In my previous post, I mentioned that Khrushchev had established his powerbase but not strong enough to avoid being forced to resign. That powerbase refers to the powerbase that enables him to remain in his position instead of that enables him to carry out the revolutionary reform that harmed strong vested interests.
Emperor Jiaqing of Qing Dynasty had sound powerbase established by his predecessors and supported by prevailing Confucianism. He was able to punish his father Emperor Qianlong’s favorite high official He Shen and confiscate all He’s assets. However, he was unable to overcome powerful official group’s resistance to his efforts to overcome rampant official corruption given rise by He Shen’s corrupt leadership. Nor could the two succeeding emperors Daoguang and Xianfeng
That was more than 150 years ago. What about CCP top leaders in the People’s Republic of China that Deng Xiaoping regarded as cores of CCP collective leadership?
Deng chose Jiang Zemin as his successor. He regarded Jiang as the core of the third generation of CCP collective leadership, but after Deng died in February 1997 Jiang’s position as the core was challenged by Politburo Standing Committee members Li Peng and Qiao Shi in mid 1997 before the 15th CCP National Congress. Jiang’s position as the core was ensured by powerful elder Bo Yibo. Jiang further strengthened his powerbase later with the development of the most powerful Shanghai faction in CCP. As a result, he was able to have written into CCP constitution his Three Represents that justify China’s development of private sector that was fiercely opposed as capitalism by lots of CCP dogmatists.
Jiang’s successor Hu Jintao set up and developed a large and powerful CYL (Communist Youth League) faction in his 10 years in power. Hu had filled CCP Central Committee and its Politburo with lots of his faction members and appointed them high official posts. However, he was unable to conduct the further reform and opening-up for the transformation from export- and investment-geared economic growth to innovation-, creation and consumption-led growth.
In spite of his top position and powerful faction, Hu was challenged by the conservative faction led by Bo Xilai. There was heated debate between reformists’ idea of further reform and conservatives’ Maoism. Hu had found Bo’s crime of corruption and taken Bo in custody to deprive conservatives of their leader but was unable to punish Bo. As a result, in September 2012, two months before the 18th CCP National Congress, Jiang Zemin had to come out from his retired home in Shanghai to Beijing to personally preside over an expanded Politburo meeting to make the decision to punish Bo severely.
Xi inherited a divided China from Hu Jintao. He would certainly be unable fight rampant corruption and rectify CCP to prevent it from collapse if China remained divided. How could Xi unite China and find some strong force to help him attain his goals?
Article by Chan Kai Yee
Reform and Opening-up Also a Revolution
The first generation of the communists in CCP, risked their lives to fight and win their revolution to take over state power. That was CCP’s first revolution. However, as CCP they conducted orthodox socialism at first after winning the revolution. It failed to attain its goal to make China rich and strong because orthodox socialism was not commensurate to the reality.
The second and later generations of communists led by Deng Xiaoping and other reformist communists conducted the reform and opening-up. That was also a revolution as the reformists had overcome fierce opposition from dogmatists to replace orthodox socialism with their socialism with Chinese characteristics that allows and even encourages the development of private sector. In doing so, they also took great risks as no one had ever tried to carry out such a revolution so that no one could be absolutely sure of success.
That was the first stage of the revolution for socialism with Chinese characteristics. It has been proved an unqualified success in making China prosperous, rich and strong through China’s first stage of reform and opening-up.
Dead End of China’s Economy
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s predecessor Hu Jintao saw that in spite of the success, the serious problem in China’s old model of economic development in pursuing of economic growth through increase in investment for producing more goods for export.
As the economy of developed countries has failed to grow due to 2007-2008 financial crisis caused by US subprime mortgage bubble and European sovereign debt crisis started from 2009 and as developing countries remained poor, China’s export market saturated. Local governments and lots of enterprises, however, kept on borrowing loans from banks to invest in excessive production capacity for export
Difficulties in Carrying out the Transformation
Worried by the problems of overcapacity and excessive debts resulting from pursuit of export- and investment-geared economic growth rate, Hu initiated the transformation from such pursuit of growth to that of innovation-, creation- and consumption-led economic growth.
