Changes in China: Beyond Xi’s enthronement

12 November, 2021

The group of fewer than four hundred bureaucrats and military officers who sit atop Chinese power held a meeting yesterday that heralded a “historic declaration.” The final text, encoded into the bureaucracy’s ledger was interpreted by nearly every media this morning as a play by Xi to stay in power. In reality that’s just the surface: the Plenum ideologically culminates an underlying movement that has been underway for months which disciplines economic power, refocuses and represses mass culture, and centralizes the bureaucratic apparatus in preparation for a war economy.

Table of Contents

Why does this meeting raise so much expectation?

Mao at the head of the party-army and his new mandarinate proclaims the "people's republic" on October 1, 1949.
Mao at the head of the party-army and his new mandarinate proclaims the “people’s republic” on October 1, 1949.

The Plenum of the CCP Central Committee is the assembly of the approximately 370 bureaucrats at the top of the Chinese state apparatus.

Their gathering announced a “historic resolution”, i.e., a new historical balance sheet that would justify a change of course. The term had been restricted to date to two documents. The first, in 1945, set the guidelines for Mao’s stalinist CCP in the war with the Kuomintang that followed the world war in China. The second, in 1981, established the new model of accumulation based on access to foreign markets advocated by Deng Xiaoping.

Read also: To Understand China's Last 70 Years (in Spanish), 2/10/2019

The purge preceding every “turn-of-the-rudder”

With the "historic declaration", Deng is enshrined as one of the top three gods on the Olympus of Chinese bureaucracy.
With the “historic declaration”, Deng is enshrined as one of the top three gods on the Olympus of Chinese bureaucracy.

Since the beginning of 2021 the Chinese bureaucracy has been vigorously pushing forward a program of disciplining the bourgeoisie and enterprises in the leading sectors.

First were Alibaba, Tencent and other Internet giants. The goal sought increased control over social media, explicit for example in the intervention of Douyin. But above all, it confronted the financial exuberances of tycoons like Jack Ma (Alibaba), who took no notice of the ban on cryptocurrencies and kept playing with loans and means of payment.

The front opened by the state against the technological tycoons soon bifurcated into two lines. The first was dedicated to repressing cultural elements that were judged to tend to “weaken” nationalist framing and adherence to the regime’s values. Online gambling, video games or the culture of celebrities and their fan groups were the most prominent victims.

The second, much more loaded, has taken on the dimensions of a true general purge of the financial bourgeoisie under the banner of ending “reckless credit expansion.” The fall of Evergrande’s billionaire founder, which preceded and accelerated the company’s crisis, is just one of the most relevant examples.

All these campaigns “pruned” the Chinese bourgeoisie of its most independent and adventurous elements, reinforcing the power of the bureaucracy and its political expression, the CCP. A party-state that comes from a long stage, opened by Xi, in which through purges and regulations it has recentralized by brutally subduing, under the form of “anti-corruption campaigns”, the regional and sectorial layers of its own structure.

What does the newly adopted “historical declaration” say and what does it mean?

Xi Jinping presents with Gabriel (then German Foreign Minister) the northern route of his new "Silk Road"
Xi Jinping presents with Gabriel (then German Foreign Minister) the northern route of his new “Silk Road”

The “historic declaration” just approved is the culmination of that whole process of reforming and disciplining the Chinese bureaucracy and bourgeoisie. Xi began by tightening, reorganizing and centralizing the CCP to turn it into the backbone of a “rejuvenated” bureaucracy and provide its center with greater operability and capacity for social control. He then pruned the corporate bourgeoisie of its most destabilizing elements.

The finally approved document celebrates this in the thick jargon of the bureaucracy.

The authority of the Party Central Committee and centralized leadership have been effectively guaranteed. Politically more united, more coherent in action, political leadership, the ideological leadership, mass organization and social appeal of the party have been significantly improved.

The general meaning of the message is to point out that this reform and reorganization of the bureaucracy as a class and the accompanying disciplining of the corporate bourgeoisie is of equivalent depth and importance to those carried out by Mao and Deng. That is, the one that brought them to power and the one that paved the way for turning the bureaucracy into the ruling class of a global power.

Why now?

That said, the core of the Chinese bureaucracy has eliminated from its historical balance sheet a good part of the campaigns and initiatives that have been Xi’s banner during this decade. The absence of even a mention of the “New Silk Road” – the gigantic imperialist project spearheaded by Xi – or the scant attention paid to the campaign to reduce income disparities, which is mentioned only once, are striking.

The reason is that, quietly, the Chinese bureaucracy recognizes a historic shift that affects its own imperialist ambitions, shaping its overall policies. Significantly, this theme is preceded by a lengthy spiel on the virtues of the Army.

Unlike the “New Silk Road,” the statement expressly speaks of the U.S. trade war against China, presents the crackdown on students in Hong Kong as a triumph, and celebrates having “resolutely opposed interference by outside forces” in Taiwan.

The People’s Liberation Army has been thoroughly strengthened and improved to put an end to China’s humiliation by the old diplomacy.[…]

The People’s Army has achieved an overall revolutionary reshuffle, reorganization and revival. National defense strength and economic strength have been simultaneously improved. The People’s Army has resolutely fulfilled its mission and tasks in the new era, and defended the country with tenacious fighting spirit and practical actions in its sovereignty, security and development interests.

The Hong Kong press today carried statements from Beijing academics highlighting how the document establishes that Xi, and with him the CCP, “do not want to leave the normalization of Hong Kong and the reunification of Taiwan to future generations.”

Bearing in mind that Xi has been enthroned as Secretary General for another 5-year term, this would point to the bureaucracy putting the horizon of a war for Taiwan as 2027 at the latest… although it’s not up to China alone.

The CCP prepares the state and the Chinese ruling class for war

Chinese fighter jets and nuclear bombers patrol next to the Taiwan border.
Chinese fighter jets and nuclear bombers patrol next to the Taiwan border.

To sum up, the power core of the Chinese bureaucracy celebrates the reform of its main political structure, the disciplining of the financial and corporate bourgeoisie, and the development of the military capabilities of the army as the basis of its new imperialist position at a time when, it acknowledges, the imperialist scenario has become “more complex and serious” for its interests. It sets as its immediate goal a reunification with Taiwan which can hardly be peaceful and closes by calling:

To the entire party, the entire army and people of all ethnic groups to unite more closely around the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the center

This recentralization of power “with Comrade Xi at the center” would be the beginning of “new journey” that would bring “great victories and glory.” Translated: a new Chinese global expansion with the horizon of a war present at every step

.