Since the 20th National Congress of the CCP in October 2022, the phrase “Six Adheres,” or liuge bixu jianchi (六个必须坚持), has been promoted by China’s Party-state media as a comprehensive model to convey the methods and worldview of the Chinese Communist Party. Each of the six concepts has been elaborated at length in the Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper and other media. They prescribe that China and the CCP must adhere to:
Each of these specialized phrases is seen to be a key aspect of the spirit of China’s current ruling concept, encompassed by Xi Jinping’s lengthy banner phrase (旗帜语), “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” (习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想) [More in the CMP Dictionary]. In turn, as should be evident from the brief summaries in the list above, each phrase subsumes a constellation of other terms from CCP discourse.
The “Six Adheres” phrase is an excellent example of how the Party continually constructs elaborate frameworks for conceptualizing its work, asserting power and prestige (Xi’s banner term), consolidating CCP leadership, interpreting CCP history, and conducting propaganda for all of the above.
Further, the phrase demonstrates how specialized vocabularies can be deconstructed and reinterpreted over time by the CCP, as the leadership and its priorities change.
In fact, there have been four distinct iterations of the “Six Adheres” in the official CCP discourse, all during the reform period — including three since Xi Jinping came to power. While each of these has been called the “Six Adheres,” their content is distinct in ways that can be revealing.
The first “Six Adheres,” introduced in October 2004, in the early Hu Jintao era, dealt with the nature of power and governance in China. The phrase was included in the decision on strengthening governing capacity that emerged from the 4th Plenum of the 16th Central Committee of the CCP.
The 2004 “Six Adheres” first emphasized the need to adhere to the guiding ideology of the CCP, which at the time consisted of four basic components: Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, and the “Three Represents” of Jiang Zemin. The 2004 decision predated Hu Jintao’s articulation of his banner phrase, the “Scientific View of Development” (科学发展观). But particularly worthy of note is how the first of these “Six Adheres” emphasized the accumulative and shared nature of the CCP’s governing concepts, something that would be undone under Xi Jinping, patently demonstrating his bid for complete dominance of the Party and its legacy.
Coming next in order in this 2004 formulation were, 2) adhering to the “self-improvement” (自我完善) of socialism with Chinese characteristics; 3) adhering to development as the “crux of solving all of China’s problems”; 4) adhering to the intimate connection between the Party and the people, and the attitude of serving the people, including through dealing with the problem of corruption; 5) adhering to the ideas of “scientific governance” (科学执政) and “democratic governance” (民主执政); and 6) adhering to the strengthening of the Party in the spirit of reform, while adhering to the Party’s “core leadership position” (领导核心地位).
All references to the first “Six Adheres” in the official CCP discourse vanished after around August 2010. When the phrase reappeared 11 years later, it was in the wake of the Party’s centennial celebrations. The second “Six Adheres,” used exclusively within China’s public security system, was by this time a clear reflection of China’s dramatically transformed political terrain, in which Xi’s power was unassailable — and rising.
On August 27, 2021, drawing together a set of “musts” mentioned by Xi Jinping in his July 1 speech to commemorate the CCP’s centennial, China’s minister of public security, Zhao Kezhi (赵克志), gave the People’s Daily its first mention of the “Six Adheres” 2.0. They were as follows:
This short-lived second iteration of the “Six Adheres” was quickly eclipsed in October 2021 by Xi Jinping’s language at the Central People’s Congress Working Conference (中央人大工作会议), in which he outlined his own set of hard lines for the CCP and the country. These were not as self-aggrandizing as those outlined by Zhao Kezhi, whose “Six Adheres” partly served to ingratiate himself with Xi, an act known as “loyalty signaling,” or biaotai (表态). The focus instead was on the leadership of the CCP and its basic political and ideological tenets:
Through at least September 2022, the Party-state media continued to follow the model of the “Six Adheres” as set out by Xi Jinping at the Central People’s Congress Working Conference. But the phrase took a sharp turn at the 20th National Congress of the CCP in October 2022, yielding to the set of concepts outlined at the start of this entry.
How long will the CCP adhere to the fourth iteration of the “Six Adheres”? Stay tuned.