Moreover, Hu’s Scientific Outlook on Development puts the people first so that his government encourages and helps workers to get higher wages, resulting in increase in labor costs and reduction of the competitive edge of China’s labor-intensive industries. Most of China’s exports are produced by those industries.
China’s current leader Xi Jinping applies Marxist theory on identifying and resolving the principal contradiction in the society in Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. According to the Thought, the principal contradiction in socialism with Chinese characteristics now is the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life.
In resolving that principal contradiction, workers wages have to be further increased in order to satisfy people’s needs for a better life. That will further reduce the competitive edge of China’s labor-intensive industries; therefore, the transformation to innovation-, creation- and consumption-led economic growth is indispensable for the CCP to resolve the principal contradiction. The transformation is, in fact, a revolution too as it will bring about revolutionary change in China’s mode of economic development.
A revolution needs revolutionaries to carry out. CCP old generation fought bravely and made great sacrifice to carry out their revolution to take over state power. The younger one of the old generation strived hard to carry out the reform and opening-up also revolutionary in nature. Those old revolutionaries have mostly passed away. The very few remaining alive are very old unable to work for the CCP.
China needs a new generation of revolutionaries to conduct the transformation and attain its two-stage development goals. At the first stage China shall basically achieve modernization by 2035 while at the second stage China shall be built into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful by 2050.
Where are the revolutionaries to fight to attain such ambitious goals? Xi Jinping is a revolutionary, a true revolutionary able to carry out the revolution.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
Further Reform of China’s Succession System
Hu Jintao’s failure has made CCP rethink about the succession system set up by Deng Xiaoping. The unwritten rule that limits top leader’s tenure results in retired leader Jiang Zemin remaining in control behind the scene, but the control was loose. As a result, due to lack of executive talents and strength, Jiang Zemin’s successor Hu Jintao failed to run the country satisfactory and left behind lots of problems after Hu’s retirement.
It was not because Hu was not talented or lacked moral integrity but due to the rarity of gifted leader who is able to discover talents with moral integrity and put them in good use. Hu first of all lacks the ability to discover talents and place them in proper posts to carry out his Scientific Outlook on Development so that the officials and SOE executives Hu chose from his CYL powerbase have borrowed heavily for investment in excessive production capacity in order to achieve high economic growth. That has given rise to heavy debts, excessive capacity and serious pollution very hard for his successor Xi Jinping to overcome.
Moreover, the rampant corruption due to his lack of control has brought CCP to the edge of collapse.
A core Leader Shall Not Retire until Succession Is Ensured
If Jiang and Zhu Rongji had served one more term and tested Hu in that term, they might have found Hu’s incompetence and had Xi Jinping replace Hu as Jiang’s successor.
Jiang personally experienced the difficulties in setting up his powerbase as the core of CPC leadership and the challenges of his status as the core by Qiao Shi and Li Peng.
Bo Xilai’ efforts in obtaining popularity by his campaign against organized crimes and singing read campaign obviously aimed at depriving Xi Jinping’s chance of succession to Jiang Zemin as the core of CCP leadership.
The difficulties Jiang and Xi encountered in their succession to the core prove the necessity for a retiring core to stay longer in order to help his successor establish powerbase.
There Shall Be No Official’s Age, Term Limits to Avoid Waste of Talent
An official who has proved his talents and moral integrity is a country’s precious asset. His county shall cherish his talents and keep him in service as long as he remains healthy, competent and willing to work for his country. It is stupid to force him to retire and thus waste his talents.
The limits are quite exceptional in China as in China’s thousands years of history, there had never been such limits to officials’ age or tenure. There are no such limit in Western democracies or the Soviet Union and its satellite countries.
