Signs of Trouble at the CCP Leadership’s First Meeting of the Year 

January 13, 2021 Updated: January 13, 2021


On Jan. 7, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, held its first meeting of the year. State media did not disclose much detail about the meeting. However, in the Xinhua media report on the meeting, statements that appeared repeatedly are: “firmly safeguard the party central for its authority and centralized and unified leadership”; and “strongly safeguard Xi Jinping as … the core of the Party Central Committee and the core position in the entire Party.” It seems that this is the focus of this meeting. It also reveals the hidden worries about political infighting among the Party elite.

Work reports from the rubber-stamp legislature, State Council, CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference—a political advisory body that also oversees the Party’s United Front efforts), court system, prosecutor’s office, and Central Secretariat were routine as usual. The news report did not elaborate on the individual work reports, but stated that “the centralized and unified authority of the Party’s central leadership is the highest principle.” The report also claimed this meeting was a “major institutional arrangement” to insist on the central and unified leadership of the Party.

In fact, the meeting is for members of the Politburo Standing Committee to report to Party leader Xi Jinping.

From Dec. 24 to 25, 2020, the Politburo held a meeting. Every member had to deliver their loyalty to Xi. Xinhua interpreted this meeting with a report describing the important theme of Xi’s speech: “politics,” expounding “what is being political, why be political, and how to be political.”

At the beginning of the new year, this Politburo Standing Committee meeting was essentially highlighting the core position of Xi. It could be that there are divisions among the Party leadership, or Xi is feeling uneasy about his power, or both. That’s the reason why in the first Politburo Standing Committee meeting of the year, the topic centered around authority and “the core.”

The meeting also emphasized the “four matters of confidence” (a political philosophy coined by Xi: confidence in the socialist path, theory, system, and culture) again; but judging from the meeting, the CCP’s top officials were obviously not confident enough. A routine work report became an exercise in highlighting the “Xi core,” which actually revealed Xi’s deep concerns about his authority.

A substantive section of the Xinhua report repeated the standard Party jargon of the past: “recognizing problems from a political perspective,” “improving political judgment, political comprehension, and political execution,” and “maintaining a high degree of consistency” with the Party Central Committee, with Xi as the core.

The report made no mention of the intensifying epidemic, nor the country’s economic woes. On Jan. 7 a year ago, during the first Politburo Standing Committee meeting of 2020, state media reports also did not mention the epidemic. However, later, a state-run political journal revealed that Xi gave instructions on virus response during that meeting.

At the beginning of 2021, the CCP core did not put forward any big plans. The top leaders of the Chinese Communist Party are more concerned about their core status.

At the end of the Xinhua report, the Central Secretariat was mentioned specifically. According to the article: “The Secretariat of the Central Committee must take the lead … to implement the deployment requirements of the Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee … to reliably complete the tasks assigned by the Party Central Committee.”

Such a demand was only made to the Secretariat. That is virtually the same as a disguised criticism of the head of the Secretariat, Wang Huning. As the Party’s first-ranked secretary, he is in charge of the regime’s propaganda.

At the first Politburo Standing Committee meeting in 2020, it was also mentioned that “the Secretariat of the Central Committee should take the lead … regarding the work arrangements of the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee … to complete the tasks assigned by the Party Central Committee.”

One year later, the Secretariat of the Central Committee was called out again, and the tone was obviously heightened. This shows that the Secretariat has not fully implemented the requirements set out by the CCP’s senior officials in 2020. Obviously, Wang has not truly complied with the “core authority.” It seems that the problem of his violation of the “core” has not been corrected, but has become more serious.

Without disclosing specific details, the same problem was raised again at the first Politburo Standing Committee meeting in 2021—exposing the CCP’s high-level infighting. It could also be interpreted as a warning to other officials to toe the Party line.

This first meeting actually spells out the concerns of the Chinese Communist Party’s senior officials: the power instability. The problems that arose in 2020 have not yet been resolved, and the Party’s top leaders should feel that they will face greater domestic and international challenges in the coming year.

Zhong Yuan is a researcher focused on China’s political system, the country’s democratization process, human rights situation, and Chinese citizens’ livelihood.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.