The ‘great, glorious, and correct Party!’

The official English-language translation of Xi Jinping’s 1 July speech marking the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s foundation is worth close reading for its pointers to the future. At around 5,200 words, the speech took Xi an hour to deliver. Given the significance attributed to the CCP’s centenary, it is intended to be a substantive expression of China’s place in the world, the party’s place in China, and Xi’s place in the party. Here are my top 10 takeaways.

‘The Party has in the people its roots’

Running the speech through an online text analyser shows that the word ‘Party’ is used 84 times and ‘people’ is used 73 times, most typically together:

As we have fought to establish and consolidate our leadership over the country, we have in fact been fighting to earn and keep the people’s support … The Party has always represented the fundamental interests of all Chinese people; it stands with them through thick and thin and shares a common fate with them.

This continues a longstanding propaganda line to conflate the party, the country and the people, meaning that opposition to the CCP will inevitably ‘hurt the feelings’ of 1.4 billion souls. In a speech filled with lies perhaps the biggest porky is that:

The Party has no special interests of its own—it has never represented any individual interest group, power group, or privileged stratum.


‘China … is advancing with unstoppable momentum toward rejuvenation’

‘Rejuvenation’ is mentioned 26 times. Xi’s signature goal is ‘rejuvenation for the Chinese nation’ and specifically rejuvenation from the humiliation of foreign imperialists, whose bullying meant that ‘China was gradually reduced to a semi-colonial, semi-feudal society and suffered greater ravages than ever before.’

While ‘the Communist Party of China has secured extraordinary historical achievements on behalf of the people’, rejuvenation has not yet been attained. What exactly would a rejuvenated China look like? Xi does not say. It is the journey to that goal which focuses the party and Xi’s leadership is indispensable to the task. ‘Struggle’, another Xi leitmotif, is mentioned 13 times. It is a mobilising call, harnessing the people to seek rejuvenation. In this way, the party justifies its place and its actions and sets out what the people must do in taking ‘well-coordinated steps toward making our people prosperous, our nation strong, and our country beautiful’.

‘Without the Communist Party of China, there would be no new China’

Some Australian state premiers and university vice chancellors may cling to the hope that China will, someday, pluralise, liberalise and become more like Singapore. They should read this speech. Xi makes the case not only for the CCP’s iron control, but for an even more centralised version of party rule:

We must uphold the core position of the General Secretary on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole, and uphold the Central Committee’s authority and its centralized, unified leadership.

Xi stresses that China’s best way forward is through more intense central party control of the military, of business and of Chinese people at home and abroad. ‘With strengthening the Party politically as our overarching principle, we must continue advancing the great new project of Party building in the new era.’

‘Marxism works’

We must continue to adapt the basic tenets of Marxism to China’s specific realities and its fine traditional culture. We will use Marxism to observe, understand, and steer the trends of our times, and continue to develop the Marxism of contemporary China and in the 21st century.

Xi is a Leninist by instinct and a Marxist by adoption. We underestimate the role of both ideologies in shaping Xi’s behaviour and in equipping the CCP with a powerful instrument of control by indoctrination. There are many instances in the speech where Xi instructs his audience to ‘uphold’ the basic tenets of Marxism, socialism, Mao Zedong thought and other party doctrine. Xi has sent the Chinese people back to their ideological books. We can dismiss that from our vantage point, but the party’s ideological roots structure intellectual approaches in everything from military strategy to economic planning and are a powerful instrument of social control.

‘The Party came to recognize the irrefutable truth that it must command the gun’

On the journey ahead, we must fully implement the Party’s thinking on strengthening the military in the new era as well as our military strategy for the new era, maintain the Party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces, and follow a Chinese path to military development.

Xi stresses that the People’s Liberation Army is the party’s military and says, ‘We will take comprehensive measures to enhance the political loyalty of the armed forces.’ Don’t underestimate how deep into PLA life that party instinct reaches. A recent Global Times report noted a concerning level of ‘mental health problems, including anxiety, phobic anxiety, and paranoid ideation’ among PLA Navy submariners. The solution?

