China criticises western democracy on eve of communist congress

‘Crises and chaos’ of West pointed out as Xi Jinping ideas set to find place in constitution

Attendees look at a slideshow of Chinese president Xi Jinping at the Five Years of Sheer Endeavour show at the Beijing Exhibition Centre as he is poised to become the most powerful figure in Chinese politics since Mao Zedong. Photograph: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Attendees look at a slideshow of Chinese president Xi Jinping at the Five Years of Sheer Endeavour show at the Beijing Exhibition Centre as he is poised to become the most powerful figure in Chinese politics since Mao Zedong. Photograph: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

 

China has ruled out western-style political reform on the eve of a crucial Communist Party congress that looks sure to cement Xi Jinping’s legacy by enshrining his political philosophy in the constitution.

Delegates have gathered for the 19th party congress, which starts at the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square. The gathering is expected to give Xi a second five-year term and reshuffle the elite standing committee of the politburo, most likely in Xi’s favour.

The 2,280 delegates are sure to be bombarded with messages about Marxist-Leninist principles and also hear how an anti-corruption campaign will continue.

At a news conference on the eve of the congress, spokesperson Tuo Zhen said that, under Xi’s stewardship, the party would stick to the ideological hard line.

“We will unswervingly move toward the goal of improving and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics and modernising China’s state governance system and capability,” Tuo told a news briefing. “China will not copy and replicate the models of other countries in political system reform.”

This message is often repeated before key party gatherings when the western media is full of questions about whether China plans any democratic reform.

Delegates are expected to back changes to the constitution allowing for the inclusion of “Xi Jinping Thought”, a philosophy based on principles of the “China Dream of National Rejuvenation”.

‘Core’ leader

Xi predecessor Hu Jintao’s political legacy was the “Scientific Outlook on Development”, while his forerunner Jiang Zemin had the “Three Represents”. What sets Xi apart is that he has been named as a “core” leader, which sets him up for the kind of power not seen since the leaders like nation founder Mao Zedong and Jiang Zemin.

Steve Tsang, director of the Soas China Institute in London, told The Irish Times that Xi’s philosophy would be incorporated into the constitution, but it was important to decode the language and format.

“A very strong version, such as Xi Jinping Thought, would tell us that Xi can practically dictate terms and wants to be seen as more powerful than even Deng Xiaoping.  A more elaborate and softer version that is more that that used for Jiang or Hu will tell us the opposite,” said Tsang.

“The chance is that it will be somewhere in the middle, that shows Xi is in control and much more authoritative than his two predecessors,” he said.

A commentary on the state news agency Xinhua said western liberal democracy was swamped by “crises and chaos” that ignored the interests of most citizens.

“As parties in the West increasingly represent special interest groups and social strata, capitalist democracy becomes more oligarchic in nature. The cracks are beginning to show, with many eccentric or unexpected results in recent plebiscites,” the editorial said.

China has criticised democracy following the Brexit vote in the UK and the divisive election of the populist Donald Trump in the US, saying it was weak. In the face of Trump’s isolationism, Xi has also sought to posit China as a champion of globalisation and free trade.

Major crackdown

When Xi took over the reins of power five years ago, there was speculation that he would be inspired by his reformer father, the party blue-blood Xi Zhongxun, to introduce political reform.

Instead, Xi has overseen a major crackdown on civil society and built up his own reputation to the point where he has been named a “core” figure of the party firmament – an honour denied to his two predecessors – and is putting the Communist Party much more at the centre of events.

Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has been enormously successful in boosting popularity and burnishing the party’s image, and it is likely to form a key part of the debate at the congress.

There have been some major scalps in the run-up.

At the weekend, former justice minister Wu Aiying was dismissed on graft charges after an investigation by the anti-graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).

Other high-profile victims include the Chongqing party boss and politburo member Sun Zhengcai, who had been mentioned as a possible successor to Xi.

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