The idea that behind the façade of how any organisation says it operates, there are rule makers and rule takers is not a novel concept. Seeing that illustrated in open sight on a national scale is not normally associated with the assistance of a press release.
The State Council, China’s cabinet, released an amended version of government working rules, the first since 2018, that add specific clauses saying it will closely follow instructions from the Communist Party. The State Council is responsible for economic regulation, market supervision, social management, public services, and ecological protection, among others.
China’s new premier, Li Qiang, at the first meeting attended by all members of the new State Council in March, said the government’s mission was to “ensure the sound and faithful implementation of the decisions and plans made by the Communist Party’s central leadership”. Already Heads of government bodies now regularly report to the Politburo Standing Committee. Hostile commentators suggest the State Council has been reduced to being an administrative office of Party Central and the Xi leadership.
The official press release did not impart any revelation when it noted that:
“major issues to be submitted to the CPC Central Committee for deliberation and decision, discuss issues to be submitted to the State Council plenary meetings for deliberation, discuss draft laws, deliberate draft administrative regulations, and discuss and decide on important guidelines to be issued by the State Council.”
Chinese Premier Li Qiang has signal a weaker role for State Council, with western analysts saying that changes are the biggest revision of Deng Xiaoping’s reform measures to separate the state and party. The Party has reclaimed the authority over economic policy that it delegated to the state starting in the 1980s.
In his report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held in October 2022, General Secretary Xi Jinping stated that, from this day forward, the central task of the CPC is to lead the Chinese people in a concerted effort to realize the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects and to advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation through a Chinese path to modernization.
The authorities in China repeatedly state:
“The rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is now on an irreversible course. The evidence shows that Chinese modernization is not a reprint of socialism in other countries, nor a duplicate of the modernization of Western countries. Rather, it is a form of modernization that has distinctly Chinese features and conforms with the realities of our country, and it is a path of great promise for advancing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
Advance the Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation Through a Chinese Path to Modernization http://en.qstheory.cn/2023-03/02/c_865495.htm . (Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, an official publication of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China . Chinese edition, No. 23, 2022 English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2023-03-02.)
The theme or narrative that dominates the public address to domestic and foreign audience is that the goal is to improve common prosperity, rejuvenate the nation and fulfil the Chinese dream. The mechanism to achieve that ‘peaceful rising’ is distinctly familiar to any student of western economies, sharing its language and concerns regardless of the baseline commitment expressed by Xi,
“… to uphold and improve China’s basic socialist economic systems. We will unswervingly consolidate and develop the public sector and encourage, support, and guide the development of the non-public sector. We will work to see that the market plays the decisive role in resource allocation and that the government better plays its role. We shall firmly deepen market-oriented reforms, advance reforms in key areas, and further improve the socialist market economy. We will deepen institutional reforms in key fields. We will construct a national unified market, advance reforms for the market-based allocation of production factors, and put in place a high-standard market system. We shall refine the systems underpinning the market economy, such as those for property rights protection, market access, fair competition, and social credit. We shall support the exploration and innovation of major reform pilot areas and reform pilot demonstration areas. We will deepen the reform of the system and mechanisms for supervision of grain purchases and sales. We will promote the market-oriented reform of competitive links in industries including energy, railways, telecommunications, and public utilities, and we will energize all market entities. We will deepen reform of state-owned capital and state-owned enterprises (SOEs), accelerate efforts to improve the layout of the state-owned sector and adjust its structure, and steadily deepen mixed-ownership reform of SOEs. We will provide an enabling environment for private enterprises and protect their property rights and the rights and interests of entrepreneurs in accordance with the law. We will deepen reforms of key aspects of our business environment, and make it more market-oriented, law-based, and international so that SOEs have the confidence to act, private enterprises have the confidence to move ahead, and foreign enterprises have the confidence to invest.”
A restructuring plan makes several major changes to various government bodies and implements a major overhaul of the financial system. Institutional regulatory system seldom generates a frenzy of interest and excitement however, they set frameworks of operation and boundaries, with supervisory powers to match, investigating and pursuing legal violations, many would skip a headline that speaks of “strengthened regulatory oversight.”
