Elite Politics, Party Affairs & Ideology

CLM Insights Interview with Xueguang Zhou on his recent book: 

The Institutional Logic of Governance in China: An Organizational Approach

CLM Insights Interview with Richard McGregor on his recent paper: 

Xi Jinping: The Backlash 

(Lowy Institute, 2020)

From the CCP Dilemma to the Xi Jinping Dilemma: The Chinese Regime’s Capacity for Governance

Guoguang Wu

Sunday, March 1, 2020

This essay analyzes how the Fourth Plenary Session of the Nineteenth Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), held in October 2019, furthered the concentration of power in the hands of party chief Xi Jinping, a concentration of power epitomized by the personification of party leadership over the party-state system. This took place against the background of a strengthening of the regime’s capacity for governance, but the consequence has been an upgrading of the CCP’s governance dilemma, which features unbalanced strength to promote economic growth and political stability on the one hand and to deal with the social, environmental, and public costs of development on the other hand, and Xi Jinping’s governance dilemma, which involves overall control by the supreme leader as a result of the impotence of the regime and accordingly the institutional decay in present-day China. The COVID-19 crisis is the latest example of the overlapping of these two dilemmas.     

Ideological Indoctrination Under Xi Jinping

Minxin Pei

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The CCP under Xi Jinping’s leadership has launched the most sustained and comprehensive program of ideological indoctrination in the post-Mao era. By issuing new rules and revising old ones on ideological education in the party, propaganda work, education, and patriotic education, the party apparently seeks to use ideological indoctrination to strengthen Xi’s personal authority, demand strict political loyalty from its officials and members, tighten control in the mass media and on college campuses, and mobilize nationalistic support from the public. Although the program is being implemented through administrative measures, its reliance on coercion and material incentives belie the challenge facing the party to carry out ideological indoctrination in a highly materialistic society. This program reflects the regime’s insecurity about the erosion of its members’ ideological commitment and political loyalty. The backward- looking nature of the party’s program of ideological indoctrination is symptomatic of its poverty of ideas, even as the party struggles to project a forward-looking vision. The outcome of this program is likely to be political ritualization and feigned loyalty that are more common in a regime in decay than in a regime undergoing reinvigoration.

CLM Insights Interview with Jude Blanchette on his latest book: 

China's New Red Guards: The Return of Radicalism and the Rebirth of Mao Zedong 

(Oxford University Press, 2019)

Bureaucratic strategies of coping with strongman rule: How local officials survive in President Xi Jinping’s new order

Minxin Pei

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has been attempting to transform the Chinese Communist Party into an ideologically committed, organizationally disciplined, and politically loyal regime.  His efforts include enforcing strict discipline and curtailing the perks of officials.  This attempt appears to be unpopular among the party’s rank and file and has encountered various forms of resistance.  Resourceful local officials have attempted to protect their interests and resist the leadership’s efforts to strip them of the perks and benefits that until now they have taken for granted.  Their passive resistance appears to be a serious obstacle to the realization of Xi’s ambitious vision.  Ironically, many of Xi’s own policies, such as emphasizing ideological indoctrination and suppressing civil society, have made it more difficult to combat the subterfuge by local officials.  The party’s top-down approach is unlikely to succeed in converting ideologically cynical CCP officials into true believers, while local officials have no feasible means of forcing the top leadership to change course.  This political stalemate is likely to continue.

Rewriting the Rules of the Chinese Party-State: Xi’s Progress in Reinvigorating the CCP

Minxin Pei

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Since assuming power in late 2012 and especially since the conclusion of the Nineteenth Party Congress in October 2017, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made significant progress in implementing a systematic program to rewrite the rules of the Chinese Communist Party.  These changes are designed to augment Xi’s personal authority, centralize decision-making power, tighten the party’s organizational discipline and procedures, extend CCP control over state and society, and intensify ideological indoctrination.  Even though Xi has achieved indisputable success in revising and promulgating nearly all important CCP rules, it remains unclear whether such changes in the rules have been fully accepted as legitimate and binding by the CCP’s rank-and-file.  Nor should we take at face value as a settled reality the assertion of Xi’s supremacy in practically every revised or newly issued CCP rule book.  