Since Liu Bang, the founding emperor of Han Dynasty, accepted Lu Jia’s advice to “get down his horse to rule the empire”, China mainly employed educated civilian officials to govern the country. All founding emperors of later dynasties followed Liu Bang’s example. Mao was the only exception. In Mao Era Official were appointed based on their merits in war. Those officials were mostly not adequately educated or competent and became obstacles to Deng’s modernization of China. Deng had to remove them but they ware powerful vest interests difficult to remove. Deng set age and term limit to persuad them to retire as he needed young and well educated officials for China’s modernization.
There is no need to remove uneducated officials by limiting officials’age and tenure; therefore, sooner or later such limits will be removed.
Restoration of China’s Old Yao Shun System of Succession
According to Chinese classic “The Book of History”, more than 4,000 years ago in Yao and Shun Times, China’s top leader Emperor Yao chose Shun and appointed him high official position to test him. Having found Shun competent, Yao had Shun succeed him. Shun did the same to Yu and had Yu succeed him.
Shun was chosen as candidate of succession due to his moral integrity but was finally chosen when he had proved competent in performing the official duties assigned to him by Emperor Yao.
Shun Chose Yu as Yu worked hard for 13 years and finally succeeded in harnessing the river and putting an end to serious flooding. Yu was so dedicated to his work of flood relief that in the 13 years he was doing the job, he passed his home three times without entering his home to meet his family. Yu was certainly chosen due to his talents and moral integrity.
Xi’s reform of CCP succession system by removal of the term limit of Chinese presidency in effect makes CCP’s system of succession to core similar to that in China’s Yao and Shun Times that was highly praised by Confucius.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
China’s Succession Problem
Even in China’s hereditary dynasty, succession is a tricky issue as an emperor usually has quite a few male heirs who would fight fiercely for succession as there was too much power and interests at stake. The fight was sometimes bloody, for example, the Xuanwu Gate coup d’état on July 2, 626 in early Tang Dynasty (618-907), in which the emperor’s fourth son Prince Li Shimin (later Emperor Taizong of Tang (599-649)) killed his two elder brothers and forced his father, the then ruling emperor, to retire.
In Song Dynasty(960-1279), the founding Emperor Taizu’s death is a mystery. There is a story that he was assassinated by his brother who usurped his emperorship. It is a topic argued for more than 1,000 years without conclusion, but I would rather believe that story.
In Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the dynasty founding Emperor Taizu’s successor his grandson and his fourth son fought a war for quite a long time for the throne and his grandson revolted in order to grab the throne from his great grandson.
In Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), the struggle for succession was so fierce among quite a few sons of Emperor Kangxi that Kangxi’s designated crown prince committed mistakes under pressure from the succession struggle and even tried to grab the throne from Kangxi. The crown prince was finally deposed by Kangxi. Kangxi carried out a reform in the succession system in the Qing Dynasty. He designated no other crown prince after deposing his crown prince. In order to protect the successor, for a few generations the name of an emperor’s successor was kept secret and was to be found after the emperor died in an imperial edict stored behind a certain inscribed board in the palace.
The most serious problem in such a system the successor had no powerbase when he came to throne. When emperor Xianfeng died, he had no sound powerbase to support his heir. His brother colluded with his widow to seize power from the regents appointed by him to act for his son. It gave rise to Queen Dowager Cixi’s half a century disastrous rule.
Mao’s Succession Problem
Mao’s successors were chosen by him alone in a way similar to that in China’s feudal dynasties. He first chose Liu Shaqi but when he saw that Liu became another power center, he launched the Cultural Revolution to seize back power from Liu and killed Liu. He then designated Lin Biao as his successor, but when Mao found that lots of high officials supported Lin Biao in disobeying his instruction, he was afraid that Lin Biao had established another power center rival to his; therefore, he wanted to punish Lin. Lin fled away and was killed in an air crash on his way.
Mao’s final chosen successor Hua Guofeng was brought down by Deng as Mao had not allow Hua enough time or tendered Hua any help to built Hua’s powerbase. As a result, Mao’s succession was entirely a failure.
