History resolution poses fear of Xi’s endless strengthening of authority

There is a strong indication that Communist Party of China General Secretary Xi Jinping, who also serves as the nation’s president, has taken decisive action to strengthen his authority and establish a long-term system. There are concerns about the harmful effects of overly strengthening his prestige.

The party has adopted a resolution summarizing the party’s history. This is the first such resolution in 40 years, and the third one overall. The only leaders who have spearheaded historical resolutions in the past are Mao Zedong, the founding father of the country, and Deng Xiaoping, who promoted the policy of reform and opening-up.

In the 1945 resolution, Mao pursued the political, military and ideological mistakes that had been made since the founding of the party, unifying the party’s policies and establishing his dictatorial position.

In his 1981 resolution, Deng criticized Mao’s Cultural Revolution, which had plunged China into chaos, but also established a leadership system by defining the view that Mao’s “achievements were primary and his mistakes secondary.”

The two resolutions put an end to the power struggles within the party and set China’s course. At present, China has a unipolar regime centered on Xi and there appears to be no political rivalry.

Nevertheless, Xi took the initiative of adopting the resolution because he apparently believes it is necessary for him to break the precedent of “retiring as general secretary after two terms of 10 years” at next year’s party congress and establish a long-term system for his third term and beyond.

The statement, released on the occasion of the latest resolution, trumpets China’s improved international position under the Xi administration, as well as the results of its moves to expose corruption and eradicate poverty within the country. The 100-year history of the party was divided into the “Mao era,” the “Deng, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao era” and the “Xi era.”

It is said that the aim is to give the impression that Deng was not the leading figure representing the era by listing him alongside Jiang and Hu, and to demonstrate that Xi is the one who is on par with Mao. However, it is doubtful that Xi’s achievements can match Mao’s nation building and Deng’s wealthy creation.

Xi’s policy of a strong China has led to confrontations with the West and trade frictions. No matter how much he tightens domestic controls, the economic slowdown and disparity between rich and poor are still evident, and people’s dissatisfaction has not abated.

There is a paper-thin difference between an endless strengthening of authority and a dictatorship or cult of personality. If Xi makes the wrong decision, it will not be easy to change course. Unlike in the days of the Cultural Revolution, China has become a superpower. Xi must be more aware of the magnitude of his influence on the world.

It would be extremely dangerous if Xi thinks that Taiwan’s reunification is a way to make a “historical achievement.” Japan and the United States need to be more vigilant about the possible increase of military provocation against Taiwan.

Xi has refrained from overseas trips for nearly two years and has been absent from international conferences on climate change and other issues. His intention may be to prioritize domestic affairs, but he should fulfill his role as the leader of a major nation.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Nov. 13, 2021.