China’s retired politicians, unlike those in the West, are accorded the utmost respect by the society at large. They deserve it for their selfless, life-long contribution to the nation. Of course, those prosecuted and convicted of corruption, abuse of power and other crimes are rightly sacked from the party and despised by the public. In China, politicians generally enjoy high esteem. In the West, politicians are trusted less than even the used car salesmen.
Since 1992 when Deng Xiaoping initiated an orderly leadership transition, top leaders have stepped down from their posts when they reach the “retirement age”. Through periodic infusion of new blood and new ideas, the party has avoided ossification and atrophication.
Those retired top politicians are tapped for their accumulated experience, and their counsel sought from time to time. They are truly the elder statesmen who still care about the fate and future of China, though they may be frail physically and forgetful mentally.
An important role played by China’s elderly statesmen is to identify future leaders during the summer retreat at the seaside resort of Beidaihe, 160 miles from Beijing. It was there that Hu Jintao was identified by the elderly statesmen as the potential successor to Jiang Zemin, who had preferred his own man Zhen Qinghong. And it was there that they settled on Xi Jinping as their choice of successor to Hu, rather than Li Keqian. Both their choices have been proven supremely wise and right. By rising above factional politics, the elderly statesmen have checked excessive influence of the incumbent top leaders.
Though one-party rule by CPC has prevailed since 1949, there are moderating forces at play. The People’s Consultative Assembly comprising citizens from all walks of life, religious persuasions and all strata of society isn’t just a useless talkshop as the western corporatist media are fond of ridiculing. Several major pieces of legislation were born on the floor of the Assembly.
Another, more powerful force of moderation is the existence of factions within CPC. From Day 1 of the formation of CPC, different factions have existed. Before and during Mao Zedong’s era, such factions had at times led to strife and even purges. The cultural revolution was the most disastrous consequence of factional politics in CPC.
No longer. After Deng Xiaoping made his fourth and final return to the apex of power, factional politics has been managed well and channeled into productive forces. The factions keep the party on a steady course and an even keel, preventing excesses and extreme politics and policies. Xi has become the core leader not because of his personal charisma or birth as a Red princeling, but because he has struck the golden balance between the Maoists and Dengists within CPC. A the same time as Xi cracks down hard and mercilessly on corruption and enforces strictly party discipline, he is advocating continuing globalisation and Belt and Road Initiative.
Moderation is a Confucian trait and a virtue in Chinese society. CPC factions keep the party on the course of moderation, part of Sinification of imported Marxism-Leninism. Xi is a sensible person, he knows the way forward for China is Sinicised Marxism-Leninism. The class struggle can be moderated, and produces the desired result just the same.