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CPC’s Search for Legitimacy

The Communist Party of China (CPC) unleashed its first wave of reform and opening to the outside world policy, thirty five years ago at the third plenum of the Central Committee (CC) meeting of the 11th Party Congress under its “paramount leader”, Deng Xiaoping. Again China is going to hold the third plenary session of the 18th CPC CC during November 9-12. This key session is expected to announce a number of crucial measures for the further development of China’s economic performance and issues relating to sustainable and balanced growth of its economy in the future. While announcing this decision the Politbureau of the Party has already revealed its decision to “comprehensively deepen the reforms”. The third plenary session will also review the ongoing “mass line” struggle for the purification of Party as well as the new leadership core’s efforts to check extravagance by the party cadres and government officials as well as ways to strengthen the ongoing campaign against corruption.

Usually the third plenary session of the CC is considered crucial, due to the fact that normally after convening a Party Congress, the new leadership comes into being on its own by the third session. Therefore, the new leadership is in a better position to push their own reform agenda. Following the initial reform wave in 1978, the third plenum of the 14th CPC Central Committee in 1993 took the decision to endorse the ‘socialist market economy’ reforms, which led to China’s economic takeoff in subsequent times. Currently, the economy has reached another threshold for further reform measures, mainly intended to reform its domestic economic agenda and address the issues relating to the widening gap between the rich and poor as well as the existing disparities among different regions of China.

The current leadership of the CPC with Xi Jinping as the Party General Secretary, took power in last November 2012. Immediately after assuming power the core leadership of the Party called for the ‘realization of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation’. Later on a veteran Party ideologue clarified that this ‘dream’ aims to build a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way by 2020, and achieve the overall modernization of China by 2050.

After taking over the charge of the party, Xi Jinping done a serious analysis of the state of the party and concluded that the Party is getting alienated from the masses, in order to keep the position of CPC as the ruling party of China he started a campaign to end corruption and eradicate the reasons for such estrangement of the party. The concerned departments of the Party ascertained that Party has lost touch with the masses mainly due to corrupt practices of its cadres and their bureaucratic ways of functioning.

In order to correct such practices the Party launched a campaign against ‘ostentation and extravagance’ in Party and concerned government departments. The Party Politbureau has recently adopted the ‘Regulation on Strictly Enforcing Thrift and Fighting Waste in Party and Government Departments’.

The top Party leadership launched a one year long “mass line” education campaign in last June. This campaign is mainly to stress the fight against the four evils identified by the Party, the evils of ‘formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance’. The mass campaign also aims to boost development and enhance people’s livelihood amenities. As per media reports the efforts by central and local organs of the Party to carry out this campaign is still on.

After analyzing the current domestic situation and the prevailing conditions around the world, the Party came to the conclusion that if the CPC is to survive as the single ruling party of China it needs to build goodwill among the people at large. All efforts of the Party is geared to achieve this aim. Party is also well aware about the reach and power of the modern communication facilities. China has one of the largest population of netizens in the world. It is also one nation which follows the latest developments in the world of communications, despite the stringent monitoring mechanisms in place.

The mass line campaign has been taken seriously by the Party leadership. Almost, within a short span of two months, July to September this year, Xi Jinping visited Hebei province twice. During his first visit he also spent some time at Xibaipo, an old revolutionary base of Mao before he moved to Beijing to assume power after liberation of China. At Xibaipo, party General Secretary Xi reminded his listeners, Mao’s call on the “whole Party to resolutely carry forward the work style of displaying modesty and prudence while guarding against conceit and impetuosity, and resolutely carry forward the style of working hard and plain living.”

Between September 23-25 Xi visited Hebei again and participated in the provincial Party Committee’s self-criticism programme organized as part of its “mass line campaign. During the meeting he stated that “I don’t want to hear fancy words from you when I take part in your session. I wand real criticism and self-criticisms.” As part of the campaign the local Party committee “organised grassroots meetings, set up special email address, hotlines and microblog accounts to collect more than 170,000 pieces of opinions, among which some 30,000 addressed problems directly.” As part of the campaign provincial Party leadership stayed with the grassroots people at least for three days and studied their problems. Following this campaign the provincial Party committee drafted 25 rectification measures, focusing on “scientific and democratic decision making and sticking to a clean handed and people oriented work style.”

The Party carried out a similar “mass line” education campaign inside the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) also. As part of this campaign the Central Military Commission (CMC) has called for “unswerving efforts to strengthen relations between military officers and common soldiers through a campaign inside the military”. As a part of this campaign “the senior officers from PLA and the armed police have to live and train as common soldiers for at least 15 days in grassroots units every one to five years, depending on their rank.” This is a major change in the way the party functioned in PLA, since the Chinese military reintroduced rank system in 1988. For entirely tracking, supervising and instructing to solve the problems found in the mass line education campaigns, the CMC authorities have constituted 14 working teams.

The main stress of the coming Party plenum will be on economic development and further wellbeing of the people. The “reform and opening up are a ‘great revolution’ by the Chinese people under the CPC’s leadership in the new era.” The 205 Central Committee members and 171 alternate members of the committee cover the entire top leadership of the Party (the alternate members have no voting right). When they meet for the third session on November 9 their main focus would be on the economic agenda of the Party. As per China’s own assessment its economy has already accomplished a soft landing and is ready for the next stage of takeoff. The challenges are formidable.

The statement adopted by the last Politbureau has already identified some of the key issues, “the Party will speed up development of the socialist market economy, democracy, cultural development, social harmony and environmental protection.” In order to achieve this some observers feel that the upcoming meeting to emphasize the need for administrative deregulation, which can cut red tape, support the long-term growth of small businesses and inject vitality into the market.

On the positive side China’s domestic demand and purchasing ability of the people in urban and rural areas have gone up. However, there still exist problems of major readjustments and reorientations of Chinese economy in the near future.

(The writer, Mr M.V.Rappai, is Honorary Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi.Email:rappai@gmail.com)

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