Among provincial-level officials in China, one of the most outwardly loyal to Xi Jinping has been Li Hongzhong (李鸿忠), the CCP secretary of Tianjin municipality. It was Li who said himself back in 2016 that, “If loyalty is not absolute, then it is absolutely not loyalty.”
But on Tuesday this week, Secretary Li outdid himself in his praise of Xi Jinping. At a special CCP history learning session held in Tianjin to commemorate the Party’s centennial, Li began with more run-of-the-mill loyalty signaling. He urged those present to uphold the “Four Consciousnesses” (四个意识), “Four Confidences” (四个自信) and “Two Protections” (两个维护). These three phrases, known collectively as the “442” formula, are critical to the consolidation of Xi Jinping’s personal power at the leader of the CCP.
The “Four Consciousnesses” refer to the 1) need to maintain political integrity, 2) think in big-picture terms, 3) uphold the leadership core (in other words, Xi Jinping), and 4) keep in alignment with the CCP’s central leadership. Skipping past the “Four Confidences,” more explanation being available here, the “Two Protections” are: 1) protecting, once again, the core status of General Secretary Xi Jinping, and 2) protecting the central, unified leadership of the Central Committee of the CCP.
Li Hongzhong did not stop at the “442,” however. As he spoke about the “Two Centenaries” (两个一百年), the idea promoted by Xi Jinping that the China will 1) become a “moderately well-off” by the first centennial celebration, the Party’s anniversary this year, and 2) will successfully become a “strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious and modern socialist country” by 2049, the centennial of the PRC, here is what Li actually said:
It is the good fortune of our Party, our country and the Chinese nation to have had General Secretary Xi Jinping at the helm and steering the ship on the new journey to realize the Chinese nation’s rise to strength. We have closely followed General Secretary Xi Jinping in seizing our great victory in struggling toward the first centenary goal, and now we will continue to unswervingly follow him as we strive toward the realization of the second century goal and the great leap to realize the strengthening of the Chinese nation.
This is a lofty compliment indeed from Li. He is essentially saying that having now led China to the achievement of the first centenary goal during his second term, Xi Jinping can continue leading the CCP toward the achievement of the second goal. That would necessitate Xi remaining in office far beyond the 20th National Congress of the CCP in 2022. To make the October 1, 2049, celebration of the PRC centennial, Xi Jinping would have to be well past his 96th birthday. For comparison, Deng Xiaoping was 92 years old when he passed away on February 19, 1997.