The “Five Firm Grasps” (五个牢牢把握) emerged as a new political catchphrase as the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party closed in Beijing on October 22, 2022. Carried in a prominent headline to the right of the masthead in the CCP’s flagship 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 were 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)
Immediately evident in this five-point formulation was the fact that it emphasized first and foremost the demand that CCP members fall into line and recognize Xi Jinping’s first two terms as the Party’s general secretary as a “great transformation.”
The second point on the list was about the elevation of Xi Jinping’s banner phrase, “[Xi Jinping] Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era,” which the People’s Daily article referred to not merely as a banner phrase to lead the work of the CCP, but as a “world view” — something that had been emphasized since a July 2022 meeting of top provincial CCP leaders.
Before this ten-week window between the July meeting and the 20th Congress, Xi’s banner term had never been promoted as offering a world view.
The idea of Xi’s banner as a worldview was promoted the next day, October 23, in a lead commentary announced on the front page of the People’s Daily and rolled out on page four. It was called: “Uniting in Struggle, Writing a More Splendid Chapter of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era.”
The commentary included the phrase, in use since July, “We must have a proper hold on the worldview 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). Xi Jinping was reported by Xinhua to have emphasized his banner term as a “worldview” and “methodology” when meeting with delegates during the congress on October 19.
The second point of the “Five Firm Grasps,” then, is about the continued attempt to elevate the importance of Xi’s ideas, condensed into his banner phrase. From late 2021, speeches and state media coverage emphasized the “Two Establishes,” the phrase reiterating that 1) Xi Jinping is the unassailable “core” of the Party, and 2) that his ideas are the spiritual direction of the Party. The “Five Firm Grasps” help to formalize the additional assertion that Xi’s thought constitutes a “world view” and “methodology” — thereby bolstering the sense that the general secretary’s ideas offer the formula needed to tackle the challenges of the next decade, whether in China or in the world.