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
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 (4) (Parts (1), (2) and (3) are “The Conundrum of China’s Collective Leadership” dated January 28, “No 2nd Generation of CCP Collective Leadership in China” on January 29 and “Fight for the Position of the Core when There Was No Core” on February 22.)
How Jiang Zemin dealt with Qiao Shi and Li Peng’s challenges
Could Jiang hold a PSC meeting to have PSC members vote on his position as the core to have the final say? Jiang was not sure he had the majority votes as most likely the other PSC members wanted equal power so that each and every member was one of the first-ranking leaders. If there was a core that had final say, the core would be the first-ranking leader while all the other members would be second-ranking leaders. Who would cast his vote to support Jiang as the first-ranking core and thus reduce himself to second-ranking? Jiang certainly knew very clear that he could not rely on the collective leadership to vote for him to have the final say.
By that time Jiang had made great efforts to establish his powerbase and was quite successful though had not obtained dominant power. Without Deng, the core of the second generation of CCP leadership, Jiang was not even sure that he was strong enough to ensure that the new central committee to be elected a few months later in the 15th Congress would elect him into the new Politburo or the new Politburo would elect him into the new PSC if he would be elected into the Politburo.
Jiang was entrusted by Deng to carry on Deng’s reform. Deng gave him instruction to gain the power to have final say as the core. Deng set an example in person by his Southern Tour to show the power of the core in forcing all other officials to obey his order to carry on the reform in spite of their opposition to the reform. Jiang had been assigned by Deng to carry on Deng’s reform after Deng died; therefore, it is imperative for Jiang to gain the power as the core of leadership. Jiang realized the urgency for him to maintain his position as the core and overcome Qiao and Li’s challenges.
CCP Elder’s Power
Jiang knew that the election at CCP Congress was controlled by the remaining four of the eight powerful elders after the death of the major elders Deng, Chen Yun, Li Xiannian and Peng Zhen. Among the four, Bo Yibo was the most powerful as Bo was very close to Deng. According to Zhao Ziyang’s secret memoir, Deng entrusted Bo to make preparations for 13th and 14th CCP Congresses. Bo prepared for the congresses the lists of the members of central committee and Politburo and candidates for high official posts and submitted them to Deng for approval. As a result, Bo had great influence among Politburo and central committee members and high officials and could easily control the voting in the 15th Congress in 1997.
Jiang sought Bo’s help. With Bo’s help, he made Qiao retire at the 15th Congress and exploited the conflict between Li Peng and Qiao Shi as Qiao Shi said that the State Council under Li Peng’s control should report to Qiao. At that time, Qiao though ranked the third below Li was popular among reformists. According to China’s constitution, Li though ranked the second above Qiao was to be appointed as the premier by the NPC controlled by Qiao. If Qiao had not contended for the position to be the core, Li would have had to contend with Jiang only. Now Li had to deal with Qiao in addition to Jiang in order to become the core. That was too much for him.
By that time, Li has served two terms as premier and had to resign from the post of premier. Jiang cleverly offered Li Qiao’s post. Li, though could not become the core, would rank nominally higher than premier and could appoint the premier. That was at least a promotion. Jiang had thus won over Li and along with Li’s protégés in the State Council and the conservatives behind Li.
Qiao had been honest and upright all his life so that it was not likely that he had the ambition to become the core. Perhaps, he simply wanted the NPC to constraint Jiang Zemin and avoid the repetition of an autocracy like Mao’s.
Anyway, Qiao’s democratic idea that regarded the NPC instead of the Party as the only power centre may weaken CCP’s political power. He certainly could not get powerful elders’ support in his power struggle with Jiang. However, when he chaired the NPC, the NPC acted less like a rubber stamp. Since his retirement, no NPC chairman has ever challenged the Party’s leadership again and the NPC has fully resumed its role as a rubber stamp.
No Collective Leadership when Jiang Zemin Was the Core
Jiang learnt from Deng’s example and has obtained top power through the help of powerful elders, especially Bo Xilai’s father Bo Yibo. With the help of Zhu Rongji, he obtained the prestige in CCP by his successful reform to make China’s loss-making State-owned enterprises profitable. By the time he retired from PSC, he had soundly established his powerbase. Hu Jintao was not his but his mentor Deng Xiaoping’s choice as his successor. Out of his gratitude and respect for Deng his mentor, Jiang had to appoint and groom Hu Jintao as his successor. However, Jiang’s first priority was to carry on Deng’s reform and opening-up. As Hu has not established his powerbase to succeed Jiang as the core, Jiang had to maintain his control to keep on the reform.
He appointed his protégés into PSC to control PSC majority and thus controlled PSC’s decision making. As a result, PSC made decision by the majority controlled by Jiang. That gave the false impression that there was collective leadership in PSC, but in reality, the decisions had been made in accordance with Jiang’s instructions to the PSC members controlled by Jiang.
At first, Deng Xiaoping wanted to establish a system of collective leadership in the Party, but after Tiananmen Protests, he changed his mind and wanted the collective leadership to have a core. The idea about a core is perhaps realistic for the Party because for thousands of years, China has to have a highly centralized power center.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
China’s Core System (3) (Parts (1) and (2) are “The Conundrum of China’s Collective Leadership” dated January 28 and “No 2nd Generation of CCP Collective Leadership in China” on January 29)
When Deng Xiaoping, the core of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) second generation of “collective” leadership, was alive, Deng’s chosen successor Jiang Zemin who had been designated by Deng as the core of CCP third generation of “collective” leadership relied on Deng’s support to maintain his position as the core of CCP leadership. He had final say in Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) but his final say was in fact Deng’s final say.