The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) will be restructured to consolidate its powers and responsibilities, strengthen MOST’s macro-management responsibilities, such as strategy and planning, system reform, resource planning, and policy and regulatory work, as well as supervisory and inspection responsibilities. As stated in the reform plan, “scientific and technological innovation occupies a core position in the overall situation of China’s modernization drive.” “Facing tough science and tech competition globally and external containment efforts, we must straighten out leadership and management of science and technology,” said Xiao Jie, a high-ranking State Council official, when introducing the reforms.
The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), hitherto the top government agency regulating banking and finance, will be dissolved and absorbed into the newly established National Financial Regulatory Administration (NFRA). “Establishing the new institution clarifies the responsibility of the financial supervision system.” This should also free up the central bank to focus on monetary policymaking and macroprudential supervision.
The NFRA will be responsible for the supervision of the entire financial industry, except securities, which will remain under the jurisdiction of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC).
A new bureau, called the National Data Bureau, will be established to coordinate and promote the development and utilization of digital resources and the digital economy.
The granule specifics of the State Council Institutional Reform Plan can be investigated however, outlining the big picture illustrates the main contention that the ruling party has certainly moved a long way away from socialist construction. The ruling party welcomes millionaire members, speaks in the business language of capitalism, integrated China into the world economic system and identified as the main competitor to American imperialist interest. The restructuring focus on three important development areas of economic and social importance, and retains central supervision and influence on the direction of movement within the industries deemed crucial to the authorities.
It is commonplace in western commentary to argue that Xi Jinping, since becoming the top leader in 2012, cemented his strong control over the top echelons of the CCP at last October’s 20th Party Congress. Afterall, Xi is serving his third term as president (having abolished the previous restrictions of two-terms only) and loyalty to Xi was clearly the first and most important criterion for elite promotion, as demonstrated by the makeup of the Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee. (e.g. see Shirk, Susan. “China in Xi’s ‘New Era’: The Return to Personalistic Rule”. Journal of Democracy, vol. 29, no. 2, Apr. 2018, pp. 22-36.)
Xi’s first term saw an unprecedented campaign against official corruption and Party indiscipline. Through this crackdown he cleaned up the CCP—and purged his rivals. As of late 2017, the CCP Central Discipline Commission had punished almost 1.4 million Party members. They included seventeen full and seventeen alternate Central Committee members, a pair of sitting Politburo members, an ex-member of the Politburo Standing Committee, and more than a hundred generals and admirals. The main goal, said Xi, was to restore public respect for the Party. It was a matter of “survival or extinction.” Xi has also begun using the Discipline Commission against local officials who fail to carry out top-down economic and environmental policies.
The tendency has seen centralise decision-making under Xi. Formalised in the promotion of the “Two Establishes” and the “Two Safeguards”, CCP slogans that establish Xi and his ideology as the “core” of the party. The “Two Safeguards” were added to the party charter in 2022.
Xi’s personal contribution to Party ideology, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era,” was incorporated in the CCP constitution during his time in office, an honour accorded to no one since Mao.
The Two Establishes are
- “To establish the status of Comrade Xi Jinping as the core of the Party’s Central Committee and of the whole Party”
- “To establish the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era”
According to the Sixth Plenum of the 19th Central Committee of the CCP, the Two Safeguards are:
- “Safeguard the ‘core’ status of General Secretary Xi Jinping within the CCP”
- “To safeguard the centralized authority of the Party”
These terms of reference ensure party members are kept “aligned with the Central Party leadership”. Radio Free Asia, the United States government-funded news service broadcasting since September 1996, headlines its report: “China deletes Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, other ideologies from government rulebook”. Such an observation serves the wider context of RFA’s own terms of reference as international broadcasting reflect the priorities and internal politics of the sending nation at a time when the West is attempting to constrain (and undermine) China.
RFA’s mandarin language service says that “References to Marxism, Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, the thought of Deng Xiaoping and the ideologies of former presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao have all been deleted from the new edition of the document titled “Working Procedures for the State Council” that was published on official websites on March 18.” The rulebook only refers to the doctrines of Xi Jinping, informing State Council officials that they must heed his directives as “core” of the Communist Party’s Central Committee.
