Xi Jinping Reins in China’s Politburo With 10 Commandments

The "Five Musts and Five Mustn'ts" were issued through the Party chief's dedicated social media account.
April 21, 2016 Updated: April 21, 2016

Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has made it clear recently that he will no longer tolerate personalities in the Party with their own agendas, or factions acting independently of his direction.

The requirements, which apply to cadres in the Politburo, were promulgated by a social media account that is closely tied to Xi Jinping. The “Learning From Xi Small Group,” or “xue xi xiao zu,” which published the edicts, is a public account on the popular social media software WeChat, and is run by a wing of the People’s Daily, the official communist mouthpiece. Since 2014 it has served to directly communicate Xi’s ideas and messages.

Ten behaviors—the “Five Musts and Five Mustn’ts”—were included in the expectations for the 25 Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee members to abide by.

Most of Xi’s commandments revolve around a need for Politburo members to obey and “uphold the authority of Party Central,” and not “run their own show.” The regime’s most senior leaders are also forbidden from “carrying out any sort of factional activity,” and should see that their family members don’t “abuse their position to accrue illegal interests.”

The last few months have seen a number of apparent challenges to Xi Jinping’s primacy in the Communist Party. These include two menacing open letters that demand his resignation, and the open refusal by two Party cadres with high-level backers to acknowledge Xi as a “core” leader.

While over a dozen senior Party leaders have publicly endorsed Xi Jinping’s unchallenged leadership over the Party, a Politburo member and a Politburo Standing Committee member have demurred. Each of them shares some tie to the group of officials who rose through the ranks and entrenched their power under the reign of Party elder Jiang Zemin, the leader until 2002 who has retained significant influence in the regime’s affairs. At a recent annual political conclave in March, they seemed to instead register their dissent at Xi Jinping’s efforts to consolidate control.

When asked at an official press session about his position on Xi as the “core” leader, a prestigious label reserved for Party paramounts, Zhang Chunxian, the Party chief of Xinjiang and current member of the Politburo, only told reporters, “talk later.” Politburo Standing Committee member Yu Zhengsheng failed to mention two of four principles Xi has recently been promoting—”recognition of the core” and “recognition of consensus”—during his closing speech at the March conclave. In a regime where small gestures, slights, and publicly spoken words are deeply symbolic, Zhang and Yu’s behavior in March appeared irregular and even defiant.

Given that Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has targeted many supporters of Jiang—former security czar Zhou Yongkang, ex-military vice chair Xu Caihou, former General Office chief Ling Jihua, Chongqing boss Bo Xilai, and vice chair of the Party’s political consultative body Su Rong—it is very possible that his recent demands were aimed at those like them who have not yet been purged. These officials were even directly accused by Xi of having “carried out political conspiracies to wreck and split the Party.”

The recent message from Xi Jinping also comes on the heels of two open letters, claiming to have been written by loyal Communist Party members, that attack his rule and call on him to resign. Significantly, a number of pieces of circumstantial evidence suggest that the first of those letters was connected with loyalists of the former security czar, Zhou Yongkang.