No 2nd Generation of CCP Collective Leadership in China

China’s Core System (2) (Part (1) is my post “The Conundrum of China’s Collective Leadership” dated January 28)

What about the second generation of collective leadership which according to Deng, he was its core?

From 1977 after Mao’s death to 1987 the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) of CCP Central Committee was controlled by powerful elders Ye Jianying (who died in 1985), Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yun and Li Xinian, which to some extent can be regarded as leadership of three elders, an oligarchy instead of a collective leadership. When Deng, Chen and Li retired from the PSC in 1987, through Bo Yibo Deng told Chen and Li and got their consent that there should be only one mother-in-law for the new PSC that took office in late 1987, said Zhao Ziyang in his secret memoir. It made clear that Deng was the only one who had the power of leadership and all the other members of the so-called collective leadership had to accept Deng’s leadership faithfully, i.e. Deng was the core who had the final say.

What about the new PSC?

As Zhao Ziyang, the demoted CCP general secretary, pointed out in his secret memoir, all the PSC members were but “daughter-in-laws” who had to obey the instructions of Deng who regarded himself as PSC members’ “mother-in-law”. There was no collective leadership of the PSC after the three powerful elders Deng, Chen and Li had retired from the PSC. The general secretary and the PSC simply did what Deng told them to do. Deng was the real leader behind the scene.

Before Tiananmen protests, Deng consulted other elders in making major decisions for the PSC. If there had been collective leadership, it must have been the collective leadership of powerful elders led by Deng. However, powerful elders differed in their opinions on the way to deal with Tiananmen protests so that Deng had to make the hard decision of armed suppression alone. Deng realized that there had to be a strongman as the core of CCP collective leadership able to make hard decision alone like him.

That was why Deng appointed his successor Jiang Zemin as the core of the third generation of CCP collective leadership. He wanted there to be a strongman like him. As an experienced politician and general, Deng certainly knew that the core had to have the power as the core, which could not be transferred by him but had to be established by Jiang on his own. However, he had to set the example what power a core should have.

He used Mao as an example but it was not good enough. Then he set his Southern Tour as an example to Jiang that a core had the power to tell all officials to act in accordance with his instructions no matter whether the core hold any official position or not.

Deng said during his well-known Southern Tour that those who would not carry on his reform and opening-up should be fired. At that time there was serious backlash due to the Tiananmen Protests. Conservatives’ resistance to the reform had almost put an end to Deng’s reform. Jiang Zeming, though a true reformist, appeared like a conservative as Deng had given him the instruction that Jiang’s priority was to establish his powerbase. At that time nearly all China watchers outside China regarded Jiang as a conservative.

Deng alone without official position recovered the reform by his power as the core of CCP leadership.

Where was CCP’s collective leadership?

There was no collective leadership at all. There was only the leadership of the core. Deng had no need to call a meeting of PSC to discuss and approve his instruction. He simply gave his instruction. What the PSC should do was to discuss the way to carry out Deng’s instruction.

That was why I said in my book “Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements” that China’s political system was CCP Dynasty and the core of CCP Dynasty was in fact the emperor of the dynasty.

It seems bad, but is in reality good. If the core does not remain in power there will be no continuity of his wise policy. In Deng’s case, China’s reform and opening-up would not have been carried on after Tiananmen Protests.

A leader with wisdom and integrity is very rare, if a country has found one it shall keep him as the leader until the time he is unable or unwilling to bear the heavy burdens of leadership.

It will be much better if such a leader is found and appointed when he is young. There will be much more time for him to play his wonderful role as a leader to bring prosperity to his country and happiness to his people. China’s well-known prime minister Zhuge Liang was appointed top advisor to Liu Bei (later emperor of the Empire of Shuhan) when he was only 27. He helped Liu set up the Empire and was its prime minister for more than two decades until he died at the age of 54.

The problem now is that a man with wisdom and integrity is appointed leader when he is about sixty years old and can only serve 2 to 3 terms. Therefore, it is good that he will remain the core and continue his leadership after his retirement. That was the case with Deng Xiaoping. It is also the case with Jiang Zemin.

Deng became the core in 1978 and retired from all official posts in 1990 but had to remain in charge after his retirement though he was succeeded by Jiang his chosen core of the third generation of CCP leadership. As Jiang had not established his powerbase as the core, when conservatives had almost put an end to Deng’s reform, Deng conducted his Southern Tour in 1992 to bring China back to the course of reform and opening-up.

What power did Deng have to make the whole CCP and country obey his instruction to carry on his reform? His power as the core of CCP leadership. In 1990, Deng retired from his last official post as the chairman of Central Military Commissions but had not retired from his position as the core of CCP leadership. China is lucky Deng though became leader in 1978 when he had already been 74 quite old to bear the burdens of leadership, he lived a long life and could rule China for nearly two decades till he died at the age of 93. If Deng had become Chinese leader earlier and ruled China longer, Jiang would not have encountered so much difficulty in establishing his powerbase as the core of the third generation of CCP leadership.

Deng told Jiang he would not rest at ease until Jiang had actually become the core. He helped Jiang obtain control of PLA (the People’s Liberation Army) by removal of Yang brothers’ control of PLA. Still by 1997 before the 15th Congress Jiang was challenged by PSC members Qiao Shi and Li Peng. As Deng was dead by that time, Jiang sought powerful elder Bo Yibo’s support to maintain his position as the core.

