Xi Jinping Criticized Intra-Party Democracy Ahead of Move for Lifelong Leadership

By Rita Li
Rita Li
Rita Li
Rita Li is a reporter with The Epoch Times, focusing on China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2018.
July 20, 2021 Updated: July 20, 2021

China’s top leader Xi Jinping previously scorned democratic thinking and called for tightened self-governance before making himself a life-long ruler, according to a new book published in June.

The book contains internal speeches not previously made public. Xi’s comments were in response to rumors of a shift to a democratic model inside the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Experts said factional infighting within the CCP led to Xi accusing officials of making “bizarre remarks” about pursuing democracy. His comments come from an address in January 2018 and are recorded in the latest version of the book “Compilation of Xi Jinping’s Discourses on Full and Strict Governance Over the Party.”

State-run media China Daily said the 2021 edition has been published and distributed nationwide. The content is sourced from over 220 pieces of documentation, including reports, speeches, articles, and instructions by Xi between November 2012 and April 2021.

Democratic Dissent

In his address, Xi discreetly referred to officials’ discussion of democracy as “murmurs of noise within the Party.”

The remarks come from Xi’s speech at the second plenary session of the 19th Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI)—Beijing’s top watchdog agency—in January 2018. He told Party members to remain loyal “at any time, and under any circumstance,” according to Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua.

“As the strict overall governance of the Party continues to intensify, there are also some murmurs of noise within the Party,” Xi said, citing Party members’ suggestion to shift the focus to develop intra-party democracy, rather than upholding the centralized leadership.

Two months after the then-confidential January remarks, Xi amended China’s constitution. He wiped out the presidential two-term limit, thus granting himself life-long governance.

Later in 2018, the term “two upholds” was written into the Chinese Communist Party Disciplinary Regulations. The goals are to uphold the Central Committee of the CCP (main political advisory body that comprises of the top leaders) and Xi—as the absolute leader.

The change removed a possibility of intra-party democracy—the legacy of former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping—according to Beijing-based political observer Hua Po. He said that the CCP “learned a bitter lesson” from Chairman Mao Zedong’s individual rule.

Hua said that, initially, some thought that democracy in China could originate in the Communist Party and then be practiced nationwide.

The blueprint went seemingly against Xi’s will.

According to the book, Xi said, “From the emergence of these bizarre remarks, some [members] are politically muddled-headed; some have ulterior and impure motives, and are attempting to be deceptive.”

Internal Struggles

Intra-party struggles and infighting are nothing new for the CCP. “From 1921 to the present, the 100-year history of the CCP is in fact full of power struggles,” Li Hengqing, a China expert at the Washington Institute for Information and Strategy, told The Epoch Times in an interview.

“The problem is that in terms of the Chinese communist system, achieving so-called democracy means that the [leader’s] rights are curbed.” Li added that intra-party democracy would cause Xi to share power with others.

“There are actually a large number of people who oppose him, which terrifies [Xi],” Li said. There are several large factions made up of hundreds of families spread through the ranks of the CCP. Former leader and ideological rival Jiang Zemin is at the head of one major group.

To stifle rival factions, Xi has been cracking down on high-level Chinese officials in the name of anti-corruption campaigns since becoming the head of the CCP in November 2012.

“His anti-corruption efforts are weaponized to eliminate political opponents,” Li said, pointing out that only those in other factions were targeted.

From the end of 2012 until mid-2021, the CCDI opened a total of 392 cases for investigation of leading officials at the municipal level or above, released on June 28 by the institution.

Luo Ya contributed to this report.

Rita Li
Rita Li
Rita Li is a reporter with The Epoch Times, focusing on China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2018.