Analysis: Xi Jinping is rewriting history with an eye to the future

When more than 300 members of China’s political elite meet in Beijing this week, their main task will be to review a landmark draft resolution defining the “major historical achievements and experiences” of the ruling Communist Party since its inception. foundation 100 years ago.

The agenda for the most crucial meeting of the Central Committee before the twice-decade-long leadership shakeup next fall is carefully and deliberately chosen. He talks about the importance Xi attaches to the history of the party and his own place in it.

In some ways, that obsession with history can be seen as rooted in a tradition that dates back to ancient China. For centuries, The Chinese imperial courts appointed historiographers to document the rise of an emperor, which often involved compiling and rewriting the history of their predecessor.

For the Communist Party of China, history, or rather selected versions of it, can be extremely useful.

Beijing has used China’s alleged “historical claims” on disputed territories and waters, for example, to bolster its arguments for contemporary sovereignty, while the narrative attached to the so-called “century of humiliation” by foreign powers, from the First Opium War in 1839 to the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 – it has become a central source of legitimacy for the party.

Xi Jinping set out to save the Communist Party.  But critics say he became his biggest threat himself.
In the eyes of party leaders, losing control of these narratives can have disastrous consequences. The collapse of the Soviet Union, a stern warning cited time and again by Xi, is attributed in part to “historical nihilism, “or the ruling elite’s rejection of the Soviet heritage.

As a result, the Communist Party of China carefully guards its own history, retouching the darkest chapters of its tumultuous past and erasing particularly sensitive episodes from public memory.

But the next “landmark resolution” is not just about reshaping the party’s past. More importantly, it is a way for Xi to encode his authority and supremacy in the present, and project his lasting power and influence into the future.

Since its founding, the party has issued only two such resolutions, introduced by Xi’s two most powerful predecessors: Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

Mao’s resolution in 1945 established him as the undisputed authority within the party, after a three-year “rectification” campaign that brutally purged his political and ideological opponents. Deng’s 1981 resolution, meanwhile, acknowledged Mao’s mistakes in launching the Cultural revolution – a political campaign that plunged the country into a decade of chaos and torment (although he concluded that Mao’s contributions to the Chinese revolution “far outweighed” his mistakes). But by admitting for And leaving the mistakes of the past behind, Deng was able to usher in a new era of reform and openness.
By issuing his own resolution, Xi seeks to further cement his status as an imposing leader on the same level as Mao and Deng. You have already managed to establish your own eponymous political theory and have it written into the party constitution, a privilege previously only reserved for Mao and Deng.
Xi Jinping only wants the most devoted members of the Chinese Communist Party.  Your strict membership rules could backfire

Xi sees himself as responsible for taking on the mantle of Mao and Deng’s epoch-making legacies, leaving his two immediate predecessors behind. In that version of the party’s history, Mao led China to “rise up” against harassment by foreign powers, Deng helped the Chinese people “get rich” and Xi is now leading the country on a triumphant path to “get strong.”

And to continue to do so, according to the reasoning, he needs to stay in power for at least a third term, to guide the country through what he calls the “window of opportunity” for China to catch up, if not exceed, – The West in national strength.

For now, few details are known about the resolution, save for the expectation that it will likely be approved by party elites this week. The title of the document indicates a more festive and progressive tone than the previous two resolutions, which focused on clarifying the problems or mistakes of the immediate past.

But regardless of the finer details, the consensus among political observers is that the resolution will further cement Xi’s authority and place him firmly at the head of the party for the foreseeable future.

“The essential function of all this talk, make no mistake, will focus on the person and power of Xi Jinping, defining his leadership as the way forward, based on an understanding of history that defines his central agenda,” added. wrote David Bandurski, Director of the China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong.

As George Orwell’s famous quote from “1984” says: “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

And to Xi, it seems like he’s about to control all three, at least for now.

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