Jiang was chosen as the core in 1989 but by 1997, he still had not fully established his position as the core. He had really gained the power as the core but we do not know the exact time when Jiang had really established enough powerbase as the core. If we assume that he really became the core by 1997, he only ruled China as the core for about 2 decades till now when he was succeeded by his chosen successor Xi Jinping.

Hu Jintao has never gained the position as the core though he has set up his very strong CYL faction.

As Jiang remained the core and remained in charge, the PSC with Hu as the head was not a collective leadership; therefore, there was no third generation of collective leadership either. This will be elaborated in my next post.

Article by Chan Kai Yee

3 Comments on “No 2nd Generation of CCP Collective Leadership in China”

  1. Reader says:

    Written like an amateur for a political party which is like an amateur “wading across through the river grasping stones and boulders to get through the other side”; Both lacking conceptual ability of organizational structure and power, and the technical words to describe it, nor the understanding of the responsibility and authority that needs to go along with it. From the start.

    Lack of knowledge is what led to much unnecessary suffering, failures, and misery – the consequence of ignorance, leading to “trial and error”. Like an inexperienced and limited educated techinican trying to design a sport car. That is the story of China and Chinese for two, three generations. But you have admire people like Deng Xiaoping who was earnest and open to learning despite his inadequacy. The same too for the Chinese. By hook or by crook but eventually only by hook.

    That where China is now, one can thank the able and honest at the second level of management educating the top level to understand how to manage. They represent the 10% best and brightest holitistically accomplished “design engineers” usually found in any society. This is the key to progress – knowledge – and it lies within these 10% able and honest, and it behoves any developing countries to quickly identify these 10% and quickly place them in positions of responsibiity and authority if they want quick progress.

    That China has now reached a stage of knowledge and is now able to move forward at greater speed is thanks in no small measure to these 10% – graduating from schools, colleges and universities every year – “educating” the leaders and society at large from their positions of interactions whether high or low. No more need for “feeling the pebbles and boulders to cross the streams”.

    Like someone wise and sagely (he has already passed away) used to say, “It is foolish to try and figure out things yourself when there are others who have already travelled the same road and found the answers and solutions faced. Just seek out these people”.

    Of course in saying that, it must be noted he was referring to all educated people. But for China, the first 3 generations were not quite educated yet facing chaos, calamity, an utterly corrupt, effete, and gangsteristic CKS administration, while enduring foreign invasions yet still had the task of developing and building up a devastated nation at the same time. A most unenviable if not impossible job. Yet Mr Mao Tse-Tung and his team managed to pull through for China. A most heroic task the world has ever seen.

    When you have been at the bottom as China had been, nothing else could be worse than what it was. It is no surprise therefore now, at the progress China has made after Mao. That the pallanquin has been replaced by a rickshaw to a horsecart, to a motor car, to a jet plane in the Chinese” quest for improvement and progress. Their quest could had been faster, had it not been for that criminal CKS and the obstructive Americans during the cold war era.

    Nevertheless, the unspoken heros and heroines of China who brought China to where it is now are, remains the uncredited 10% able and honest, the best and brightest of China, who took China to where it is now.

    In the end, it was teamwork. The knowledgeable, bright and able working with the leaders possessing attributes of leadership and tenacity to take the Chinese out from its darkests period in Chinese history, into the light.

    As Chinese leaders upgrade their knowledge of management, or, more holistically speaking, administration, they can only get better. How it got to where it is today, to be realistic, is not wholly admirable. There were too much sacrifices, misery, injustices, and prices paid for it which could had been avoided. So let’s not go overboard at China”s success. The thing is to continue to avoid these and/or decrease these negatives as China moves forward to the future. With increasing knowledge and understanding. Ignorance is and will however continue to be its greatest eenemy if it is not careful.

    All said, the Chinese political or administrative system now arrived at, seems to be what works for China, and to an extent, may be relevant for others who wishes to borrow parts of it for their own countries. Whether you call it “Socialism with Chinese characterstics” or just the “Chinese developmental model”. And that is something, Chinese can also be proud of.

    The history of China’s political and administrative development is an interesting read here, even if it is written in layman’s language and context.


    • alking1957 says:

      There was never any shortcut to real progress. The Soviets under Gorby and Yeltsin tried “shortcuts” via western model, the result is a collapsed economy, oligarchy ran wild, and complete breakup of the Union that haunts them to this day; while the “advanced” west, cointinued their march towards Russia borders despite the typical Whiteman promise of NATO ” we will not expand eastwards one inch”. Anyone still looking to the West for example to follow aught to have his or her head examined


    • Steve says:

      ‘ Cross the river by feeling the stones ‘ has nothing to do with being an Amateur. It is to maintain one’s stability, perception and not emotionally overconfident. This is applicable to management, business, political objectives, etc.

      The rise and fall of any empire has a timeline that is unpredictable irrespective of success or failure. Example: The decline of one of the greatest empire was the Persian empire, began when it was economically the Superpower of it’s day. By contrast, America is at the crossroads now of being economically the biggest in the world, yet a declining superpower owing over 21 trillion dollars treasury debts and in self isolation.

      China had its problems for centuries since the rise and fall of it’s dynasties due internal military conflicts, foreign occupation and corruption. Presently, in 2018, corruption still exist, but brought under control due to political reform by President XI.

      In spite of China’s phenomenal rise as an economic powerhouse, President Xi and the CCP still need to ” Cross the river by feeling the stones. ” This concept coined by Deng Xiao Peng will be relevant for any empire whether it’s still rising or falling. It’s a question of political and economical sustainability as a global power.