It has been suggested that in China today, the lip-service paid to Marxism has been transcended and ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the new era’ become the official state ideology. Already compulsory study material is Xi’s authored four volumes of The Governance of China collection of speeches and writings. The conclusion of Radio Free Asia is that “Such extensive changes to the State Council’s guidelines point not just to the Communist Party’s tighter grasp over the Chinese government, but also Xi Jinping’s effort to place himself above the regime, former leaders, and its ideology.”
China’s own explanation is as self-serving, stating that Xi Thought
“ builds on and further enriches Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, and the Scientific Outlook on Development. It represents the latest achievement in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and encapsulates the practical experience and collective wisdom of our Party and the people. It is an important component of the theory of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and a guide to action for all Party members and all the Chinese people as we strive to achieve national rejuvenation. This Thought must be adhered to and steadily developed on a long-term basis.”
Xi Jinping has grasped all the levers of power in the Party and the state (including the military and police) exacerbating the systemic source of the problem that over-concentration of power is liable to give rise to arbitrary rule by individuals at the expense of collective leadership. With regard to the governance of China today, Xi’s policies challenges the diffusion of responsibilities and decision-making built since 1978 that saw oversaw the practice of peaceful leadership succession and regularize political life, and check arbitary power that threatens regime stability by breeding power struggles and sclerotic leadership. Two features of elite politics identified as contributing to the collapse of one-party rule in the Soviet Union back in 1991.
Appendix ~ Text of resolution on Party Constitution amendment https://english.news.cn/20221022/fea670f419d7426ab564a795d5737b52/c.html
BEIJING, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) — The following is the full text of a resolution on an amendment to the Constitution of the Communist Party of China (CPC) adopted Saturday at the closing session of the 20th CPC National Congress.
Resolution of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on the Revised Constitution of the Communist Party of China. Adopted on October 22, 2022.
The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has deliberated and unanimously adopted the revised Constitution of the Communist Party of China proposed by the 19th Party Central Committee and has decided that it shall come into effect as of the date of adoption.
The Congress notes that adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of the times is a process of seeking, revealing, and applying truth. Since the Party’s 19th National Congress, the Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has continued to integrate the basic tenets of Marxism with China’s specific realities and fine traditional culture, put forward a series of new ideas, new thinking, and new strategies on national governance, and made continuous progress in enriching and developing Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, thereby opening a new frontier in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of the times. Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is the Marxism of contemporary China and of the 21st century and embodies the best Chinese culture and ethos of this era.
The Congress unanimously agrees that the new developments in Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era since the Party’s 19th National Congress should be incorporated into the Party Constitution, so as to better reflect the major contributions made by the Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core to advancing the Party’s theoretical, practical, and institutional innovations. The Congress calls on all Party members to acquire a deep understanding of the decisive significance of establishing Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole and establishing the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and to fully implement this Thought in all areas and stages of the work of the Party and the country.
The Congress affirms that, over the past century, the Party has always stayed true to its original aspiration and founding mission, and it has united and led the Chinese people in writing the most magnificent chapter in the millennia-long history of the Chinese nation. In doing so, it has made great achievements and accumulated valuable experience. The Congress approves the incorporation of the Party’s original aspiration and founding mission and its major achievements and historical experience over the past century into the Party Constitution. Having the courage to fight and the mettle to win gives the Party and the people unassailable strength. All the achievements were made through persistent hard work of the Party and the people. The Congress agrees to add to the Party Constitution a statement on carrying forward our fighting spirit and building up our fighting ability.
These additions are of great importance for inspiring all Party members to remain confident in our history, exhibit greater historical initiative, stay committed to the Party’s original aspiration and founding mission, pass on the traditions of revolution, fully appreciate the contemporary features of the great new struggle, and unite and lead Chinese people of all ethnic groups in achieving new successes in building socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era.
The Congress notes that, at the ceremony marking the centenary of the Communist Party of China, Comrade Xi Jinping solemnly announced on behalf of the Party and the people that we have realized the First Centenary Goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and that we are now marching in confident strides toward the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects. The Party Constitution is revised to reflect this.