Jiang Zeming’s Position of Core Challenged after Deng’s Death
When Jiang Zemin’s mentor Deng Xiaoping died, in spite of Jiang’s efforts for almost 8 years, Jiang had not established the dominant powerbase for a core of leadership. Without Deng’s support, two major PSC members National People’s Congress (NPC) Chairman Qiao Shi and Premier Li Peng began to challenge Jiang Zemin.
What did Qiao and Li want? Deng the core died in February 1997 and Jiang had not established his position as the core though has been designated by Deng as the core of third generation of CCP collective leadership. If they wanted collective leadership, there had already been collective leadership as there was no core to have the final say. They had no need to challenge Jiang but just cast their votes as usual to make decisions by majority instead by the core who had the final say.
No, they did not want collective leadership. Instead, they wanted the position as the core of leadership, i.e. they wanted the power to have the final say.
First, during his diplomatic tours abroad in April 1996, Qiao Shi failed to mention that Jiang Zemin was the core of CCP collective leadership. In an interview published on the first page of CCP’s mouthpiece People’s Daily the same month, Qiao said that according to China’s Constitution, all power in the country belonged to the people and that the people were to exercise their power through the NPC and local people’s congresses at various levels. What he meant was that all government agencies including the State Council and all Chinese troops were under NPC’s leadership so that he as NPC chairman had the supreme power as the core of leadership.
Qiao made it very clear that what he wanted was not the collective leadership without a core but to replace Jiang as the core of leadership.
NPC is usually regarded as a rubber stamp without real power, but that was not the case when Qiao was its chairman. When Qiao was NPC chairman, NPC exercised its power as a real parliament and Qiao, its chairman, was regarded as ranking only below Jiang; therefore Qiao was indeed Jiang’s quite strong competitor. Jiang had to use his public relations skill to have Qiao agree to his decision. That was not difficult because both Jiang and Qiao were reformists.
If Qiao did not agree, Jiang, though appointed by Deng as the core of the third “collective” leadership, was not able to have the final say. He had to ask Deng to make the decision. As Deng was the core, Qiao did not dare to oppose.
When Deng was dead, Qiao believed that Jiang was no longer able to rely on Deng to have the final say so that Qiao was bold to openly challenge Jiang and seek the position as the core.
Second, in an article published on the front page of People’s Daily in May 1997, Li Peng also omitted mentioning Jiang Zemin as the core of CCP collective leadership. Li, though ambitious, was not Jiang’s strong competitor. At that time, Li was the premier of China’s cabinet the State Council. As head of Chinese government, he must have been very powerful. However in 1992 Deng Xiaoping appointed Zhu Rongji as first-ranking vice premier in charge of State Council’s daily affairs. Zhu was highly capable and had taken everything under his administration. Li’s power and influence in the State Council had thus been greatly eroded.
When Deng Xiaoping appointed Jiang as the core of CCP collective leadership, Deng regarded PSC as CCP’s collective leadership though at that time PSC members were but “daughters-in-law” without real power and had to obey Deng their “mother-in-law”. When Deng had died, PSC members thought that they might become the “mothers-in-law” to have final say while Jiang without Deng’s support could not be the core that had the final say. That was why Qiao Shi and Li Peng began to challenge Jiang. What should Jiang do?
There Has Never Been a Working Collective Leadership in China
Shall Jiang give up his position as the core to enable there to be a collective leadership? Jiang was aware that a collective leadership was impossible in China. Either there is a strong national leader or China is split into some independent areas ruled by autocratic local warlords. There will be endless wars among local and central warlords until China is unified by a strong national leader. That has been China’s tradition in its four thousand years’ history. There is no exception in modern China. After the Qing Dynasty was replaced by the Republic of China, China was split into various areas controlled by central and local warlords and there were frequent wars among them until Chiang Kai-shek, the strongest warlord nominally reunified China.
China’s gifted general Mao finally defeated all warlords and drove away the strongest warlord Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan away from Chinese mainland. However, Mao was unable to take back Taiwan to complete the reunification of China due to US Naval intervention.
After the communist takeover, China adopted Soviet Leninist system. Lenin and his successors were all paramount leaders. Though the Soviet Union talked a lot about collective leadership, there had never been real collective leadership there.
It has also been the case in China. At first, CCP leaders were chosen under Soviet influence. When Mao took over the leadership from the leaders chosen by the Soviet Union, he soon established his position as paramount leader with his military gifts. In fact in China’s civil wars and war of resistance against Japan, there must be the paramount leadership of a gifted strongman to have the final say instead of a collective leadership.
As a result, modern China has inherited China’s 2000 years of centralism. Jiang Zeming knew that Deng wanted him to obtain the power as the core so that he would have be power to carry on Deng’s reform in spite of conservatives’ fierce opposition; therefore, he had to defeat the challenges and maintain China’s core leadership system.
How had he defeated the challenges? It will be described in my next post.
Article by Chan Kai Yee