By Giancarlo Elia Valori*
The Communist Party of China (CPC) – in the phase in which it is governed by Xi Jinping and by Prime Minister Li Kekiang – is changing rapidly. This is a geopolitical and strategic factor of great importance also for Europe and the United States.
Just a few years before its centennial, the Party founded in Shanghai in 1921 is still a “hircocervus”, both for the Communist tradition resulting from the Third International and for the evolution and, sometimes, the disappearance of the Communist Parties in power in the Soviet Union, in its Eastern European satellite countries and in many Asian countries.
Indeed, the CPC is both a large mass Party and a political organization that, following the Third International’s tradition, presides over the State and defines its political direction.
Lenin thought of a small Party of militants and officials who developed the policy line and, through the State, imposed it on society.
In fact, in the Soviet Union, the CPSU destroyed itself by entering civil society. Conversely, in China, the CPC grows stronger by acquiring and selecting the best elements of society and representing the great masses inside and above the State.
We can here recall the sarcastic smiles and the biting jokes that the CPC leaders – and, at the time, the Deng Xiaoping of the “Four Modernizations” was already in power – reserved for Gorbachev paying an official visit to China while the “Tien An Mien” rebellion of the students who wanted “democracy” was underway.
As is well-known, the repression was very harsh. The CPC does not delegate to others the power to reform the Chinese society.
Hence a Party like the CPC, which is fully traditional in its relationship with the State and the masses, appears to be completely new in turning itself into a mass organization, thus also remaining the source for legitimacy of the Chinese State.
The Chinese official sources tell us that, when it was founded in 1921, the Party counted only fifty members.
Today – considering that the CPC has been able to understand the new phase of globalization – it counts 87.7 million members, one every sixteen Chinese citizens.
More than the population of the whole Germany.
75% of the current members are male; 43% have at least a high school diploma; 30% are farmers, shepherds and fishermen; 25% are employed, 18% are retired, but only 8% are civil servants.
On the contrary, the 50 or more probably 57 founding members of the CPC in Shanghai were all members of the ruling classes, with 27 students, 11 journalists and 9 professors.
In 1949, when the Chinese Communist Party was already controlled by Mao Zedong and took power by wiping out the nationalists, the members were almost four millions.
From the outset the CPC has chosen the best of the Chinese society, by changing its targets year after year: sometimes intellectual elites or, in other years, rural masses and working classes.
The traditional dilemma of “Red” versus “Expert” that the CPC would never solve, not even in the harshest moments of the “Great Cultural and Proletarian Revolution”.
With Deng Xiaoping, who put an end to the phase of the “Red Guards”, by often sending them to terrible work camps, the CPC reached a 50% of technicians, specialists, teachers and “experts”.
Currently the university students are 40% of the Party’s new recruits.
A CPC that does not renounce at all to be a mass Party, but also organizes the elites: it is one of the most significant traits of what the Chinese leaders called “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”.
Furthermore, Xi Jinping no longer wants a Party “taking everyone on board” or joining militants without qualifications, but he tends to gradually turn the CPC into a more selective organization than it currently is.
The selection is always conducted silently by the Party that listens to the candidates’ friends and colleagues and asks them whether they are “frugal”, “honest” and “correct”.
For the sources of the CPC inspectors, silence and secrecy are a must.
Otherwise, the Party will “not forget this.”
All State companies and all foreign companies have a Party unit inside them and this allows better relations between companies and State power.
Hence if we were to analyze the CPC according to Giovanni Sartori’s modern theory of political Parties, we should say that the Chinese Communist Party is both a “social brokerage body” and a “mechanism of representation”.
The Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) collapsed because it played only a social brokerage role, but was not representative, while the CPC is expanding because it plays both roles effectively.
The goal set by Xi Jinping is to create a “moderately prosperous society”.
It is the evolution of Xi Jinping’s theory of the “Four Comprehensives” announced in early 2015.
The Four-pronged Comprehensive Strategy is based on the following Four Comprehensives: “comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society”; “comprehensively deepen reform”; “comprehensively govern the nation according to law” and “comprehensively strictly govern the Party”.
It is worth recalling that moderate prosperity is a fully Confucian concept. Said moderation is that of the equilibrium of man’s faculties and of the relationship between mind and desire. It is not an anti-Epicurean “moderation” in the Western sense.
Hence the primary factor is prosperity.
According to the usually reliable Chinese official statistics, over the past thirty years 700 million Chinese have come out of poverty.
Currently this happens mainly in rural areas, after Deng Xiaoping’s dismantling of rural communes – indeed, the First Modernization was the agricultural one.
Chinese farmers, however, account for 56-68% of the total population or for 12-14% of the world’s population.
Nevertheless Deng’s modernization of rural areas did not fully work and, in the early 1990s, the Chinese rural society was still stratified, impoverished and characterized by low productivity, while the cities grew disproportionately and weighed ever more on rural resources.
Cities and rural areas, the two terms of Mao Zedong’s theory both within Communist China and in foreign policy – the two extreme of the Third International’s eternal dilemma, from the 1932-33 rural crises in Ukraine until Stalin’s famine of 1950.
Hence Xi Jinping, who knows that the crisis of the Chinese rural world has certainly not disappeared with the semi-privatization of land and prices, has sent 770,000 officials and Party leaders to Chinese rural areas to eradicate poverty and hence stabilize said areas even politically and socially.
