'Ode to the New Era': Chinese Communist Party's historical resolution explained

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The resolution cements Xi's grip on power (AFP/Noel Celis)
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China's rulers have published more details of its "historical resolution" which braids President Xi Jinping more tightly into the story of the Communist Party, paving the way for him to seek an unprecedented third term next year.

The 36,000-character document, published late Tuesday, is only the third such resolution to be issued in the party's 100-year history -- the previous two coming under leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

Heavy on the sweep of history and drafted by the highest-ranking officials in the country, the document aims to consolidate the party's achievements and provides an ideological roadmap for its continued rule.

Party members at all levels will be required to study the document over coming months as the propaganda juggernaut spreads the message of continuity, growth and the centrality of Xi to China's future.

Here are a few main takeaways:

- Xi at 'the core' -

Many analysts believe the document further consolidates Xi's "leadership supremacy" by stressing his position as the core of the party, and praising him for leading China's transformation into a major world power.

It presents him as the only figure capable of carrying on Mao's legacy, with leaders in-between lumped under the pre-Xi era of "opening up and reform".

"The resolution on history is not really about historical accuracy or about learning lessons," said Adam Ni, editor of the China policy website China Neican.

"It has a core political function, which is to uphold the rule of Xi Jinping."

In a document scoured by China-watchers for hints of party thinking, Xi is mentioned 22 times, with Mao a close second at 18 times.

Meanwhile Xi's immediate predecessors, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, are only mentioned once.

Xi's core position "is of decisive significance in advancing the historical process of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," the document said.

However, it stopped short of bestowing grander titles on Xi such as the Mao-era "great helmsman", or any references to life rule, as some experts had predicted.

Willy Lam, Chinese studies professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, believes that may have been to avoid provoking internal opposition.

"So they have decided that the exact extended tenure of Xi Jinping... can be left without an obvious statement," he said.

- Taiwan -

The full resolution was published hours after Xi concluded a virtual summit with US President Joe Biden, where Taiwan was the hot-button issue.

China claims Taiwan, a self-ruled island democracy, as its own territory and has vowed to seize it by force if necessary.

The document said Xi was the architect of China's current strategy "for solving the Taiwan issue", and contained no departures from Beijing's long-standing goal of "peaceful reunification".

- 'Overwhelming victory' -

The document suggests that Xi's achievements will ensure the party's enduring longevity.

It boasts of the "overwhelming victory" of Xi's anti-corruption campaign, which has "completely eliminated serious underlying dangers within the party, the country and the military".

It also lists economic growth, the environment, military modernisation, national security and foreign policy as key areas of success.

Xi's "common prosperity" initiative to alleviate economic inequality is mentioned as a goal to be fulfilled by 2049 -- the centenary of the party's rule over China.

According to Holly Snape, a China expert at the University of Glasgow, the resolution further consolidates not only Xi's power but also the supremacy of China's political system for the future.

"It entrenches the way of doing things the party's been developing over the past decade and more," she said.

- 'Ode to Xi' -

The resolution glosses over sensitive periods to focus more on the party's achievements -- especially under Xi's rule over the past nine years.

There are fleeting mentions of the Great Leap Forward, when mass famine occurred due to misguided economic policies under Mao.

The same is true of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests when hundreds of pro-democracy students were killed.

"Due to support and incitement by global anti-Communist and anti-socialist hostile forces, the global climate and domestic microclimate caused serious political disturbances in China during the turn of spring/summer 1989," it said.

The 1981 resolution adopted by Deng, architect of China's economic reforms, included more extensive criticism of Mao's "personality cult" and his mistakes during the Cultural Revolution, when millions were persecuted for thought crimes.

"One of the striking things is the lack of self-reflection," Ni said.

"Instead it's a linear story, a narrative about the past and the present... a glorifying, triumphant ode to Xi Jinping and his new era."

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