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'Cult of Personal Worship': What are the Expert Opinions on Xi's New Resolution?

Many scholars agree that the Communist Party is rewriting history and placing Xi Jinping at the centre of its glory.

Published
World
5 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Chinese President Xi Jinping.&nbsp;</p></div>
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A lot is being said and written about the resolution, third of its kind, that was passed by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Thursday, 11 November, which sought to "resolutely uphold Comrade Xi Jinping's core position" in the party.

Within the Chinese bureaucracy, there is an unsurprising sense of jubilation and excitement, as exemplified by what senior party official Qu Qingshan had to say at a press conference.

"Just like the previous two resolutions, [this resolution] will play an important role in helping to unite the theory, will and action of the party - to achieve future progress and in realising the second centenary goal and the great Chinese dream of rejuvenation", BBC reported.

But outside of China, experts and analysts have much to say about the resolution that they believe is an attempt at rewriting the CPC's history in a way places Xi Jinping at the centre of its glory.

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On Xi Rewriting History 

Quite a few scholars agree on Xi "trying to cast himself as the hero in the epic of China's national journey."

Adam Ni, the editor of a newsletter on Chinese affairs called China Neican, who was quoted above, also says that "by pushing through a historical resolution that puts himself at the centre of the grand narrative of the Party and modern China, Mr Xi is demonstrating his power. But the document is also a tool to help him retain this power."

Others mention how Xi's attempts are neither new nor shocking, but the Communist Party is indeed making it very difficult for anyone to challenge whatever narrative it imposes on the public.

"While it is absolutely not a uniquely authoritarian impulse to draw from a highly selective version of history and wage history wars to advance your own interests, in Russia and China it is becoming much harder and more dangerous to push back," said Katie Stallard, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars in Washington told the New York Times.

She added that "the space for challenging the official version — which did exist previously — is shrinking" and that "both [China and Russia] frame their approach in terms of patriotism, but really it’s about securing the status quo and entrenching existing systems of power."

Additionally, academics like Rana Mitter point out how the resolution is clearly trying to provide a much rosier history of the Communist Party than what it actually is.

She told Politico that "it may well be that this new resolution stresses the upward trajectory of the Communist Party since its foundation in 1921 [and] in this new version of history, the sheer destruction of the Cultural Revolution would be smoothed out of historical visibility."

On Xi's Centralisation of Power

Nobody really doubts that Xi Jinping really wants to remain president beyond his second term that ends in 2023.

After all, in 2018, the CPC voted to amend the Chinese Constitution and made Xi Jinping president for the rest of his life, a collective decision that was taken without any debate and with hardly any dissent.

The 2021 resolution has led Willy Wo-Lap Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong to remark that although it has "not mentioned the three words 'leader for life'," the resolution leaves no shred of doubt that "there’s only one leader capable of doing these marvellous things, moving China one step forward from a developing country to a superpower", the New York Times reported.

Neil Thomas who analyses China's political affairs with the Eurasia Group, doesn't think that "Xi Jinping would pass a history resolution because he wants to hand off and trusts a successor to implement it."

"All the signs are that Xi Jinping wants a third term and maybe more."

Thomas also suggested what observers of Chinese politics should keep their eye out for.

"There is certainly a lot of emphasis on Mr Xi as a person at present. The degree to which it becomes more formally institutionalised is what many are watching out for at the moment", the New York Times report added.

Not all agree however, with the analysis that Xi wants the spotlight all to himself.

Yu Jie, a senior fellow on China at Chatham House, a think tank based in London, told The Guardian that Xi "admitted and recognised the foundation established by his predecessors in different periods."

But Wu Qiang, an independent political analyst who is based in the Chinese capital, has an assessment similar to Thomas and Wo-Lap Lam.

He argues that the Communist Party resolution displayed "a highly ideological governance" in the future that will place a lot of emphasis on "a cult of personal worship around the leader."

This was, Qiang said, "an important turning point in the birth of a new totalitarian system in the world in the 21st century."
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On the Sycophancy That Comes With Totalitarianism 

Tony ­Saich, director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University, spoke to the Washington Post about the inevitable sycophancy that accompanies totalitarian rule.

"This resolution is geared to say that the party desperately wants Xi to stay on, will plead with him to stay on, because he is the leader to take China forward."

Political scientists and China experts however, caution us about consequences of one-man rule and how a sycophantic circle of advisors around the supreme leader can lead to poor decision-making in the both the foreign and domestic sector, The Guardian reported.

“Xi has increasingly surrounded himself in a cocoon of very favourable facts and he is not going to have very good understanding of what's happening in the rest of the world,” according to Victor Shih, an expert in China and Pacific Relations at UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy, Politico reported.

Lacking a New Idea?

Finally, Perry Link, at the University of California at Riverside and an expert on Chinese politics, argues that raising himself to Mao's stature is the only thing Xi could do to capture the attention of the Chinese people and the world, because of a dearth of ideas within the Communist Party.

"On the surface, Xi’s this juggernaut that is flying the new China and 'the China Dream', but really he’s reaching into the only intellectual bag he has and that is to go back to Mao because he really doesn’t know about the outside world or other alternatives", as quoted by Politico.

That concludes the summary of what China and CPC experts around the world have been saying about Xi Jinping's new resolution.

Regardless of the multiplicity of opinions that are going around, what is not being questioned is that whether China's allies and enemies like it or not, this President is not going anywhere anytime soon.

(With inputs from BBC, Politico, The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Washington Post)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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