[act-ma] CME Thurs.Dec. 13: China Study Group discussion on 18th Party Congress of CCP

Sandra Rosen sar8 at verizon.net
Tue Dec 11 10:45:22 PST 2012

China Study, Thursday  December 13 @ 7 p.m.
Center for Marxist Education, 550 Mass Ave, Cambridge Central Square
"New Chinese leaders take top positions at 18th Congress of Chinese  
Communist Party"

Presentation and discussion on China's new leadership and policies at  
the most important Chinese political meeting since 2002.

The article below gives  perspective of the Western press.  Willy Lam  
is one of the better informed writers on China.  In his terminology,   
the predominance of "conservativism" is similar to what I would call  

hope to see you,


18th Party Congress Showcases Stunning Setback to Reform

China Brief, Volume: 12 Issue: 22
November 16, 2012
By: Willy Lam

The most pertinent message of the just-ended 18th Chinese Communist  
Party (CCP) Congress has perhaps come from Premier Wen Jiabao. This  
is despite the fact outgoing General Secretary Hu Jintao’s 101-minute  
Political Report to the 18th Party Congress (hereafter Report) has  
dominated Chinese and international media coverage of the seven-day  
mega-event. “We must strengthen and improve the leadership of the  
Party,” Wen said while talking to members of the Tianjin delegation  
to the Congress, “In particular, we must push forward the reform of  
the leadership system of the party and state” (Xinhua, November 9).  
It is true that Hu, who remains state president until next March, has  
devoted a good part of his Report to political and institutional  
reforms. Yet the most important function of the Congress—picking a  
new slate of Fifth Generation leaders—has been dominated by old- 
fashioned, non-transparent factional intrigue as well as the  
resurgence of the influence of long-retired party elders.
That the choice of the members of the 18th Politburo and its seven- 
member Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC), China’s supreme ruling  
council, was the result of backroom skullduggery and horse-trading  
was evident from the first few minutes of the Congress’s opening  
ceremony at the Great Hall of the People. First to appear before the  
cameras was the 69-year-old Hu, who was followed closely by the 86- 
year-old ex-President Jiang Zemin. A distance of several meters  
separated these two putative “cores,” respectively, of the Third- and  
Fourth-Generation leadership collectives on the one hand, and two  
other groups on the other: the out-going members of the 17th PBSC and  
long-retired PBSC members. The oldest member of the latter group was  
Song Ping, 95, the one-time CCP organization czar who left the PBSC  
20 years ago (Wen Wei Po [Hong Kong], November 9; Apple Daily [Hong  
Kong], November 9).

The appearance of the octogenarian and nonagenarian cadres was not  
just a symbolic gesture to demonstrate party unity. At least a couple  
of these past state leaders have played the role of kingmaker in the  
choice of PBSC members this year. For example, three of the seven  
members of the 18th PBSC are believed to be protégés of Jiang, who  
still heads the Shanghai Faction in party politics. They are new  
General Secretary Xi Jinping, who owed his promotion to the PBSC in  
2007 to Jiang’s nomination; the soon-to-be-named Chairman of the  
National People’s Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang; and the Executive  
Secretary of the Central Committee Secretariat Liu Yunshan. Jiang and  
former Premier Li Peng, 84, were instrumental in preventing two of  
Hu’s cronies, Li Yuanchao and Wang Yang, from making it to the PBSC.  
Both Li and Wang, who have reformist reputations, have managed only  
to hang on to their Politburo seats. Wang, age 57, the outgoing Party  
Secretary of Guangdong Province, is set to become a vice premier in  
March (Hong Kong Economic Journal, November 8; Sing Tao Daily [Hong  
Kong], November 8).

As in his Political Report to the 17th Party Congress of 2007,  
President Hu last Thursday, November 8, devoted two long paragraphs  
to “democracy within the party” (dangnei minzhu) as well as reforming  
the party’s personnel system—particularly fairer and more transparent  
ways for picking leaders. For example, Hu said the authorities must  
substantiate party members’ “right to know, right to take part [in  
party deliberations], electoral rights and supervisory rights.”  
Regarding the selection of senior cadres, Hu indicated the party must  
“comprehensively and correctly implement democratic, open,  
competitive and meritorious” goals. While discussing the issues of  
leadership five years ago, President Hu, however, laid emphasis on  
systems of “democratic centralism and collective leadership” and  
indicated the party must “oppose and prevent dictatorial [practices]  
by individuals or a minority [of leaders].” There were no more  
references to the dictatorial practices of strongman-like figures in  
this year’s report (Xinhua, November 8; People’s Daily, October 25,  
2007). Hu’s failure to lash out at the apparent resumption of Mao- 
style “rule of personality” could reflect his frustration at the  
machinations of the likes of Jiang Zemin in the past few months.

It is in this context that Wen’s comment on the “reform of the  
leadership system of the party and state” seems as timely as it is  
hard hitting. Although Wen has in the past two to three years made  
dozens of appeals to speeding up political reform, including  
upholding the late patriarch Deng Xiaoping’s edicts on the subject,  
this was the first time that he made an indirect, but obvious,  
reference to one of the most celebrated speeches of the chief  
architect of reform. In a 1980 address entitled “On the Reform of the  
System of Party and State Leadership,” Deng cited the following  
daunting obstacles to political and institutional liberalization:  
“bureaucracy, over-concentration of power, patriarchal methods, life  
tenure in leading posts and privileges of various kinds.” Deng had  
this to say about the party’s “patriarchal” traditions: “Besides  
leading to over-concentration of power in the hands of individuals,  
patriarchal ways within the revolutionary ranks place individuals  
above the organization, which then becomes a tool in their  
hands” (People’s Daily, August 18, 1980). While there is no concrete  
evidence to show that Wen was zeroing in on the recent activities of  
patriarchs such as Jiang, his comments made to Tianjin Congress  
deputies were omitted inexplicably from CCTV’s evening news last  
Thursday. Xinhua News Agency also only reported his remarks one day  
later. Remarks made by other PBSC members during group discussions of  
provincial or municipal delegates, however, were publicized within  
hours by the official media (Ming Pao [Hong Kong], November 10; Hong  
Kong Economic Journal, November 10; CCTV News, November 8).

