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China Reform Monitor - No. 1305

SPECIAL ISSUE: The 19th Party Congress

Edited by Joshua Eisenman
November 21, 2017


[Between October 18 and 24, Beijing hosted the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The Congress marked the final stage in the reemergence of strong-man dictatorship in China under Chairman Xi Jinping. The symptoms of this historic change away from collective leadership were unmistakable: Xi's 205-minute speech charting a more assertive course for the next stage of Chinese socialism; Xi's Thought and the Belt and Road Initiative were added to the CPC constitution; no clear leadership succession was established; an unprecedented nationwide security crackdown was carried out prior to and during the Congress; and U.S. President Donald Trump's phone call congratulating Xi, who is already head of state, on his "extraordinary elevation." This special edition of the CRM summarizes several stories that received less attention in mainstream press outlets, yet are also indicative of Xi's "new normal."]

October 10:

Villages across China are deploying loudspeakers along the streets to carry the proceedings of the Congress. For instance, large speakers have been set up in the 5700 villages in Cangzhou, Hebei, to broadcast the news and other information. Village speakers bring the CPC and Chinese people together better than other media, said officials from Cangzhou,
the official Global Times reports. Some villages in Yunnan also use loudspeakers to provide security information in both Mandarin and local ethnic languages. This year Renqiu, Hebei deployed loudspeakers to help the local Party officials better promote local policies and activities among villagers, before and after Party meetings. The loudspeakers will also be used to publicly praise Party members who have done well, which will help them be more vigorous and motivated. Village loudspeakers were used in the 1960s and 1970s, but were phased out with the arrival of television.

October 19:

Addressing a panel on the sidelines of the Congress in Beijing, Liu Shiyu, chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, accused several disgraced senior cadres of planning a coup and applauded Xi Jinping for "saving the Communist Party" by foiling their plot,
the South China Morning Post reports. "[Xi] addressed the cases of Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang, Ling Jihua, Xu Caihou, Guo Boxiong and Sun Zhengcai. They had high positions and great power in the party, but they were hugely corrupt and plotted to usurp the party's leadership and seize state power," Liu said, becoming the first senior official to accuse Sun of trying to usurp power from Xi. "Xi, with the historical responsibility as a proletarian revolutionist cleared up huge risks for the party and the country. The central leadership of the party with Xi as the core saved the party, saved the military and saved the country over the past five years. He saved socialism," Liu said.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Last November, Wang Qishan, the man widely seen as the country's second most powerful man, published an article in
the official People's Daily warning that cadres should be aware of "schemers and plotters seizing the party and national power."]

October 20:

In his report to the Congress, Xi pledged to replace the so-called shuanggui, or "dual designation" system, through which cadres accused of violating party discipline can be detained without police or court involvement. The extra-legal mechanism, which allows the CPC the power to keep a tight grip on all cadres, was outlined in a 1994 party document released by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. Xi said a new supervisory commission arrangement based on a nationwide network of special commissions will replace the shuanggui system within the boundaries of "responsibilities, powers and means of investigation in accordance with the law." The commissions will function at the national, provincial, city and county levels, Xi said. They will work alongside existing party discipline inspection commissions in shared offices. Xi also announced that a national law covering the new supervisory system will be enacted, but did not lay out a timeline,
the official Caixin reports.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The supervisory commission has been tested since November 2016 on a pilot basis in Beijing, Shanxi and Zhejiang, and the National People's Congress introduced a draft law on the supervisory commissions in June. Little information about the pilot projects has been released, however, and it remains unclear how the commissions will work with prosecutors and discipline inspection commissions.]

October 26:

When the CPC revealed its new leadership lineup, several prominent Western news organizations were denied access to the press conference at the last minute. Although many other media organizations had access, the BBC, Financial Times, The Economist, the New York Times and the Guardian were all barred from the key event. The Guardian said it was "the first time in more than two decades" its reporters had experienced such treatment. Chinese officials did not offer any formal explanation for the decision,
The Diplomat reports.

October 27:

Xi has discarded straw polls used in the past to pick China's top leaders, and instead chose China's new leaders based on consultations with select cadres,
Bloomberg reports. Former security czar Zhou Yongkang, former presidential aide Ling Jihua and former Chongqing party chief Sun Zhengcai "took advantage of" the straw-poll system with "votes-soliciting corruption" activities, the official Xinhua News Agency reports
. Xi, by contrast, got rid of straw polls because they "put too much emphasis on the number of votes," and replaced it with a new system based on "person-to-person dialogue" and "field research." In early 2016, he led a task force to assess potential candidates, and between April and June 2017 he personally consulted with 57 incumbent and retired party leaders about who should get promotions. Some provincial leaders were flown to Beijing to share their opinions on who should get the top jobs.


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