There’s never been a regime that oppressed its own people domestically yet accomplished good for the rest of the world. Xi is no exception.
Helen Raleigh writes: A highly anticipated political event will take place on October 18 in China: the 19th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress. The CCP holds such a party congress every five years and announces its top leadership for the next five to 10 years, which in turn will signal the direction of China’s policies and their implications to the rest of the world.
Observers are paying particularly close attention to the 19th party congress because it’s widely expected this gathering may become a coronation event for China’s President Xi, who has every intention to remain at the top of China’s political structure for many years to come.
How Chairman Mao Established Leadership
Communist China is not a democracy, so the Chinese people have not voted for their national leaders since 1949. As an authoritarian regime ruled by the Communist Party, the leader of the Communist Party and the head of state has always been the same person. Like ancient Chinese emperors, Chairman Mao picked his two successors when he was still alive. He first picked Marshal Lin Biao, who led the People’s Liberation Army to a decisive win against the Nationalists’ Army in the Northeast front during China’s civil war. After 1949, Marshal Lin was one of the key architects in building Mao’s god-like cult of personality.
As his reward, Mao appointed Marshal Lin to be his successor. Thus, Lin’s name and his successor status were written into official party documents in 1969. But Lin and his direct family, except his daughter, mysteriously died in a plane crash in Mongolia on September 13th, 1971. The Chinese government maintain even today that Lin and his family attempted to escape after a botched coup against Mao, and that Lin’s plane crash was a pure accident.
Mao appointed his second successor, Hua Guofeng, who had neither Lin’s military accomplishment, nor Lin’s name recognition. The only thing Hua was known for was his unquestioned loyalty to Mao. After Mao’s death in 1976, Hua became the Chinese Communist Party Chairman and the head of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Hua’s thin resume never won over the support of senior party leaders. In 1978, Deng Xiaoping, with the support of the senior party leaders, ousted Hua and became the paramount leader of PRC. Deng never held the title of party chairman, nor head of state. But everyone in China knew that Deng was the one in charge from 1978 to the early 1990s.
Deng Xiaoping’s Succession Tradition
Initially, Deng followed Mao’s example in selecting his own successor. Deng’s first pick was Hu Yaobang. Hu implemented a series of political and economic reforms that opened China’s door to the outside world and revived China’s economy. His liberal policies caused resentment among powerful senior leaders and he was forced to resign as the Party general secretary in 1987. Hu’s successor was Zhao Ziyang, who continued many of Hu’s reform policies. Zhao was sympathetic to student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989. After the demonstrations, Deng purged Zhao and put Zhao under house arrest for the next 15 years.
Seeing the old succession method fail several times now, Deng came up with a new plan—let “the current leader choose his successor’s successor. The current leader can’t choose his own successor, avoiding the dominance of power and the dictatorship. But the current leader can choose his successor’s successor so the next leader needs to share power with the selected prince.”
Following Deng’s plan, each generation of new party leader/head of state usually occupied the top of power structure for two terms, a total of 10 years. At the end of his first term, he would elevate the next leader and his key team members (appointed by previous leaders) into the standing committee of Politburo and the Politburo in large during the party congress. So the future leader and his team would have a five-year on-the-job training while the current leader completed his second 5-year term. This method not only ensured a peaceful transition of power, it also ensured not a single leader would become too powerful.
Xi Jinping, the Rule Breaker
Over the next several decades, Deng’s plan worked well. Deng passed his power to Jiang Zeming and nominated Hu Jintao as Jiang’s successor … (read more)