The King’s Men and Others: Emerging Political Elites under Xi Jinping

Guoguang Wu

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Large-scale elite upward mobility has been taking place in Xi Jinping’s China. Who has attained critical positions under Xi’s leadership? How did they achieve such career advancements? Focusing on those elites who have emerged in recent years at or above the deputy provincial and vice-ministerial levels in the power hierarchy of the narrowly defined CCP and state administrative apparatuses, this article outlines seven groups that established close connections with Xi Jinping during the various stages of his life before rising to national power; it then analyzes how sub-mainstream and non-mainstream paths of elite advancements have also worked in a marginal sense due to the so-called “cascade impact” and the “bandwagon effect.”

A Tale of Three Speeches: How Xi’s Speech Marking the 40th Anniversary of Reform and Opening Differs from those of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao

Minxin Pei

Friday, March 1, 2019

Xi Jinping’s speech marking the 40th anniversary of reform and opening on December 18, 2018 recapitulates the substantial ideological and policy changes he has initiated since coming to power in late 2012.  A comparison of this speech with speeches by Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao on the 20th and 30th anniversary of reform and opening respectively reveals significant differences in terms of ideological rhetoric and substantive policy issues.  Whereas the speeches by Jiang and Hu adhere to the basic ideological and policy guidelines established by Deng Xiaoping, Xi Jinping’s speech underscores his personal authority and political vision.  Most significantly, Xi’s speech emphasizes the supremacy of Communist Party centralized and unified strongman rule and China’s bold and expansive role in international affairs.  The uncompromising tone of his speech suggests that it is unlikely that Xi will make substantial changes to his domestic and foreign policies despite the strong headwinds both domestically and internationally.

CLM Insights: Interview with Elizabeth Economy,

C. V. Starr senior fellow and director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

Xi Jinping’s Dilemma: Back Down or Double Down?

Minxin Pei

Saturday, December 1, 2018

This year Chinese leader Xi Jinping encountered the most difficult test of his leadership since assuming office in late 2012. The U.S.-China trade war (and the escalating strategic competition between the two countries in particular) have exposed China’s structural vulnerabilities and raised questions about Xi’s responsibility for the rapid deterioration in Beijing’s ties with Washington. As economic woes mounted, elite discontent with Xi’s leadership appeared to be widespread, precipitating an effort by Xi and his loyalists during the summer to bolster his authority. But whatever incipient opposition to Xi existed, it appeared to be short-lived. Xi emerged from the critical summer retreat at Beidaihe in mid- August with no obvious diminution of his authority. Since then, he has intensified efforts to strengthen his power but there are no indications that he has made fundamental adjustments to his domestic and foreign policies.

A Setback or Boost for Xi Jinping’s Concentration of Power? Domination versus Resistance within the CCP Elite

Guoguang Wu

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Xi Jinping’s concentration of power, which had already achieved remarkable success, was further endorsed and institutionalized during the October 2017 Nineteenth Party Congress and the March 2018 session of the National People’s Congress. In recent Chinese political developments, is it possible to detect elite resistance to Xi’s fast-growing power and authority? How are party-state cadres able to display such resistance? Furthermore, how does such resistance affect Xi’s power and governance? This article attempts to answer these questions by, first, looking at how Xi has promoted his concentration of power in the aftermath of the Nineteenth Party Congress; second, discussing four aspects of such elite resistance, and; third, analyzing how Xi has reacted under the new sociopolitical circumstances to elite resistance. It is argued that elite resistance does exist and recently it has been furthered by social and international factors. However, Xi has taken additional steps to strengthen his personal dictatorship over party-state elites. Such a struggle between the dictator and the bureaucrats will continue to shape the dynamics of China’s politics and policy.