How beautiful is Jiang Zemin

The communist dynasty

The "CCP dynasty" has ruled China since 1949. In order to stay in power, it has to secure the future viability of the country, which is only possible if pluralism takes hold. A dilemma.

He appears self-confident and as a bearer of hope for the “Chinese dream”, but Xi Jinping, who leads the People's Republic of China forty years after Mao's death, knows that the country is facing enormous challenges. Challenges, even greater than those that Deng Xiaoping mastered when he showed the Chinese, shaken by the Cultural Revolution, the opening to the world and the way to (state) capitalism - the rebuilding of China into a long-term functioning political and sustainably organized economic and social system . In 2012, the then 59-year-old Xi, succeeding Hu Jintao, was named the new general secretary at the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China. Now more than half of the term of office, which lasted until late autumn 2017, has expired; it is possible to take stock.

Xi consolidated his power faster than Hu Jintao, who had to share his power for three years with his predecessor Jiang Zemin, who stubbornly held onto the chairmanship of the powerful Central Military Commission. Unless anything dramatic happens, it looks today that Xi will be confirmed in his offices in 2017/18 and thus lead China until 2022. The fact that the last two generation changes at the top of the Chinese leadership went off pretty well can be seen as proof of the success of the People's Republic's political stability. The Singapore China expert Huang Jing rightly describes the introduction of fixed terms as one of the most important political reforms in China.

National renewal

At the end of the seventies, less than a generation ago, what was probably the most far-reaching modernization of modern times began in China under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. Deng put his country, ruined by Maoism, on an ambitious path of reform and funneled into his compatriots that getting rich is a beautiful and worthwhile goal.

Jiang Zemin, on the other hand, left behind the so-called “three representations” as heir, a decided move away from the class struggle and spearheading of the proletariat by the CCP and its transformation into a real people's party in which managers and entrepreneurs can also find their place. Hu Jintao announced the goal of his administration to bring China on the way to a “moderately affluent society” with the ambition that today's per capita income should be doubled by the early 2020s.

Finally, Xi Jinping chose nothing less than the “renewal of the great Chinese nation” as his motto. The Middle Kingdom has finally moved away from the internationalist claim of the Maoist world revolution and has established itself again in a Sinocentric worldview. Not only Confucius, but also Sun Yat-sen and one day Chiang Kai-shek come back into focus.

One can view China's new ambition for a national renaissance with suspicion, especially when one is in the immediate vicinity of the vast empire. At the moment, this is especially true for Southeast Asia because of the very solid advances made by the Chinese Navy in the South China Sea. But Beijing's ambitions are also ringing the alarm bells in Japan and the USA.

On the other hand, at this important juncture in China's repositioning in the world, it would also be appropriate to look at things from a Chinese perspective. It is largely clear that China will have a decisive influence on the global economy and global politics in the coming decades. For the macro-order on a planet shaken by incessant crises, it is essential that the world power USA in particular has to deal with a China in the coming years and decades that does not fall back into historically based neuroses, but rather towards a healthy national self-confidence finds. In this regard, Xi Jinping's ambitions are relevant not only to China itself, but to the world.

Under pressure

The Chinese economy has not been doing well since last spring. Even if the official figures may gloss over the reality, most experts agree that China is growing more than twice as fast as the western industrialized nations. What would mean considerable growth for Germany or England, however, is not enough for the People's Republic.

The fact that China has to grow significantly faster has to do with the socio-economic structure of the population. Almost all Chinese, around 1.2 billion, have a significantly better life than the parents and grandparents under Mao Zedong. But around eight hundred million Chinese continue to live in materially precarious circumstances and can only be kept going if they have realistic hopes that they and their children will be better off in the foreseeable future. These people want durable consumer goods, better housing and more earnings, but not a revolution. If their hopes remain intact, they are one of the pillars of the existing system and willingly be won over to the ambition of a renaissance of the great Chinese nation.

If one looks at the socio-economic modernization of China that has been underway since Deng's reforms, which is historically unique in its dimensions, it is unmistakable that the major hurdles have yet to be overcome. The turmoil that has plagued China in recent months, particularly on the financial front, has exposed many vulnerabilities. Last but not least, it has become clear that China can only be a fully modern, globally competitive economic and financial power if it has the rule of law. This in turn means that the CCP's absolute monopoly of power is abolished and the People's Republic introduces the separation of powers, which is inherent in the fact that the party that is above the law today is also subject to a transparent legal system.

China has always thought in dynasties. Since October 1, 1949, the "CCP dynasty" has ruled the Middle Kingdom. With a view to the future, the only thing that is certain is that this dynasty will one day come to an end. What we cannot know, however, is when this will happen. Dynasties can survive in decades or centuries.

In four years the CCP rule will be seventy years. The Yuan Dynasty, proclaimed by Kublai Khan in 1279, ended in 1368, less than a hundred years later. The "mandate from Heaven" to rule over China is not exercised today by an emperor but by the seven-member Standing Committee of the CCP's Politburo. This body, headed by Xi Jinping as general secretary of the CCP, has the task of ensuring that the "CCP dynasty" will prosper and survive.

Existing tensions

It is documented that the Chinese leadership viewed Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika as the cause of the self-dissolution of the Soviet Union. As a result, the democratic spring of 1989 was reacted to with bloody repression. The violent demise of Ceausescu then caused the highest alarm in Beijing. There is hardly anyone alive today who has consciously witnessed the atrocities of the Chinese civil war. With the growing distance to this catastrophe, the effectiveness of the argument that the introduction of a multi-party system in China would inevitably lead to chaos should decrease.

Xi Jinping, who seems to maintain an undisputed position since the disappearance of Bo Xilai and with the elimination of several "tigers" in the course of the campaign against corruption, which is still far from over, has to overcome a difficult tightrope walk despite all his power. Under no circumstances should things get out of hand. The only problem is that continued high economic growth is the most important basis of the CCP's "Mandate from Heaven" and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the high rate of economic development. This is due to cyclical and structural bottlenecks, with the latter becoming more and more evident in areas where remedial action can only be found through political reforms.

Today China is one of the countries with the largest wealth gap in the world. Deng's motto "Getting rich is wonderful" has been taken very successfully to heart by some, while the great majority still have to be content with a modest standard of living. Tensions have built up here which, if there are not only local conflicts but also nationwide problems such as hyperinflation or even a long-lasting slump in growth, can quickly become challenges that destabilize the system. Those forces for whom the modernization and opening of China has always been a thorn in the side could then benefit from widespread dissatisfaction. The world should not forget that Beijing always has the option of diverting internal pressure built up by clogged reform valves to the outside via nationalist excitement.