No 2nd Generation of CCP Collective Leadership in ChinaPosted: January 29, 2018
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