The Sixth Plenum has finished, culminating with the release yesterday, November 11, of the much-awaited Communique, an appetizer offering a taste of the heftier document to be expected in coming days. Surprises could yet arrive with the release of the Resolution of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party on the Major Achievements and Historical Experiences of the Party’s Hundred-Year Struggle, the third resolution on history since the founding of the CCP. But as we await the full resolution, and detailed observations from the many experts picking through the communique, let us run quickly through the essentials.
We do not yet have, in the Communique itself, the shortening of Xi Jinping’s “banner term,” or qizhiyu (旗帜语), as the five-character “Xi Jinping Thought” (习近平思想) from the more ponderous “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” a crucial step in the consolidation of his power and legacy. This is something to look out for as the full “Resolution” is released, but it is likely in fact that the shortening will be achieved fully at next year’s 20th National Congress of the CCP, following the pattern set by Mao, whose “Mao Zedong Thought” emerged at the 7th National Congress of the CCP in April-June 1945, following on the heels of the introduction of the first historical resolution during the 7th Plenum of the 6th Central Committee, concluding in April 1945.
In any case, we can clearly see the laying down of the foundation for this elevation of Xi next year, and his continued leadership of the Party, in the most important passage of the Communique. We offer the official translation with a couple of casual bolded notes on translations that seemed to slightly vary from the original Chinese:
Comrade Xi Jinping, through meticulous assessment [scientific judgement] and deep reflection on a number of major theoretical and practical questions regarding the cause of the Party and the country in the new era, has set forth a series of original new ideas, thoughts, and strategies on national governance revolving around the major questions of our times: what kind of socialism with Chinese characteristics we should uphold and develop in this new era, what kind of great modern socialist country we should build, and what kind of Marxist party exercising long-term governance we should develop, as well as how we should go about achieving these tasks. He is thus the principal founder (主要创立者) of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. This is the Marxism of contemporary China and of the 21st century. It embodies the best of the Chinese culture and ethos in our times and represents a new breakthrough [a new leap] in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context. The Party has established Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee (核心地位) and in the Party as a whole and defined the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. This reflects the common will of the Party, the armed forces, and the Chinese people of all ethnic groups, and is of decisive significance for advancing the cause of the Party and the country in the new era and for driving forward the historic process of national rejuvenation.
This passage is the culmination within the Communique itself, coming after a rather lukewarm assessment of the contributions of Xi’s predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. It portrays Xi Jinping as a strong and innovative leader — the “principal founder” (主要创立者) of Xi Jinping Thought . . . . — who has rewoven the fabric of Chinese governance, and it should be read as an advance notice of two facts: “Xi Jinping Thought” will hatch from the egg of “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”; and Xi Jinping will continue as the unassailable leader of the Party beyond 2022.