which Deng and Jiang were able to put themselves above the people and the country, and continued to interfere in government.
Deng was never elected to the highest position of power, either nationally or within the party. In January 1987 he staged a palace coup with a group of hardliners, including Chen Yun (陳雲), Bo Yibo (薄一波) and Wang Zhen (王震), and ousted then party general-secretary Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦). In June 1989, former CCP leader Zhao Ziyang (趙紫陽) was purged after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, this time in a military coup. Deng then proclaimed himself the “core of the second generation” of leaders and Jiang the “core of the third generation,” further stipulating that the leaders of the generation after that, proclaiming his “anti-liberalization” road, would “not be changed for 100 years.”