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Why the CPC Needs to Introduce Stricter Self-Discipline

Nov 11, 2016
  • Yu Sui

    Professor, China Center for Contemporary World Studies

The 6th Plenum of the Communist Party’s 18th Central Committee has attracted extensive attention at home and abroad.

The attention has focused more on what new measures the CPC would come up with in order to fulfill its set goals of rank-cleaning, than on why the party is to introduce stricter self-discipline.

The plenum did showcase strong conviction, confidence, and sense of urgency regarding stricter self-regulation.

A key step toward stricter self-discipline is to establish Xi Jinping’s position as “core” of the CPC leadership. That is the logical outcome of four years of rich accomplishments, and foreshadows a brand-new era for China.

What does it mean by installing stricter intra-party self-discipline? From the perspective of depth, it means eliminating dangers, which is an arduous task; from that of width, there are plenty of difficulties in diverse fields and aspects. Chinese leaders often say the party’s work style concerns its survival or extinction. To lead the nation of more than 1.3 billion toward great rejuvenation, the CPC has to constantly improve itself.

Improving itself means saving itself.

While reform and opening up has seen tremendous achievements over the years, nothing has more seriously damaged the party’s public image and inspired public indignation than the spread of corruption. Corruption undermines the groundwork of the CPC’s leading role, weakening its governance capacity, and threatens its ruling status.

History has demonstrated repeatedly that people’s trust, endorsement and support are key to the party’s leadership. People do judge the CPC based on its principles, policies and effectiveness. Yet more often than not, they judge it through the images of party members, especially those in leadership roles.

Chinese people of all nationalities share the wish to accomplish the goal of building a relatively well-off society under the CPC’s leadership, realizing the “twin centennial goals” for the 100th anniversaries of the party and New China. People’s attitudes are of critical significance for the party to firmly keep its ruling status. The party is the boat, the people are the water. Water can either keep the boat afloat, or overturn it.

Since the inception of reform and opening up, under the new slogan of concentrating on economic construction, and promoting a market economy, many CPC members have set fine personal examples for the rest of society through their own dedication to public service. There also have been corrupt elements who have embarked on a course of self-destruction due to greed. Such black sheep are, just as the Ming Dynasty philosopher Lv Kun said, like mirrors that can’t reflect themselves, rulers can’t measure themselves, and power can’t weigh itself, “because they are confined to material beings.”

Governing the party strictly in an all-round manner is an inescapable path toward better preventing corruption while developing a socialist market economy. It is known to all that a market economy consists of multiple ownerships, or interest groups, where private interest groups, as their functions grow in national economy, inevitably display increasing interest in seeking help from the powerful, and finding political proxies. They usually tend to cozy up to those in positions of power and lure them with various benefits. Coupled with the fact that some party officials have succumbed to money worship and hedonism, the pathetic phenomena of power-for-money deals have become the biggest challenge for the CPC’s anti-graft campaign. 

The Communist Party of the former Soviet Union was a sad example. One reason for its inability to escape the fate of eventually being abandoned by its people was its degeneration from public servants into greedy bureaucrats usurping the fruit of people’s labor.

In order to run the country well, the ruling party must run itself well first. Inaction is dangerous; half-hearted action is of little help; only through sensible, responsible action can the party secure an invincible position.

Through its own strenuous exploration and practice, as well as lessons learned from the Soviet Union, the CPC has made the choice to consolidate party-building in the spirit of reform.

Judging from historical experiences, fighting and preventing corruption as well as implementing strict intra-party self-regulation call for a combination of supervision by party discipline, the law, and the people, and institutionalization of such oversight.

While the public is exhilarated about the anti-graft campaign, corrupt officials are scared and hate it, hence the undercurrents of resistance. That is why the CPC central leadership is placing new emphasis on the “Long March Spirit”.

Given the actual achievements of the anti-corruption campaign, few people doubt the CPC’s resolve and confidence in enforcing stricter self-discipline. The 6th Plenum emphasized the combination of ideological work and institutionalization, reflecting an aspiration for self-purification, self-perfection, self-renovation, and self-upgrade. In the process, the party will surely come up with new measures based on changing conditions and its own experiences so as to create a fine political biosphere.

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