What about Deng Xiaoping’s succession?
Smooth Succession of Jiang Zeming to Deng Xiaoping
According to Zhao Ziyang’s secret memoir, Deng had got powerful elders’ consent to let Zhao serve two full terms as CCP general secretary though due to Tiananmen Protests, Zhao was deposed and only served as general secretary for two years. However, Deng never showed any intention to have Zhao as his successor.
When Deng had replaced Zhao with Jiang Zeming, he made clear Jiang would be the core of the third generation of collective leadership to succeed him. He got the consent of other powerful elders for that. The elders helped Jiang maintain his status as core and establish his powerbase after Deng’s death. Jiang’s succession to Deng was a success
However, Hu Jintao’s succession to Jiang is not as successful as Jiang’s succession to Deng. He succeeded to Jiang as general secretary, Central Military Commission chairman and state president but not as the core.
When Hu just became general secretary, he was called the core of CCP collective leadership by some media but the media soon stopped doing so. I believe that Hu was aware that he had not really gained the status as the core so that he told the media not to call him the core. In fact, his ten-year reign proved that he was not competent enough as the core as he left behind lots of problems described in my preceding post. Anyway, Deng had never said that Hu should succeed Jiang as the core so that Hu’s succession to Jiang as general secretary, CMC chairman and president is quite enough. In this prospective, Deng’s arrangement of succession to Jiang shall be regarded as a success.
Jiang Selected, Groomed Xi Jinping as Successor to the Core
As Hu was not satisfactory to succeed him as the core, Jiang searched and found Xi Jinping as the successor to him to core. Xi performance since he took over the reign greatly satisfied Jiang. It was reflected in the headline news at the website of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 23 on Jiang Zemin meeting Henry Kissinger on July 3.
In the meeting, Jiang said to Kissinger, “You know, a large country like China with 1.3 billion people needs a strong and vigorous leader.” “Xi Jinping is a state leader of great ability and wisdom. In such a huge country as China, undoubtedly there may be all sorts of problems, which are not fearful. The key is that the problems must be handled resolutely. Recently, some incidents of violent terrorist attacks occurred in China’s Xinjiang. Xi Jinping made decision resolutely and quickly controlled the situation.”
Moreover, Jiang Zemin told Kissinger that he talked with Xi Jinping over the phone not long ago and Xi asked Jiang to convey his greetings to Kissinger.
Jiang not only selected Xi but also groomed Xi by giving Xi instructions through the phone.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
Concentration of Party, Military and Government Power in the Core
When Deng Xiaoping advocated the system of collective leadership, The positions of Party leader the general secretary, military leader the Central Military Commission Chairman and administrative leader the State President were assigned to different people for division of power.
There was a Westernized trend of division of power between the Party and government advocated by Zhao Ziyang when he was in power.
After Tiananmen Protests, however, Deng changed his mind and believed that there had to be a core of the collective leadership to have final say. If the core shall have final say like Deng, the paramount leader, he shall be as powerful as the emperor in a dynasty. Deng proved that by his Southern Tour to restore his reform and opening up with his power as the core. Since then, he wanted the concentration of power in the core and set up the three-in-one system to enable his chosen successor to core Jiang Zemin to have final say.
Deng was well aware that the conservatives are very powerful and might put an end to his reform when he died so that he wanted Jiang to have final say to carry on his reform. He told Jiang that he would not rest at ease until Jiang had the final say.
The Establishment of the Three-in-One System
Deng first had Jiang replace him as Central Military Commission chairman and removed Yang Shangkun and Yang Baibing from their military positions to enable Jiang to control Chinese military. Jiang pleased Deng with his efforts to control the PLA through modernization of Chinese military.
In addition to having Jiang reelected as Party general secretary in 1992, Deng had Jiang elected as state Chairman in 1993. He had thus established the three-in-one system of concentrating party, military and administrative power in one person.
