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What Xi Jinping’s speech on the CCP’s 100th anniversary Tells Us?

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China, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, has a history of about 4000 years. Since Emperor Qin Shi Huang established the Qin Dynasty, the first centralized and multi-ethnic feudal state in Chinese history, China was ruled under many Han administrations.

After the death of Aisin-Gioro Puyi in 1908, revolutionary movements began in China. The movement led by Sun Yat-sen resulted in the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, establishment of the Republic of China in 1912, and the proclamation of Sun Yat-sen as the first President.

As might be expected, the Khanate period came to an end with the establishment of the Republic of China. The Socialist revolution that took place in the Russian Czardom in 1917 created a political break in China and triggered the civil war between the nationalists and the communists. As a result, the communists won the power struggle and established the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which was founded with inspiration from the Soviet Revolution, continues its journey that started with 50 people as the world’s largest party organization with more than 95 million members. As a matter of fact, on June 1, 2021, a magnificent celebration was held in Beijing for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CCP. Making an important speech during this celebration, Xi Jinping President of China, made critical statements regarding both China’s domestic and foreign policy. However, first of all, Xi’s domestic and foreign policy approach should be mentioned.

As it is known, while, the global crisis experienced in 2008 seriously affected the West, China influenced from the crisis with relatively less damage. Calling the post-crisis period as the “Period of Strategic Opportunity”, Beijing followed policies to increase its power both internally and externally in order to ensure a welfare society and socialist modernization.[1] Xi, taking over from Hu Cintao at the 18th Party Congress in 2012, opened a new page in Chinese history by abandoning the “Hide your strength, bide your time” policy followed by its predecessors and adopted a courageous strategy in both domestic and foreign policy.

Shi, who has tended to consolidation strategy to increase his power since he took office, has started an anti-corruption movement in the country and eliminated many people, including senior figures from the party administration.[2] He became the head of the Central Military Commission, which supervised the People’s Liberation Army, and increased its control and authority over the military. In the congress held in March 2018, it removed presidential term limits, paving the way for him to be elected after 2022.

From the moment Xi expressed his vision of the “Chinese Dream”, which comprises the goal of a strong and civilized China economically, socially, scientifically and militarily, during his visit to the Chinese Revolution Museum in Beijing in November 2012, China has experienced rapid growth trend and started to be mentioned as the leading actor of the global system together with the United States of America (USA).

For this reason, the strategies that China will implement and the messages given by Xi provide vital informations to make sense of China’s goals and international power balances. Therefore, Xi’s speech on the 100th anniversary of the CCP contains significant clues about the future of the global system, the US-China rivalry and the increasing tension in the Indo-Pacific region.

The most notable emphasis during Xi’s speech is the discourse of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. The CCP is the only power center that controls military, legal system, and state bureaucracies of China that shape both domestic and foreign policies. For this reason, Xi sees the existence of the CCP as equivalent of the existence of China. In his speech, saying that “only socialism could save China, and that only socialism with Chinese characteristics could develop China” and “The more than 180-year-long modern history of the Chinese nation, the 100-year-long history of the Party, and the more than 70-year-long history of the People’s Republic of China all provide ample evidence that without the Communist Party of China, there would be no new China and no national rejuvenation[3] are the biggest proof of this situation.

In addition, Xi also gave messages on domestic politics, saying that no interest group and power center in the country could divide the CCP, and that 95 million party members and 1.4 billion Chinese would prevent it.

Another issue that Xi emphasized in his speech is the People’s Liberation Army. The army increasing its capacity in parallel with China’s economic rise, represents Beijing’s hard power.  For this reason, Xi gives importance to the modernization of the armed forces. Because Xi always desires to see the army as strong both in possible hot conflict and in terms of deterrence. However, he stated in his speech, “maintains the Party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces…. We will take comprehensive measures to enhance the political loyalty of the armed forces[4] should be carefully examined thoroughly. Because, unlike his predecessors, Xi is a leader without an army background. The only organization within China that can create an alternative force to the CCP is the armed forces. So, the message was given about the obedience of the army has a strategic meaning.

