Latest Xi Jinping book gives clues on decline of Communist Party’s youth wing
Collection of president’s remarks on the once influential faction comes amid confirmation Communist Youth League’s outgoing chief has been demoted
A new book of President Xi Jinping’s remarks on the youth wing of the Communist Party – many of which have been made public for the first time – may shed some light on the decline of this once influential faction in Chinese politics.
The book released this month by an official publisher comes as it was confirmed this week that the Communist Youth League’s outgoing chief, Qin Yizhi, has been demoted, as reported earlier in the South China Morning Post .
Qin, who held a ministerial-level position at the youth league, will take up a position at a lower rank with the country’s quality watchdog.
The book – a collection of some 40 speeches and edicts made by Xi – offers insight into the president’s thinking about the youth league, which was once the cradle for promising young cadres and future political high-fliers.
Xi lambasted the youth league for “chanting empty slogans” and chided its officials for their “bureaucratic and arrogant air” as far back as June 2013, according to the book, during a meeting with its top officials shortly after Qin took the first secretary role.
The power base of former president Hu Jintao – and current Premier Li Keqiang – had been a prominent faction within the party until things started to crumble following an investigation into Hu’s former aide Ling Jihua, who was also a youth league leader and was jailed for life for corruption.
The youth league was excoriated by party discipline inspectors in early 2016 for its self-serving attitude, with some cadres accused of seeing themselves as “political aristocrats”. Six months later, it underwent a shake-up aimed at shrinking its central leadership and reconnecting with the country’s youth.
The youth league boasted 87.5 million members at the end of 2015 – roughly the same number as the ruling Communist Party – and it had more than 3.8 million grass-roots organisations operating at that time.
In Xi’s eyes, the youth league’s grass-roots organisations “may appear to have covered [a wide part of the population] but in fact they are not of any use and exist only in name”, he told the meeting in 2013.
Xi also found it problematic that the faction, which was supposed to be a bridge between the party and young people, had “fallen out of step with the times” and was failing to do its job.
“[The youth league] is not the bellwether of youth, and in fact it is at the tail end of trends. How can it talk about uniting all our young people? ... It can’t even keep up [with them]!” Xi told the meeting.
He said the youth league’s cadres had failed to connect with the younger generation because they did not share a common language or interests.
“[These cadres] can’t talk about science, literature and art, work or life [with young people]. All they can do is just repeat the same old bureaucratic, stereotypical talk,” he said.
Wu Qiang, a former political science lecturer at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said Xi’s trenchant criticism of the youth league reflected his intention to transform it from a bureaucracy to an organisation that can mobilise the masses – much in line with the party’s rekindled “mass line” campaign, developed by Mao Zedong, to reconnect with the public.
The book has been released at a politically sensitive time, ahead of the party’s twice-a-decade congress that will see a leadership reshuffle and the start of Xi’s second term in power.
After Qin was absent from several public occasions recently, the government on Wednesday announced he had been appointed deputy director of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
Qin retains his full ministerial ranking yet is listed as the most junior deputy director on the quality watchdog’s official website.
An alternative member of the party’s Central Committee, Qin was also omitted from the list of delegates to the 19th party congress, along with a handful of others with youth league links, the Post reported in July. That departure from convention suggests they are likely to be removed from the committee.
Qin’s predecessors with the youth league had a warmer reception from the party leadership, with many going on to serve in important positions such as provincial governor before rising through the ranks.
Analysts have said the sidelining of the faction’s officials reflects Xi’s determination to get rid of its patronage network.
“Getting rid of the competition from youth league faction officials will also provide a fast track for promotion for Xi’s own acolytes,” Wu said.