Fighting graft is another area where the Hu report seems to have  
fallen short. Hu echoed warnings sounded by ex-president Jiang in the  
late 1990s that the party’s failure to eradicate endemic corruption  
could “deal a body blow to the party and even lead to the collapse of  
the party and country.” “We must never slacken in fighting graft and  
in building clean governance,” he warned, “The alarm bells must be  
rung unceasingly.” Yet Hu has failed to introduce new measures such  
as party regulations requiring all senior cadres to publicize the  
assets of their close relatives—and to disclose whether the latter  
have foreign residency status. It is also significant that while  
reading out his speech, Hu omitted this clause that was in the  
printed version: “Senior cadres must not only discipline themselves  
stringently but also strengthen the education of and constraints over  
their relatives and close associates” (Xinhua, November 8; CableTV  
News [Hong Kong], November 8).

In the run-up to the Party Congress, Bloomberg and the New York Times  
have published detailed reports about the business activities of the  
relatives of Vice President Xi and Premier Wen. Despite immediate  
action taken by state censors to block these articles from Chinese  
cyberspace, millions of netizens are believed to have read them.  
While Hu’s warnings about the exacerbation of graft could be the  
party’s answer to growing criticisms about greed in high places, no  
investigations are believed to have been launched on the well- 
publicized business activities of the close kin of top officials.  
This is despite the fact that while participating in discussions  
among provincial and municipal deputies to the Congress, top cadres  
such as Wang Yang and Shanghai Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng claimed  
effective steps had been taken to prevent their relatives from  
improperly making money (IFeng.com [Beijing], November 9; Hong Kong  
Economic Times, November 9).

In the Report, Hu also touched upon ways to restructure the economy.  
Reiterating that China’s growth had been “unbalanced, uncoordinated  
and unsustainable,” the president vowed to “comprehensively deepen  
the reform of the economic structure.” He called on party cadres to  
pay more attention to indigenous innovation and, in particular, to  
boost consumer spending as a new pillar of GDP expansion. Perhaps due  
to the conviction that the CCP’s status as “perennial ruling party”  
is contingent upon the party-state apparatus’ tight control over  
major chunks of the economy, Hu indicated Beijing must “unwaveringly  
consolidate and develop the public sector of the economy.” Hu went  
further, adding “[We should] invest more state capital in major  
industries in key fields that comprise the lifeline of the economy  
and are vital to national security.” The Report contradicts the  
concerns of renowned economists, such as Mao Yushi of Beijing’s  
Unirule Research Institute, who have deplored the trend of “the state  
sector advances even as the private sector retreats” (guojin mintui)  
(Sohu.com [Beijing], November 1; Sina.com [Beijing], July 12).  
Moreover, Premier Wen recently had pledged to give more support to  
embattled private companies: “We must complete and implement policies  
and measures aimed at promoting the development of the non-state  
economy, break [state] monopolies and lower industry thresholds for  
new entrants” (People’s Daily, November 1; China News Service, July 16).

On the eve of the Congress, observers speculated the Hu-led  
leadership might signal its willingness to contemplate liberalization  
by removing Mao Zedong Thought, which is synonymous with  
conservatism, from the CCP Constitution. After all, it seems almost  
certain that disgraced Politburo member Bo Xilai, who spearheaded a  
vigorous campaign to revive Maoism, will be given a stiff prison term  
after his recent expulsion from the party. The only major  
constitutional revision approved by the Congress, however, was to  
elevate the “Scientific Development Concept” (kexue fazhan guan)  
which is Hu Jintao’s contribution to CCP canon, to the status of  
“guiding principle” of the party and state. This has put the  
“Scientific Development Concept” on the same level as ex-President  
Jiang’s “Important Thinking of the Three Represents” (san ge daibiao  
zhongyao sixiang) (Ming Pao, November 8).

In his Report, Hu urged party cadres and members to work harder at  
“innovation of the implementation [of policies], theoretical  
innovations, and the innovation of institutions.” Yet he also  
repeated this same point that he made five years ago: “While [the  
party] will not go down the old road of ossification, it will also  
avoid devious paths that will change the flag and standard [of  
socialist orthodoxy].” Given the predominance of conservatism in the  
Report—and the Byzantine fashion in which the new corps of leaders  
has been chosen—it seems unlikely that the leadership under General  
Secretary Xi Jinping will push reformist goals and policies in the  
foreseeable future.

Upcoming event:

Samia Halaby, Saturday, December 15 @ 3 p.m.
  “My experience as the first artist invited from the US in Cuba’s  
3rd Havana Biennial”

  Samia Halaby, a Palestinian artist now living in NY, discusses her  
experience in Cuba, a state where the working class took power. She  
examines differences between the bourgeoisie's Venice Biennale of  
1988 and the Havana Biennial of 1989. The presentation also provides  
background on abstraction and its sources in revolution, and  
contrasts it with the idealism behind current, very retrograde,  
capitalist painting.

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