Deng wanted a strongman to be the core so that he chose Hu Jintao as Jiang’s successor as Hu was strong in ruling Tibet. Jiang obeyed Deng his mentor and had Hu succeed him as general secretary in 2002, president in 2003 and Central Military Commission chairman in 2004. Jiang has thus carried on the three-in-one system and groomed Hu to succeed him as the core.
When Xi Jinping has succeeded Hu as Party general secretary, Central Military Commission chairman and state president, the three-in-one system shall be regarded as soundly established.
However, Hu, though talented to have developed his Scientific Outlook on development, failed to be strong enough. Due to his weakness, he left behind excessive production capacity, local governments’ and some SOEs’ heavy debts, rampant corruption and serious pollutions. He was unable to carry out his planned further reform and was even challenged by conservatives led by Bo Xilai
He has thus failed to succeed Jiang as the core. Jiang found Xi and groomed Xi as his successor as the core while Xi is now carrying out further reform to the system of succession to the core. Those are topics of my next posts.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
China’s Core System (5) (Parts (1), (2), (3) and (4) are “The Conundrum of China’s Collective Leadership” dated January 28, “No 2nd Generation of CCP Collective Leadership in China” on January 29 “Fight for the Position of the Core when There Was No Core” on February 22 and “Jiang Zemin Has Maintained China’s Centralized Core System on February 24)
Sometimes, something obvious becomes unclear as it is something rare.
That is the case of Jiang Zemin remaining the core of the CCP Dynasty.
In my book “Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements”, I point out that the political system in China now is the CCP Dynasty. The dynasty is characterized by having a core with the power similar to an emperor.
Deng Xiaoping said Mao was the core of the first generation of collective leadership. As pointed out in Chapter 60 “The Conundrum of China’s Collective Leadership”, Mao typically acted as an emperor with absolute power. There was no collective leadership at all
Deng called himself the core of the second generation of collective leadership, but was regarded as the paramount leader by people outside China.
How paramount is Deng the leader? He alone was able to decide to send troops to suppress democracy fighters at Tiananmen. Though retired, he alone was able to save his reform and opening up by his Southern Tour when conservatives prevailed.
How paramount is Jiang, the core of the third generation? People seem to have no idea about that. They invented the story that Jiang was beaten by Hu Jintao in power struggle when Chen Liangyu fell into disgrace for corruption. Certainly, there were quite a few other stories invented by people who know neither the China at present nor Chinese history.
I point out in my book “Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements”, Jiang had a majority through his protégés in the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) when he retired in 2002. In 2007, though Hu Jintao succeeded in promoting his protégé Li Keqiang into the PSC, Jiang promoted his Xi Jinping into the PSC as the successor to Hu Jintao and maintained a majority through his protégés.
That did not seem convincing enough.
Now before the major reshuffle at the 18th Party Congress, Jiang has done something absolutely convincing in the Bo Xilai saga.
Like the time before Deng’s Southern Tour, the conservatives are strong again this time. Bo Xilai as the leader of the conservative faction even dared to set a Maoist Chongqing Model to challenge the reformists in China’s power center.
It was only with the help of powerful elders headed by retired heavyweight, the reformists were able to put Bo under house arrest. However, they were not strong enough to punish Bo harshly to prevent his return to power later.
Through investigation, they found Bo’s and his wife’s crimes of taking huge bribes, abusing power, etc., but they were not strong enough to punish Bo for such crimes.
As a result, Bo’s wife was not accused of taking bribes when she was prosecuted.
In the trial of Bo’s former protégé Wang Lijun, Bo was clearly involved but the prosecutor and court refrained to mention Bo by name. Bo still seemed untouchable.
Soon afterwards, at the weekend of the week from September 16 to 22, Jiang Zemin made a rare public appearance in Beijing before quite a few high officials.
In its report on September 25, SCMP said that Jiang attempted to demonstrate his “lingering” influence.
Surprise! The timing of Jiang’s appearance demonstrated his dominant instead of “lingering” influence in deciding to punish Bo harshly.
