TAIPEI (CNA) – China President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) goal for the Communist Party of China (CPC) is to turn it into a “state party,” which, as it builds a Chinese model of development, requires meritocracy, a visiting expert on Chinese politics said in Taipei on Saturday.
Xi is set to begin his second five-year term as CPC general- secretary with “Xi Jinping Thought” expected to be incorporated into the party constitution at the ongoing 19th CPC congress this week, in effect elevating his status and power.
During a speech delivered in Taipei Saturday, John Burns, an honorary professor at the University of Hong Kong, offered his reading of the vision for China laid out by Xi in his work report presented at the convention on Oct.18.
The event was hosted by the Lung Ying-tai Cultural Foundation.
Burns said there are several significant differences between Xi’s work report and earlier ones. One point that has attracted little if any attention is an indication that party and government will be merged at provincial, prefectural and county levels where they perform the same functions.
“This is a step towards creating a ‘state party.’ This is the clue. This is exactly where the communist party is going,” he said. “This is not a small paragraph. It’s a major departure from the policies Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) has championed since 1980s.” Instead of the term “party state” which is often used to refer to China, Burns said, “we should be talking about the communist party as a ‘state party,’“ adding that he believes turning the CPC into a “state party” is Xi’s ultimate goal.
Burns said Xi’s vision for China as a global leader in terms of national strength and international influence was a “dramatic declaration.” When Xi came to power in 2012, the CPC was riddled with systematic syndicated corruption and its leadership was fractured into many factions, each led by a strongman competing for power, but the massive anti-corruption campaign waged by Xi has enabled him to build a “coherent, unified” party, Burns said.
Burns said he considered Xi’s rooting out corruption in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) his “number one achievement” because the problem was so severe Xi saw it as a military that “cannot fight.”
The progress Xi has made at home in fighting corruption has allowed him to punish political enemies, identify loyal supporters and, most significantly, regain central control of the PLA. Those achievements together with China’s increasing global presence, partly to do with the global leadership vacuum created by U.S. President Donald Trump, have made Xi “the world’s most powerful man,” Burns said.
Burns noted that the concentration of such vast power in the hands of one person is by no means without risks. “There are dangers ahead,” he said, “and we see nothing (in Xi’s work report) to reform the economy that is new.”
“But please remember, China’s model of development requires meritocracy,” he said.
During the discussion, audience members asked Burns to elaborate on what Xi’s ideas for strengthening the CPC’s role in the economy, advancing law-based governance and implementing democracy mean for the future.
In answering a question from Martin Eberts, German representative in Taiwan, on the economy, Burns said he did see “contradictions between party control and the market” and is skeptical that Xi’s ideas in this area will work in the long run.
Xi believes that the downfall of the Soviet communist party came about after it gave up control of the economy, and that is why he insists on tighter control of state-owned enterprises, directing private investments from large numbers of billionaires in state-owned enterprises and encouraging the state to invest in private businesses, Burns said.
On the question of democracy, Burns said Xi’s understanding of democracy bears no relation to the democracy in Taiwan, which he described as “the headquarters of competitive democracy.” “Look around you. This is democracy,” he said.
Burns said that what Xi talks about is a “different kind of democracy,” a kind that is “in the interest of its people.” On Xi’s pledge to advance law-based governance, Burns said that his goal is to have the government “ruled by law,” not established as “rule of law.”
In a “rule of law” system, the state is be treated like any other legal entity before the courts, but “I don’t think this was (Xi’s) intention,” Burns said.
What Xi envisions is that the CPC will “tightly control the content of laws” and the laws will be applied to corrupt businesses and officials, Burns said.
Although this will impact the legal professions and human rights, Xi considers it necessary for China’s development, he added. •
By Shih Hsiu-chuan