The “Two Establishes” first appeared in the CCP discourse on January 1, 2018, in what was essentially a declaration of the dawning of a “New Era” under the leadership of Xi Jinping. An article by the official China News Service called “Starting a New Journey, Writing a New Epic” (开启新征程 谱写新史诗) spoke glowingly of China’s arrival as a great power: “China has entered a new era, and the world has noticed,” it said.
And then there was this important passage, speaking to the need for great men and great thoughts, essentially an act of ordination:
Every era needs its own leading figure, needs to be piloted by glorious ideas. Observers have said that the “Two Establishes” mean that this Marxist political party is more mature, more staunch, more united, and has greater fighting strength.
Comrade Mao Zedong once pointed out that doctrines are like banners, and only when banners are raised does everyone have hope, and does everyone know their direction.
The lengthy piece of New Year’s propaganda, first distributed online, simply drops in the mention of the “Two Establishes,” which not appeared in Xi’s political report to the 19th National Congress of the CCP two months earlier, where Xi Jinping’s “banner term” (旗帜语), “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era,” had been unveiled with great fanfare. But the four-character term was clearly meant to encompass the two key takeaways of the Congress, that Xi was the Party’s unshakeable “core,” and that his ideas established the way forward. Xi’s designation of a “thought” in his banner term, reminiscent of Mao, and his inclusion of his name, were both signs of his unassailable position within the CCP.
The CNS piece was published the next day, January 2, on page three of the official People’s Daily newspaper, marking its formal introduction into the canon of CCP vocabularies.
The “Two Establishes,” however, was not used frequently from 2017 through to 2021. In fact, the phrase would not appear again in the People’s Daily until November 12, 2021, with the holding of the 6th Plenum of the 19th CCP Central Committee and its introduction 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 (中共中央关于党的百年奋斗重大成就和历史经验的决议). This document, only the third such resolution in the CCP’s history, brought a century of Party experience into focus in the person, power and theoretical genius of Xi Jinping – an act of ideational concentration meant both to symbolize and actualize Xi’s dominance into 2022 and beyond.
The November Resolution included this important line:
For the Party to establish the status of Comrade Xi Jinping as the core of the Party’s Central Committee and of the whole Party, and to establish the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era, expresses the deepest wishes of the whole Party, the whole military, and the peoples of the whole country.
In this passage, Xi Jinping is clearly designated as the single, unquestionable leader of a unified CCP. Moreover, his ideas, are portrayed as the bedrock of the Party, its policymaking and its legitimacy for the 21st century. Also emerging from the 6th Plenum was the notion of the “Two Safeguards” (两个维护), about the need to 1) safeguard the “core” status of Xi Jinping within the CCP, and 2) to safeguard the centralized authority of the Party. Together, the “Two Establishes” and the “Two Safeguards” lay claim to the basic principles governing China today, centered on Xi himself. And they define the protection of these principles as the chief task of the country.
Taken together their import is simple: Xi Jinping will continue leading China beyond 2022.
Both the “Two Establishes” and the “Two Safeguards” look (from the vantage point of February 8, 2022) to be in for a big year. The former term, which appeared just once in the People’s Daily prior to the 6th Plenum last year, has appeared in more than 120 articles in the newspaper since.