This avoids the excess of rural population reforming a kind of Lumpenproletariat in the urban suburbs.
With terrible effects on China’s political and social stability.
A society with excessive income differences is never “harmonious” – just to use a Confucian concept that has now become typical of the CPC.
And the operation has worked – at least for the time being.
In fact, from 2013 to 2016, other 56 million people living in rural areas came out of poverty – and the process to which Xi Jinping attaches particular importance is going on.
With a view to having a CPC functioning as a backbone of the State and, at the same time, of civil society, corruption must be eradicated – as we have seen since Xi Jinping has been in power.
Approximately one million Party officials punished, in various ways, for corruption until 2016 and as many as 210,000 already punished in 2017 alone.
Currently Xi Jinping is the ultimate arbiter of the Party and its members’ careers – perhaps even Mao Zedong never had such power.
However, instead of destroying all his competitors, Xi Jinping is creating a new blood of young executives, all coming from the CPC, who will quickly replace the old satraps of bureaucracy.
Besides repressing corruption however, the mechanism of political scrutiny needs to be renewed and strengthened, as the CPC is doing.
Created when the CPC was founded, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) has always had very strong power, but it was abolished in 1969 following the Party’s well-known internal struggles.
It was revived in 1977 and – as happened since 1949 – it has been included in the Party Constitution.
Even before Xi Jinping’s rise to power, from 1982 to 1986 the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection expelled 25,000 Party members and imposed a series of disciplinary sanctions on other 67,000 CPC members.
A structure that has never reduced its specific powers and is the arbiter of the main careers inside the Party and the State.
In Xi Jinping’s mind the fight against corruption – which, with his leadership, has reached unimaginable levels and has hit high-ranking executives, such as Bo Xilai and Ling Jihua – the cleansing inside the Party combines with the refoundation of the Party’s working style and the strengthening of internal discipline.
The Politburo’s “Eight Guidelines” of December 2012 already pointed to a sober and modest lifestyle for all officials and leaders. Furthermore, Li Keqiang has imposed new standards for the transparency of public budgets and reduced the number of government approvals and authorization for spending, thus eliminating evident possibilities of generating bribes.
Currently the CPC inspectors are included – often secretly – in all government bodies and in all regional and local structures.
The system is such that the inspectors are directly responsible for the mistakes or “oversights” of the various Party and government members’ behaviours.
Before Xi Jinping’s rise to power (and before Wang Qishan, his anti-corruption Chief) the incentives to national or local officials and leaders were based on reaching specific economic targets. Nowadays the granting of cash prizes or of career advances is linked to the overall behaviour of officials and, above all, to their honesty – which overlaps with loyalty and obedience to the Party, the Central Committee and, obviously, Xi Jinping’s line.
Moreover the inspections have the strictly political purpose of safeguarding the Central Committee’s joint and centralized authority and leadership.
Xi Jinping knows all too well that any corruption activity is a de facto form of secession from the “political centre” – as demonstrated by the studies on organized crime in the South of Italy.
Hence return to the Party’s centralism, without the “federalist” nonsense that is destroying Europe; maintenance of the CPC leadership role on the whole Chinese society and of Xi Jinping’s role as undisputed leader of the Communist Party of China.
Three factors which are closely interwoven.
So far there have been 12 cycles of inspections within the Party – inspections regarding the CPC organizations at all levels, State companies, banks and financial companies, as well as universities.
The revision of part of the Constitution has started from this process of political and moral restructuring.
The next 19th National Congress will constitute the last and final Sinicization of Marxism.
A stronger and more authoritative CPC, but, above all more integrated in civil society – and here is the novelty compared to the Third International’s Western tradition.
Hence development of Socialism “with Chinese characteristics”, which means Socialism in a society that has not been industrialized by the national bourgeoisie, but by foreigners – a society which is largely rural, while Marxism thinks above all of industrial workers (that is highly traditional), while Western socialism has inherited the most radical aspects of the bourgeois Enlightenment.
The aim of this CPC exercise – made authoritative by the struggle against corruption – is that of Xi Jinping’s “moderately prosperous” society, namely a balanced progress of the economy and of political organization, as well as of the cultural, social and environmental evolution.
Hence self-control of the Party, and – for the first time in the CPC history – reaffirmation of a typical concept of the Western political tradition, namely the “rule of law”.
As recently stated by Xi Jinping at the Interpol General Assembly in Beijing on September 26 last, China’s inclusion in Interpol is a tool for building a world integrated collective security system both strategically and for the repression of personal crimes and offences.
The new security – and here Xi Jinping spoke of international policy between the lines – shall be common, global, cooperative and sustainable in the future.
Hence support for the security of developing countries and perception by all actors of the others’ interests.
We could speak here of Confucian geopolitics.
Thinking also of the others is not a difficult process. The issue lies in changing the thinking style and putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, to avoid excessive reactions and, above all, dangerous for the best interest of nations, i.e. world stability.
Hence, stability and security at internal level, with the centralization and moralization of the CPC; security and stability in the international context, with Xi Jinping vigorously defending globalization in Davos, against the resurgence of economic nationalism in the United States; security and centralization of the Chinese interests in Central Asia, which will soon become the launching pad of China as great global power, far beyond its already significant economic potential.
About the author:
*Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and member of the Ayan-Holding Board. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France.
This article was published by Modern Diplomacy