The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) celebrates its 100th anniversary tomorrow. Among actions aimed at expanding the celebrations, officials have compiled “80 slogans for the party’s centenary” and “100 quotes from party history.”
In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), who is general secretary of the CCP, said that “power should be exercised within the cage of regulations,” but he has continually challenged the regulations for the sake of his personal power. As a result, the CCP’s 20th National Party Congress next year is seen by some as a looming storm.
While the 19th National Party Congress in 2017 abolished the rule that Chinese presidents can only be re-elected once, that is not the most worrying thing. After all, under the CCP’s two major principles of “party-led government” and “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” the CCP’s general secretary and the chairman of the Central Military Commission hold the real political and military power, while the president’s power is not much greater than that of a symbolic head of state under a Cabinet system.
What really shows Xi’s determination to stay in power is that he did not promote a successor at the 19th National Party Congress to join the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee. Other than Xi, the only one of the six politburo members eligible to be re-elected to the standing committee at the 20th National Congress is Zhao Leji (趙樂際), who is ranked sixth out of the members.
However, Zhao is secretary of the CCP’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, and there is no precedent in party history for a member of that commission to take up the post of general secretary.
In the absence of a successor, Xi is likely to be re-elected as party general secretary. That would contravene at least two of the CCP’s major principles: that no one aged 67 or older take up any party post and that no party official serve more than one second term in office. A person can hold the post of CCP general secretary for a maximum of 10 years.
Although these two conventions are unwritten, they have been followed for many years, making it difficult to argue that they are not “regulations.” Xi has likely worked out how to get around them. Raising the age limit could be justified on the grounds of increasing life expectancy. If US President Joe Biden can be president at 78, why not Xi at 69? As to the number of terms, Xi could argue for an exception, as China is in a period of great developmental opportunities.
Party factions and the younger generation will not willingly accept this. One way to stop it would be the Peng Dehuai (彭德懷) model.
Peng, as one of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s “10 Marshals,” was always known for his outspokenness. During China’s war of resistance against Japan, he defied Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) instructions by launching the “100 Regiments Offensive” and won a great victory. During the Korean War, he forced the US to replace General Douglas MacArthur.
However, despite these great military successes, Peng ended up being hounded to death in the Cultural Revolution for having raised doubts about Mao’s policy decisions in the Great Leap Forward. Since then, no one in the CCP has dared to be so openly critical.
Another option would be the Lin Biao (林彪) model. In 1971, CCP vice chairman Lin’s coup attempt, conforming to conditions at the time, could not be done openly, but took the form of a secret palace coup.
However, no such attempt has ever succeeded. The most recent example was in 2012, when Chongqing party committee secretary Bo Xilai (薄熙來) and politburo member Zhou Yongkang (周永康) were not happy about Xi becoming the paramount leader.
The most unstable time for any dictatorship comes during a transition of power. Only if China can get through this institutional crisis can it reasonably claim that the “Chinese model” is a viable path of development.
Yang Chung-hsin is a civil servant.
Translated by Julian Clegg
On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a news conference via video link to announce a major strategic defense partnership, dubbed “AUKUS.” In an indication of the sensitivity and strategic weight attached to the pact, discussions were kept under wraps, with the announcement taking even seasoned military analysts by surprise. AUKUS represents a significant escalation of the transatlantic strategic tilt to the Indo-Pacific and should bring wider security benefits to the region, including Taiwan. At the forefront of the trilateral partnership is a bold plan to transfer highly sensitive US and
In an op-ed on Friday, Chen Hung-hui (陳宏煇), a former university military instructor, applauded the government’s efforts to reduce the “supply, demand and harm of cannabis.” (“Cannabis use booms on campuses,” Sept. 10, page 8). Chen recounted a story of a boy who partied with the “wrong crowd,” smoked cannabis and died. This story cannot be true, because cannabis is not deadly. Consuming too much can feel mighty unpleasant, but it will not kill a person. This fact is not only backed up by science and statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control, but is well-known in countries where cannabis
On Wednesday last week, the Transitional Justice Commission announced its plan to transform Taipei’s Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall into a park that would reflect Taiwan’s authoritarian past and its transition to democracy. This is a necessary step for the nation. Statues are powerful symbols of a glorious past and present; they represent an attempt of the past to reach into the future and allow for reflection on the past. However, as masters of the present, we must consider how future generations will look back to our days and the past that the generations collectively share. Taiwanese society is divided over the future
Bilateral relations between the US and China appear to be heading nowhere but down, but China’s leaders seem not to have given up on their broad-based push for a more cooperative relationship — yet. Late last year, when it became apparent that Joe Biden would succeed Donald Trump as US president, China’s leaders set in motion a plan to salvage relations with their greatest rival. In December, through public remarks from Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅), they offered the incoming administration a deal: If it would work to return the bilateral relationship to the “right track,” Beijing would