Xi Dreams of 100 More Glorious Years for the Party: Might China Awake?

The Chinese Communist Party is at the peak of its power as it enters its second century. This paper examines its evolution over the last 100 years, before turning to its centenary celebrations in July 2021 with Xi Jinping at the helm. It then focuses on potential paths ahead, arguing that the Party’s grip on history and ideology will be among the key signposts as Xi Jinping intensifies Party control over country, society and — increasingly — the economy.

Its tentacles are enfolding China, its history and culture and people, ever more tightly, with the aim of making it impossible to prise Party and nation apart. This desired indivisibility is the Party’s true ‘China dream’ since any challenge to its ideology, history or leadership is thus seen as a threat to China itself.

But the more prosperous and better-educated Chinese generation that is emerging — whose underlying culture is naturally individualistic —  may prove more ready to follow their own dreams than to support the Party’s constant exaltations of endless struggle. Much will depend on whether they can begin to imagine a past, present and future beyond or even without the Party.

Xi Jinping Dreams of 100 More Glorious Years: overview

“The Party’s core goal is to control its own destiny, not only inside China but also – given the continuing importance of economic globalisation to China – in the wider world, in multilateral organisations and in every other country,” Callick says.

“Its tentacles are enfolding China, its history and culture and people, ever more tightly, with the aim of making it impossible to prise Party and nation apart. This desired indivisibility is the Party’s true ‘China dream’ since any challenge to its ideology, history or leadership is thus seen as a threat to China itself.

“But the more prosperous and better-educated Chinese generation that is emerging — whose underlying culture is naturally individualistic —  may prove more ready to follow their own dreams than to support the Party’s constant exaltations of endless struggle. Much will depend on whether they can begin to imagine a past, present and future beyond or even without the Party.”

Callick says the Party’s elevation of General Secretary Xi Jinping to personality cult status  injects a source of vulnerability to continued Party rule. “How will it manage the succession, which has become especially crucial due to Xi’s centralisation and personalisation of power?”

He outlines that the Party’s challenges include rapid demographic decline; the tension between a need for technological innovation and entrepreneurialism, and Xi’s “common prosperity” shift back towards economic socialism; and international resistance to Party influence.

“The CCP’s most important task in order to enjoy a further 70 years or more in unchallengeable power, is to continue to deny meaningful agency to alternative views of history, to the cultures and languages of China’s “minority” ethnic groups, to civil society and religions, and to Chinese people in general — to prevent China being separable from the Party’s all-encompassing embrace,” he says.

Rowan Callick is a veteran journalist and author, and an Industry Fellow with Griffith University’s Asia Institute. He has worked as a China correspondent for both The Australian and the Australian Financial Review. He is the author of Party Time: Who Runs China and How, and has won two Walkley Awards for his coverage of China.

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