Another issue underlined by Xi is Taiwan issue. As it is known, the Taiwan problem has been continuing since the civil war that started in the 1910s and the nationalist Chinese who were defeated as a result of this war passed to Taiwan. In recent years, Taiwan is one of the most crucial issues for China due to China’s pursuit for status in the global system and the impact of historical roots on the minds.

Mentioning Taiwan as a Chinese territory in his speech, Xi opened a special paragraph on Taiwan issue and signaled that both Beijing’s future target and the policies to be followed in the international system would shift from pragmatic ground to self-involved. Indeed, the President of China, who made evaluations on the Taiwan, said that:[5]

“Resolving the Taiwan question and realizing China’s complete reunification is a historic mission and an unshakable commitment of the Communist Party of China. It is also a shared aspiration of all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation. We will uphold the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, and advance peaceful national reunification. All of us, compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, must come together and move forward in unison. We must take resolute action to utterly defeat any attempt toward “Taiwan independence,” and work together to create a bright future for national rejuvenation. No one should underestimate the resolve, the will, and the ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Undoubtedly, the spirit reflected in the entire text of Xi’s speech is that the vision of peaceful rise started in the 1980s has been moving away. For example, the phrase “we must demonstrate stronger vigilance and always be prepared for potential danger, even in times of calm”[6] means that once attributed to Deng Xiaoping, “Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership” strategy is over.

On September 21, 1949, Mao Zedong Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, at the First Plenary Session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, told the Chinese people and the world, “China will no longer be a nation subject to insult and humiliation. We have stood up. Our revolution has won the sympathy and acclaim of the people of all countries. We have friends all over the World.”[7] Xi, who has been in power since 2012, has actually put this statement of Mao into practice and stated that Chinese Socialism is superior to Western Capitalism.

Xi increasingly sees himself as a national hero and presents himself as such. Even the dress and color he chose in his speech reflected his desire to identify with Mao. In this context, it is thought that the weight of Xi in Beijing’s foreign and domestic policy strategies will gradually increase. The fact that Xi identifies himself with the CCP and sees party as the fate of the country contains significant clues for the future. Because during his period, Xi wanted to make China the only hegemon state in the world and tried to put his name among the most memorable names of 4000 years of Chinese history. When the speech of Xi is examined, it is understood that Taiwan will be the first test area of China’s hegemony desire and new global system-building initiative.


[1] Hu Jintao, “Hold High the Great Banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive for New Victories in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects”, China Daily, https://cpcchina.chinadaily.com.cn/2010-09/07/content_15842547.htm, (Date of access: 15.07.2021)

[2] Xuezhi Guo, “Ideology, Organization, and Party Norms”, In The Politics of the Core Leader in China: Culture, Institution, Legitimacy, and Power, s.163-204.

[3] Xi Jinping, “Full Text of Xi Jinping’s Speech on the CCP’s 100th Anniversary”, Nikkei Asia, https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Full-text-of-Xi-Jinping-s-speech-on-the-CCP-s-100th-anniversary, (Date of access: 17.07.2021).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Mao Zedong, “The Chinese People Have Stood Up! 1949”, US-China Institute, https://china.usc.edu/Mao-declares-founding-of-peoples-republic-of-china-chinese-people-have-stood-up, (Date of access: 17.07.2021).

 

Mustafa Cem Koyuncu
2016 yılında Boğaziçi Üniversitesi’nden mezun olan Mustafa Cem KOYUNCU, 2020 yılında Karabük Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda yüksek lisans eğitimine başlamıştır. Halihazırda Hint-Pasifik bölgesinde yaşanan ABD-Çin rekabeti üzerine tez yazan KOYUNCU, ileri seviyede İngilizce bilmektedir.