Leading China: CPC's leadership and its anti-graft campaign

A primary hallmark of General Secretary of CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping's ten years of leadership, 2012-2022, has been enhancing Party leadership across all sectors of Chinese society. As the slogan goes, "Party, government, army, society, education – east, west, south, north, central — the Party leads everything."

To appreciate how the Party actually operates, I describe the striking structural similarities between China’s war on poverty and China’s war on COVID-19. Consider three parallel factors: CPC leadership; General Secretary Xi’s commitment; CPC mobilization. 

First, the operational leadership of the CPC; not just making pronouncements but actually implementing programs through the CPC organizational structure – central government and five levels of local government (provincial, municipal, county, township, village). The five levels are run by Party secretaries – five levels of Party secretaries who took poverty alleviation to be their most important task — and I have been around China long enough to know that they weren’t putting on a show for me; they couldn’t fake it.

Second, Xi’s commitment, voicing his personal leadership repeatedly, allocating his personal time overtly, and making poverty alleviation emblematic of his leadership, set an example that officials at all levels had to follow. Almost everywhere Xi went, he visited poor villages and encouraged Party cadres to do likewise, interacting with local people.  Similarly, with COVID-19, when Xi visited hospitals, spoke with frontline workers, the whole country got the message. Xi made the remarkable statement: "I have spent more energy on poverty alleviation than on anything else." I know no other national leader who has made such an assertion.

Third, the mobilization capacity of the CPC, able to command the country’s resources in personnel and materials and make rapid allocation decisions for national campaigns and crisis management. For example, during the pandemic, assigning "sister" support relationships between strong provinces and cities in Hubei Province, a strategy long employed in poverty alleviation between Eastern and Western provinces and cities.

The past ten years have witnessed extraordinary challenges and extraordinary actions by the CPC in leading China. Here, in my opinion, are what the Party has prioritized: writing a new chapter in building a modern socialist country in all respects; economic growth, despite various headwinds (pandemic lockdowns, global slowdowns and tensions); the eradication of extreme poverty and the vision of rural revitalization and common prosperity; safeguarding core interests, including Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Tibet, South China Sea; strengthening the military, especially the PLA Navy; increasing diplomatic confidence, countering accusations and deepening relations with developing countries; minimizing COVID-19 pandemic cases and deaths; and the CPC fulfilling its commitment to self-purify by its relentless anti-corruption campaign.

When I am interviewed about China's anti-corruption campaign, the international media state that President Xi's primary purpose is political struggle, and the Chinese media state that his primary purpose is to remove corrupt officials. I reply that, befitting China's size and complexity, for almost every decision of importance, China’s leaders have multiple motivations or reasons. For the anti-corruption campaign, I cite ten.

1. Officials who are corrupt are brought to justice; there must be respect for law and judicial impartiality.

2. By combatting corruption, the Party functions more effectively, making rational decisions for the public good, not biased decisions for personal gain.

3. By combatting corruption, the Party increases public trust.

4. Corruption distorts markets; by reducing corruption, resources are allocated more efficiently.

5. Corrupt officials impede economic reform because change threatens their illicit schemes.

6. Prosecuting corrupt officials strengthens rule of law.

7. Some corrupt officials, in addition to enriching themselves, have dangerous political ambitions that could destabilize the system; removing these officials enhances political stability.

8. Combatting corruption elevates morality and ethical behaviors, befitting Chinese civilization.

9.  For China to become a world-class business center, China must have world-class business standards and ethics.

10. For China to become a global role model, China must exemplify morality and rectitude.

The 20th CPC National Congress will both confirm the Two Establishments — establishing Xi Jinping as "core" of the Party and establishing Xi Jinping political theory as the foundation of Party ideology – and use the Two Establishments to set the vision, roadmap and policy guidelines to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, basically by 2035, and fully modernized by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

To appreciate the Two Establishments, I trace its history. In late 2016, Xi was declared "core" of the Party Central Committee and the whole Party. In late 2017, at the 19th CPC National Congress, "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era" was incorporated into the Party’s constitution. And in late 2021, the Two Establishments were formalized by "Historical Resolution".

Since 2017, "Xi Jinping Thought on…." has been expanded and applied to the economy, rule of law, ecology, strengthening the military, and diplomacy.

I look forward to the 20th CPC National Congress - with theoretical innovations and practical policies - on the road to China 2035 and China 2050.

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