‘Xi Jinping’s Moment’ – Communist Party primacy in all realms of politics and civil society


Xi Jinping has emerged as the most decisive, disciplined Chinese leader in a generation, and, given China’s rise in relative strength compared to the West, the most powerful in more than a century, notes analyst Richard McGregor.

“Xi has swept aside potential rivals at home in his first five-year term, re-established the primacy of the Communist Party in all realms of politics and civil society and run the most far-reaching anti-corruption campaign in the history of the People’s Republic,” he writes. “Xi’s resounding political authority means that he is certain to be anointed for a second five-year term at the Party Congress, which opens on October 18 in Beijing, and he may have the means to extend his rule beyond that,” he suggests in a policy paper for the Lowy Institute, Xi Jinping’s Moment, released on October 6.

China’s economic slowdown and widespread corruption had pressed the party center to move to strengthen its control when Xi took office in 2012, said Matthias Stepan, an expert on Chinese policymaking at the Berlin-based think tank MERICS.

“The underlying message of most [party] documents issued ever since is … ‘we have to strengthen the party and the discipline of all party members. If we want to keep the legitimacy to rule, we have to be able to govern this country more efficiently and more professionally’,” he told The South China Morning Post.

Communist Party members should study contemporary capitalism but must never deviate from Marxism, Xi said, offering a clear signal there will be no weakening of party control weeks ahead of a key Congress opening, Reuters reports.

“If we deviate from or abandon Marxism, our party would lose its soul and direction,” Xi said. “On the fundamental issue of upholding the guiding role of Marxism, we must maintain unswerving resolve, never wavering at any time or under any circumstances.”

The Economist

China’s Communist party is making clear that it expects to dictate business decisions — not only at state-owned enterprises, but also at private companies and joint ventures with foreign partners, The Financial Times reports:

Under President Xi Jinping, the party has become more assertive, reclaiming functions that the civil government and industrial groups carved out during decades of liberalisation. Beijing has largely abandoned a list of promised economic liberalisation issued four years ago, opting instead for greater control by the party and state over the economy and civil society. For businesses, that control takes the form of party cells, long a feature of SOEs but increasingly a part of corporate life at private companies and foreign joint ventures.

Freedoms of speech and religion, the rule of law, and individual rights and freedoms have worsened during the past year under the ruling Chinese Communist Party, an annual congressional-executive report has found, calling on the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump to do more to halt the decline in basic freedoms, RFA reports:

The report found that the Chinese Communist Party continues to “use the law as an instrument of repression to expand control over Chinese society,” and that “the criminalization of China’s human rights lawyers and advocates is ongoing, including credible reports of torture in detention.” …Meanwhile, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China said it would award a Congressional Gold Medal to late political prisoner and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, and to all advocates of democracy and human rights in China.

Xi has launched a high-profile anti-corruption campaign, but Guo Wengui, a controversial Chinese billionaire in self-imposed exile blasted on Thursday the small clique of corrupt “kleptocrats” running China, CNBC reports.

“They are just a tiny group of Mafia, pure and simple,” said Guo. “I would like all the members of the Chinese Communist Party to wake up and say no to this ruling clique,” he said during an appearance at the National Press Club in Washington.

“What the U.S. ought to do is take action, instead of just talking to the Chinese kleptocracy,” Guo said, two days after a previously scheduled appearance at a think tank in the same city was postponed due to pressure from the Chinese government.

“My only single goal…is to change China,” Mr. Guo told the press conference, put on by the U.S.-based pro-democracy group Initiatives for China.

Five years of constant pressure on China’s civil society and heightened control of the internet means open censure of the state is all but impossible, notes one observer.

Grassroots groups, including feminists and Christians, have faced intensifying crackdowns, and recent laws on foreign NGOs have further stifled civil society participation, notes Viola Rothschild, a research associate in Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations:

In western China’s Xinjiang autonomous region, authorities have continued their sustained crackdown on the Muslim Uighur minority, forcing them to install surveillance apps on their mobile phones, banning their native language in local schools, jailing prominent Uighur scholars, and even reaching beyond China’s borders to repatriate Uighur students studying abroad.

Like Mao, Xi “clings to the dogma that the party’s role is to guide economic forces, direct every aspect of political life and mold human behavior,” says The Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Browne. “The vanguard of his economic policies are state-owned enterprises, entrusted with almost limitless state wealth and endlessly obedient.”

Contrary to suggestions that China’s exposure to the benefits of globalisation would lead the country to embrace democratic institutions and support the American-led world order, China has remained an authoritarian, one-party state that is backed by an increasingly powerful military, writes Columbia University’s Andrew J. Nathan, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.

China wants to assert a new world order, Nathan suggests, as is evident from its aggressive assertion of soft power and subversive foreign influence peddling.

One of Australia’s biggest political donors, who rubbed shoulders with serving and former prime ministers, has been accused of engaging in clandestine activities to “advance the interests of the People’s Republic of China,” The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

The allegations involving Chau Chak Wing, an Australian citizen who has also donated $45 million to Australian universities, are detailed in a defamation case in the Federal Court……The documents allege that the Chinese Communist Party uses “agents” to “learn about, influence and subvert” the policies of foreign governments, including Australia’s.

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that [Mr Chau] … donated enormous sums of money to Australian political parties as bribes intended to influence politicians to advance the interests of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party,” say the documents, authored by barrister Matt Collins, QC, and filed on Friday.

In the wake of the controversy over Chinese government requests to censor academic journals, notably Cambridge University Press’ China Quarterly, two podcasts delve into issues relating to censorship and academia. On Sinica, Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn speak with Jim Millward of Georgetown Universityauthor of one prominent critique of CUP’s actions, about the situation at China Quarterly, China Digital Times reports.

The upcoming 19th Party Congress in China, considered to be President Xi Jinping’s “midterm,” is fraught with risks and challenges for him, the 21st Century China Center notes. As Xi seeks to strengthen his hand by elevating his close supporters into the Politburo and its Standing Committee, the Party’s institutional rules and precedents require him to share power and patronage with other senior leaders.

Will Xi follow the rules and preside over a normal collective process or will he flout the rules in order to consolidate his position as the core leader? What is the agenda for economic policy reform? To help us understand what has transpired under Xi’s rule in the past five years and how the 19th Party Congress could reshape China’s political landscape, the 21st Century China Center has assembled a team of UC San Diego’s leading experts on Chinese politics and economy to address a series of issues related to the 19th Party Congress.


Tai Ming Cheung, Director, UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation; Associate Professor, School of Global Policy and Strategy, UC San Diego

Barry Naughton, Sokwanlok Professor of Chinese International Affairs, School of Global Policy and Strategy, UC San Diego

Margaret Roberts, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, UC San Diego

Victor Shih, Associate Professor, School of Global Policy and Strategy, UC San Diego

Susan Shirk, Chair of 21st Century China Center, School of Global Policy and Strategy, UC San Diego


Susan V. Lawrence, Specialist in Asian Affairs, Congressional Research Service

This event is co-sponsored by the US-Asia Institute and will be held at the University of California Washington Center (directions).

Timeline: 9:30-10 Reception 10-11 Panel Discussion 11-11:30 Q&A

Questions? Contact Samuel Tsoi.

Mon, October 23, 2017

9:30 AM – 11:30 AM EDT

Add to Calendar


University of California Washington Center

1608 Rhode Island Avenue Northwest

Washington, DC 20036

View Map


Print Friendly, PDF & Email