China has reached a turning point in its history, Xi says

President tells top officials at seminar that last five years have been ‘extraordinary’ for nation

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 11:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 July, 2017, 9:22am

Officials in the top ranks of the party, government and military were summoned this week to ­Beijing for a two-day seminar to study President Xi Jinping’s speeches and to gear up for a key, once-every-five-years Communist Party congress this autumn.

The preparatory meeting, which ended on Thursday, came just days before an annual gathering of incumbent and retired party leaders in the seaside resort of ­Beidaihe, where they will seek consensus on major decisions for the 19th party congress.

The autumn congress will see a major shake-up of the party’s leadership – from the Central Committee to the Politburo and its Standing Committee - and ­inaugurate a second five-year term for Xi.

At the seminar, Xi told the officials that the last five years had been “extraordinary” for China and that the country had reached a historic turning point.

“Over the five years, the party’s central leadership … solved many challenging problems [the party] wanted to solve for a long time but couldn’t, and achieved many things it wanted to achieve in the past but didn’t manage to achieve,” he said. “The Chinese nation … has achieved the historic leap of rising to our feet, getting rich and getting powerful.”

Chen Daoyin, an associate professor at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said Xi’s remarks were a signal that he had placed himself on par with late leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

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“Mao’s era of founding the modern communist China was when the Chinese nation rose to its feet, and Deng’s reform and opening up policies helped the economy take off, and Xi sees himself as bringing China all the way to becoming powerful. Now it is his era,” Chen said.

Xi also put great emphasis at the meeting on the development of the party’s guiding theories, calling for the party to “unceasingly expand its horizon on theories and make new summaries”.

Xi is widely expected to have his political theory written into the party constitution at the ­autumn congress like his predecessors, adding to the party’s ever-expanding “guiding ideology”. He may even see his name enshrined in an ideological banner term, in the same way Mao left behind “Mao Zedong Thought”.

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Analysts said the meeting was also a call for senior officials to pledge political loyalty to Xi as the congress approached.

Many of the officials at the seminar would attend the 19th party congress as delegates and cast votes, Chen said.

“They will have to be politically reliable and choose the right team,” he said.

Wu Qiang, a former politics lecturer at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said the strictly arranged and controlled seminar served as a warning to all officials to toe the line.

“Every official is supposed to declare his or her position and pledge loyalty after the session. The leaders need to make sure the voting result [at the congress] won’t look embarrassing,” he said.

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As the party enters the final preparation stage for the congress, the country’s propaganda apparatus has also stepped up ­efforts to burnish Xi’s image and further cement his authority.

A 10-episode documentary ­series on state-run CCTV extolling Xi’s ideas and achievements in pushing for reforms aired its last episode on Wednesday as the seminar began.

The series, Carrying Reform through to the End, painted Xi as a reformer and covered a wide range of topics, including ­economic, judicial and military reforms and the environment.