SCMP finally realized that in its report later titled “Former China president Jiang Zemin played key role in punishing Bo Xilai, say analysts”.
However, it is hard for people to believe how a leader who has retired for 8 years, can maintain his dominant power.
That is precisely something with special Chinese characteristics.
We have now got used to China’s socialism with Chinese characteristics that in fact is capitalism. Why can’t we understand that a collective leadership with a core means the leadership of a core with the power of an emperor?
Even after the 1911 Revolution that put an end to China’s traditional hereditary dynasties, China has still been ruled by one dynasty after another.
Yuen Shikai ruled China with the power of an emperor. True, there was a democratic parliamentary election, but Yuen assassinated the majority leader soon after the election and maintained his dominance.
When Yuen died, no one succeeded him as the dominant emperor. China was in chaos of wars between various warlords.
Then another dynasty, Chiang Kai-shek Dynasty emerged but failed to be thoroughly dominant and lost to the Communists in the civil war.
Mao Zedong came to power and promised to establish democracy for the people and dictatorship against the enemy. He even wrote an article to tell people that they are allowed to disagree, but he turned out to be an absolute emperor who cruelly crushed whatever dissent.
However, he was certainly marvelously great! In spite of the millions of death due to the famine caused by him and in spite of “Great Cultural Revolution” in which he persecuted lots of innocent people and reduced China to a nation without culture and knowledge, he remained worshiped by lots of China’s Maoists and quite a few people outside China including US well-known politician Henry Kissinger.
Therefore, people have got the wrong idea that Mao era had put an end to China’s history of dynasties.
However, the fact remained that Mao era was itself Mao Dynasty with Mao as its dominant Emperor though it was not a hereditary one.
The Chiang Kai-shek Dynasty, though fled to Taiwan, remained a hereditary one. Chiang was succeeded by his son Chiang Ching-kuo, who should be credited for Taiwan’s democratic transformation.
Deng Xiaoping created the CCP Dynasty by his idea of a collective leadership with a core. As described in my book, it is not a hereditary one that belongs to a family but a dynasty that belongs to a party.
It is certainly good for the CCP if there is a core like an emperor to govern the country, but the core shall be wise and competent to maintain his dominance. If so, he will satisfactorily maintain stability.
Jiang has turned CCP a party of the whole people by the second of his Three Represents. Hu Jintao has written into CCP constitution his Scientific Outlook on Development centered on putting the people first. Xi Jinping Thought regards the principal contradiction facing Chinese society as that between the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life and unbalanced and inadequate development and wants the Party to strive to resolve that contradiction. CCP has thus made clear that it is a party that belongs to the people and strives for the people’s interests and benefits.
Therefore the government of CCP is a government of the people and for the people though not by the people yet.
The above nature and goal of the dynasty make the core a very hard job. The core can never really retire. At the age of 86, Jiang as the core has to leave his home in Shanghai for Beijing to deal a crushing blow on the conservatives.
You may still wonder how a core can maintain his dominance all his life.
That is again something with special Chinese characteristics. You perhaps do not believe that, but it is something real for decades.
Mao maintained his dominance until his death. So did Deng Xiaoping and Jiang maintain their dominance even after their retirement.
You may wonder why even Mao was in a coma before his death, no one dare to challenge him. It was not until one month after Mao’s death powerful generals dared to arrest Mao’s protégés the Gang of Four.
That is again something with Chinese characteristics. In order to maintain his dominance all his life, the core has to skillfully apply China’s traditional art for being an emperor.
Mao applied the art taught in China’s classic “Han Fei Tze” to rule China with awe, tricks and intrigues. Jiang, however, has applied the more advanced art for being an emperor developed in the 2,000 years after Han Fei Tze’s art proved unsuccessful when Emperor Qin Shihuang applied it and caused the collapse of his Qin Dynasty.
That is a long topic, but I have given some description of the art in my book “Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements”.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
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