Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Definition of core leadership

Good summary of leadership politics in China.

Xi Jinping wants officials to declare allegiance to himself
ALL politicians demand loyalty, but some politicians demand more loyalty than others. Xi Jinping, China’s president, is in the Napoleon class—Napoleon the pig, that is, who taught the creatures of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” the slogan: “Comrade Napoleon is always right.”

Over the past few months a parade of dignitaries has professed undying allegiance to Mr Xi and the Communist Party he leads. The trigger was a party decision in October to anoint Mr Xi as the “core” of the leadership. Soon afterwards, his six colleagues in the Politburo’s Standing Committee began laying on the flattery with a trowel. In March one of the committee’s members, Yu Zhengsheng, said Mr Xi’s status as core reflected “the fundamental interests of the party and people”. Such statements remind many observers of the adulation once accorded to Mao Zedong. Given that Mr Xi and many other leaders are “princelings” (sons of the first generation of Communist leaders), they also seem like the swearing of fealty to the king by medieval courtiers.

The list of vociferously loyal subjects is long. Since the start of the year the country’s chief corruption investigators, the bosses of the state-security and cyber-security agencies and representatives of state-run media have all pledged “absolute loyalty” to Mr Xi…

[T]he subservience is being directed by the party’s highest institutions… [is evidence that] Mr Xi is directly involved. The loyalty-swearing campaign is also different from past practice. In the late 1970s Deng Xiaoping, after taking over as China’s leader, forbade personality cults and sought to build up China’s institutions, emphasising “collective” decision-making. So did his successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Mr Xi’s less diffident approach was evident soon after he came to power in November 2012…

There has been an increase in demands for obedience not only to Mr Xi himself but also to the party. In 2014 the president said loyalty to the organisation was the first requirement for national leaders. As Qiushi, the party’s main theoretical journal, put it: “There is no 99.9%. It is 100% pure and absolute loyalty and nothing less.” Such rhetoric reflects Mr Xi’s worries about the party’s authority and cohesion at a time of wrenching social and economic change.

Even more than his predecessors, Mr Xi believes that a strong party is vital. When he took over, party discipline was slack: corruption was rife and officials routinely flouted orders. As recently as November Mr Xi said that, even among senior officials, “there are those whose conviction is not strong enough and who are not loyal to the party.” He argues that the Soviet Union collapsed because its rulers lost faith in themselves. Mr Xi is determined not to let that happen in China…

Ever since the Communists took over in 1949, they have debated what kind of party they want. Mao distinguished between “reds” (good Communists) and “experts” (people who knew what they were talking about). Mao said he wanted reds. Deng put more faith in experts. Mr Xi seems to be shifting back. In January the party’s Central Organisation Department, which is in charge of personnel, told five government ministries to put “good political quality” at the top of the list of requirements for senior officials. It was much the same when Napoleon’s propagandist, Squealer, rebuked farmyard animals for praising the courage of Boxer, a cart horse. “Bravery is not enough,” said Squealer. “Loyalty and obedience are more important.”

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