On the front page of the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper yesterday, a new buzzword was born. Introducing the “Five Firm Grasps” (五个牢牢把握). Appearing in a prominent headline to the right of the masthead in the People’s Daily, the phrase was meant to condense the “spirit” of the 20th National Congress of the CCP, conveying to Party members the essentials they were meant to take away.
Those essentials are the need to:
Firmly grasp the major significance of the work of the past 5 years and the great transformation of the 10 years of the New Era (要牢牢把握过去5年工作和新时代10年伟大变革的重大意义)
Firmly grasp the world view and methodology of the Thought of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era (牢牢把握新时代中国特色社会主义思想的世界观和方法论)
Firmly grasp the mission and task of promoting the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people through Chinese-style modernization (牢牢把握以中国式现代化推进中华民族伟大复兴的使命任务)
Firmly grasp the important demand of leading a great social revolution through a great self-revolution (牢牢把握以伟大自我革命引领伟大社会革命的重要要求)
Firmly grasp unity and struggle as the requirements of the times (牢牢把握团结奋斗的时代要求)
Two things immediately jump out in this five-point formulation. First, while the 20th National Congress should be broadly about charting China’s course for the next five years, the point topping the “Five Firm Grasps” list is focused entirely backward — with the doctrinaire demand that CCP members fall into line and succumb to wide-eyed wonder at the greatness of the Xi era to date.
Second, we can see an elevation in point two of Xi Jinping’s banner phrase, “[Xi Jinping] Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era,” which is referred to not merely as a banner phrase to lead the work of the CCP, but as a “world view” — something that has been emphasized only since the end of July this year, during a meeting of top provincial CCP leaders.
Never before this ten-week window was the notion promoted that “Xi Jinping Thought ____” is a “world view,” which suggests that the vision of Xi’s banner phrase transcends domestic Party politics and has global relevance.
Notably, we see this prominently again today in the lead commentary promoted on the front page of the People’s Daily and rolled out on page four. It is called: “Uniting in Struggle, Writing a More Splendid Chapter of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era.”
The commentary includes the phrase, in use since July, “We must have a proper hold on the world view and methodology of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era” (我们要把握好习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想的世界观和方法论).
While study commentaries in the People’s Daily over the past two months have made reference to Xi’s banner term as a “world view” and “methodology,” Xi Jinping is reported by Xinhua to have emphasized this point to delegates on October 19, which suggests that it is now the orthodoxy of the moment.
What does this mean?
In part, it is simple and raw, about the continued attempt to elevate the importance of Xi’s ideas, condensed into his banner phrase as a symbol of his power and position within the CCP. Again and again over the past year, speeches and state media coverage have emphasized the “Two Establishes,” the phrase that argues that 1) Xi Jinping himself is the unassailable “core” of the Party, and 2) that his ideas are the spiritual direction of the Party.
Adding to this signaling the vision of Xi’s thought as a “world view” and “methodology” sends the additional message that the general secretary’s ideas are a formula, a toolbox, that should be used to grapple with the challenges in the decade to come — whether in China or in the world.