The PLA not only arranged medical professionals to take care of soldiers’ mental health, but also take care of soldiers’ mental health during daily political work, which is an advantage of China’s system.

One wonders if that level of brainwashing will help to produce the ‘world class’ military Xi wants.

‘on a collision course with a great wall of steel’

The official English translation of Xi’s speech says:

We will never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress, or subjugate us. Anyone who would attempt to do so will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.

Xi may have resorted to even fruitier language. Media reports have him saying:

The Chinese people will absolutely not allow any foreign force to bully, oppress or enslave us and anyone who attempts to do so will face broken heads and bloodshed in front of the iron Great Wall of the 1.4 billion Chinese people.

Either way, it is a remarkable statement, one more usually expected from North Korean leaders  than from the leaders of the ‘world’s second largest economy’. Australians may reflect that a ‘great wall of steel’ will surely need a great deal of iron ore.

‘The Party has always placed the united front in a position of importance’

Few Australians had heard of the United Front Work Department until a couple of years ago. Now we understand the role it plays globally as part of the CCP’s overt and covert influencing campaigns. This is an ominous element to Xi’s speech:

The patriotic united front is an important means for the Party to unite all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation, both at home and abroad, behind the goal of national rejuvenation.

And later:

We should strengthen theoretical and political guidance, build broad consensus, bring together the brightest minds, and expand common ground and the convergence of interests, so that all Chinese people, both at home and overseas, can focus their ingenuity and energy on the same goal and come together as a mighty force for realizing national rejuvenation.

In the eyes of the party, there are only ‘overseas Chinese’, not citizens of other countries who happen to be ethnically Chinese.

‘It takes a good blacksmith to make good steel’

Xi stresses that the CCP must constantly reform itself to be an effective ruler.

We must tighten the Party’s organizational system, … remain committed to improving Party conduct, upholding integrity, and combating corruption, and root out any elements that would harm the Party’s advanced nature and purity and any viruses that would erode its health.

Decoded, this means that Xi will continue purges of the party, PLA and security apparatus to strengthen his own control and prevent any alternative power sources from consolidating. Incidentally, this is the only use of the word ‘virus’ in the speech. So much for the party principle of ‘upholding truth’.

‘We will ensure social stability in Hong Kong’

The saddest paragraph in the speech is this one:

We will stay true to the letter and spirit of the principle of One Country, Two Systems, under which the people of Hong Kong administer Hong Kong, and the people of Macao administer Macao, both with a high degree of autonomy. We will ensure that the central government exercises overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong and Macao, and implement the legal systems and enforcement mechanisms for the two special administrative regions to safeguard national security.

Could more lies be packed into two sentences?

‘We must take resolute action to utterly defeat any attempt toward “Taiwan independence”’

On Taiwan, Xi’s language is somewhat less alarmist than we have seen recently by at least saying that his aim is to ‘advance peaceful national reunification’, but this is four words out of 5,000 the broader effect of which is to promote a more nationalist, belligerent party-state intent on ‘advancing with unstoppable momentum’.

Then there is this on Taiwan:

All of us, compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, must come together and move forward in unison. We must take resolute action to utterly defeat any attempt toward ‘Taiwan independence,’ and work together to create a bright future for national rejuvenation. No one should underestimate the resolve, the will, and the ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

This points to the sense of urgency which Xi has brought to the Taiwan question, as well as a call to Beijing’s supporters in Taiwan that ‘unison’ is needed to move on the issue.

Then there is the theatre of the speech at Tiananmen Square: the goose-stepping soldiers marching with fixed bayonets, the smiling, colour-coded crowds looking again like North Korean dance troupes clapping in unison, the jet flypasts, the politburo lined up in parade-stand pecking order, Xi in his Mao suit and clenched fists. ‘Long live our great, glorious, and correct Party!’ he cries.

Xi says, ‘Through the mirror of history, we can find where we currently stand and gain foresight into the future.’

Australia has never more desperately needed foresight into the future.