These revisions will help all Party members fully and faithfully grasp the new requirements for advancing the cause of the Party and the country on the new journey of the new era. They will enable us to rally the will and strength of the whole Party and the entire nation for realizing the Second Centenary Goal and the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.
The Congress notes that advancing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization has been proposed and designated as the central task of the Party on the new journey of the new era. Basic socialist economic systems, including the system under which public ownership is the mainstay and diverse forms of ownership develop together, the system under which distribution according to work is the mainstay while multiple forms of distribution exist alongside it, and the socialist market economy, are important pillars of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The Congress agrees to incorporate statements to that effect into the Party Constitution.
Also added to the Party Constitution are statements on gradually realizing the goal of common prosperity for all; having an accurate understanding of the new stage of development; applying a new philosophy of innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development; accelerating efforts to foster a new pattern of development that is focused on the domestic economy and features positive interplay between domestic and international economic flows; pursuing high-quality development; giving full play to the role of talent as the primary resource; and ensuring higher-quality and more efficient, equitable, sustainable, and secure development of the economy.
These revisions will help all Party members align their thinking and action with the Central Committee’s accurate assessment of the domestic and international environments and with the strategic plans for Party and state initiatives, act on the Party’s basic line with a stronger sense of purpose, and continue writing the great history of China’s development in the new era with new achievements.
The Congress recognizes that building a modern socialist country in all respects is a great and arduous endeavour; the future is bright, but we still have a long way to go. To build China into a great modern socialist country in all respects, a two-step strategic plan has been adopted: basically realizing socialist modernization from 2020 through 2035; and building China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful from 2035 through the middle of this century. The Party Constitution is revised accordingly. This will inspire all Party members to maintain firm confidence, forge ahead with enterprise and fortitude, and keep on working to accomplish the Party’s set goals.
The Congress notes that since the 19th National Congress, the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core has developed new ideas, new thinking, and new strategies for advancing the coordinated implementation of the Five-Sphere Integrated Plan and the Four-Pronged Comprehensive Strategy. The Congress agrees to add to the Party Constitution statements on following the path of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics; developing a broader, fuller, and more robust whole-process people’s democracy; establishing sound systems and procedures for democratic elections, consultations, decision-making, management, and oversight; and both pursuing development and safeguarding security.
These additions will play an important role in helping all Party members act with a stronger sense of purpose and greater resolve in implementing the Party’s basic theory, line, and policy, so as to comprehensively advance the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
The Congress also notes that since the 19th National Congress, Comrade Xi Jinping has put forward a series of new ideas, new thinking, and new strategies on national defense, the armed forces, the united front, and foreign affairs. It agrees to include in the Party Constitution statements on enhancing political loyalty in the military, strengthening the military through reform, science and technology, and personnel training, and running the military in accordance with the law; elevating the people’s armed forces to world-class standards; fully, faithfully, and resolutely implementing the policy of One Country, Two Systems; resolutely opposing and deterring separatists seeking “Taiwan independence”; holding dear humanity’s shared values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom; and advancing the building of an open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity.
These revisions reaffirm the Party’s commitment to building a strong military with Chinese characteristics, making sustained and steady progress with the One Country, Two Systems policy, advancing national reunification, promoting the building of a human community with a shared future, and leading the tide of human progress.
The Congress affirms that, guided by the belief that it takes a good blacksmith to forge good steel and based on a commitment to strengthening itself politically as the overarching principle, the Party has made significant advances in exercising full and rigorous self-governance. The major new achievements made and successful experience gained in Party building should be duly reflected in the Party Constitution to translate them into the common will of the entire Party and general rules followed by all Party members. The Congress thus agrees to add to the Party Constitution statements on carrying forward the Party’s great founding spirit, which comprises the principles of upholding truth and ideals, staying true to the Party’s original aspiration and founding mission, fighting bravely without fear of sacrifice, and remaining loyal to the Party and faithful to the people, and on using the Party’s own transformation to steer social transformation. It also agrees to add statements on improving the capacity for political judgment, thinking, and implementation and becoming more self-motivated and resolute in implementing the Party’s theories, lines, principles, and policies; on advancing the adaption of Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of our times; on the Party’s self-reform being a journey to which there is no end; on constantly improving the system of Party regulations; on strengthening the principal and oversight responsibilities for full and rigorous Party self-governance; on making integrated efforts to ensure that officials do not have the audacity, opportunity, or desire to become corrupt; and on adhering to the Party’s organizational line for the new era as a new fundamental requirement for Party building.
