China’s Communist Party brings in new rules to ensure loyalty

Speculation abounds on whether President Xi Jinping will try for a third term

People walk past a poster  featuring  president Xi Jinping on the second day of plenary sessions of  the Communist Party of China  in Beijing. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

People walk past a poster featuring president Xi Jinping on the second day of plenary sessions of the Communist Party of China in Beijing. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters


China’s ruling Communist Party elite will endorse tough codes of internal disciplines at a closed-door assembly in Beijing which will require unswerving loyalty from cadres towards the leadership and impose new rules of conduct.

The rules will be presented today at the sixth plenum of the party’s central committee, the most important meeting of top cadres before a leadership reshuffle late next year.

The People’s Daily signalled in a front-page editorial, the traditional forum for major party policy changes, that cadres must strengthen the “leadership core”, a sign of greater consolidation of power around Mr Xi.

These rules were introduced in 1980 to prevent the recurrence of the cult of personality that built up around chairman Mao Zedong and led to disasters such as the anti-rightist campaign in the 1950s, the failed Great Leap Forward campaign of agricultural reform in which millions starved between 1959 and 1961, and the Cultural Revolution which began 50 years ago this year.

The current plenum would “forge an even stronger, energetic leadership core, ready and waiting to guide China at its new starting point”, the editorial said.

Anti-corruption drive

Since he took office in 2012, Mr Xi has engaged in a high-profile campaign to root out corruption in China, whether it involves massive wealth accumulated by the powerful “tigers” of the ruling elite or backhanders given to the “flies” at the bottom of the party.

In a breakdown of the most typical violations of anti-graft rules, there were 26,172 cases of the use of public vehicles for personal reasons or spending too much on vehicles, 13,826 cases involving extravagant gifts or allowances to employees, 12,934 examples of extravagant weddings or funerals, 11,105 cases of accepting gifts and 9,978 uses of public money for private meals.

The Global Times newspaper cited analysts saying new regulations under discussion at the plenum will “give guidance on political life to party members at all levels, will improve cohesiveness, and by using lessons from periods such as the Cultural Revolution, will prevent cults of personality from developing”.

Xu Xing, a professor of politics at the Zhou Enlai school of government at Nankai University, told the Global Times the anti-rightist movement and the Cultural Revolution were “examples of movements of arbitrary decisions made by one leader without listening to other party members”.

Change of leadership

Ho-fung Hung, associate professor of sociology at the Johns Hopkins University, said the big challenge Mr Xi now faces is how to make sure he dominates the Politburo Standing Committee, which is due to change next year and will see key allies Wang Qishan and Yu Zhengsheng retire.

“What people observe is that though Xi appears to have concentrated all powers into his hands, there are many policy priorities that cannot get through,” said Hung.

Mr Hung also believes that the Chinese leader has to ensure the safety of himself, his family and his wealth after he steps down in 2022.

“His anti-corruption campaign has made many enemies. Those who were purged under this campaign and their families must be very resentful against Xi and might want to find chance to seek revenge. In light of this consideration, toying with the idea of staying in power beyond 2022 is not unimaginable, though the resistance from other party elite will be very great,” said Mr Hung.