These additions will help all Party members maintain a spirit of self-reform, implement the Party’s strategic policy of full and rigorous self-governance, and further advance the great new project of Party building in the new era, thus ensuring that the Party grows stronger through revolutionary tempering and remains the strong leadership core in the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
The Congress notes that the Communist Party of China is the leadership core in advancing our cause and that the leadership of the Communist Party of China offers a fundamental guarantee for achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The Congress agrees to add to the Party Constitution statements on the Party being the highest force for political leadership and on upholding and strengthening the overall leadership of the Party. These additions will help the Party fulfil its core role of exercising overall leadership and coordinating the efforts of all sides and will help ensure that Party leadership is exercised in all aspects and every stage of the endeavours of the Party and the country.
The Congress notes that in view of the successful experience gained in Party work and Party building since the 19th Party Congress and in compliance with the revisions to the General Program, appropriate revisions to some articles of the Party Constitution are necessary.
The following are now included into the obligations of all Party members: study the history of the Party; strengthen consciousness of the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, follow the leadership core, and keep in alignment with the central Party leadership; stay confident in the path, theory, system, and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics; and uphold Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole and uphold the Central Committee’s authority and its centralized, unified leadership.
To see that primary-level Party organizations play a key role in ensuring the exercise of the Party’s leadership, revisions are made in order to help strengthen Party building in hospitals, clearly define the status and functions of Party organizations in subdistricts, townships, towns, villages, and communities, and refine the responsibilities of Party committees and leading Party members groups in state-owned enterprises with regard to strengthening their own organizational development.
To fully reflect the achievements in Party work and Party building since the 19th National Congress, revisions are made in order to regularize and institutionalize activities to study Party history; require Party officials at all levels to oppose privilege-seeking mindsets and practices; amend provisions related to Party discipline; clearly define the coverage of dispatched discipline inspection teams; define major new tasks for commissions for discipline inspection; and adjust and enhance the functions and responsibilities of leading Party members groups.
These revisions will help all Party members uphold and strengthen the Central Committee’s centralized, unified leadership and enhance cohesion and forge the Party’s soul with Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. They will also help enhance the political and organizational functions of Party organizations, take strict steps to improve Party conduct and tighten Party discipline, and ensure full and rigorous self-governance of the Party.
The Congress notes that since entering the new era, the Party and the country have faced a situation of unparalleled complexity, a fight of unparalleled graveness, and tasks of unparalleled difficulty in promoting reform, development, and stability. Establishing Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole and establishing the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era has enabled the Party to successfully resolve the acute problems and challenges undermining its long-term governance, the security and stability of the country, and the wellbeing of the people, to remove serious hidden dangers in the Party, the country, and the military, and to ultimately set the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on an irreversible historical course. The establishment of both Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole and the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era represents a major political achievement for the Party in the new era and a decisive factor in the historic successes and changes in the cause of the Party and the country. All Party members must acquire a deep understanding of the decisive significance of this major achievement, more conscientiously uphold Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole and uphold the Central Committee’s authority and its centralized, unified leadership, fully implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and closely follow the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core in thinking, political stance, and action.
The Congress calls on Party organizations at all levels and all-Party members to follow the firm leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, hold high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and carry forward the great founding spirit of the Party. They should become more conscious of the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, follow the leadership core, and keep in alignment with the central Party leadership; have firm confidence in the path, theory, system, and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics; uphold Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole and uphold the Central Committee’s authority and its centralized, unified leadership; and more purposefully study, observe, apply, and uphold the Party Constitution. This will ensure that the entire Party strives in unity to build a modern socialist country in all respects and advance national rejuvenation on all fronts.