Party report suggests old guard is strong

Ahead of the 18th National Congress, which opened in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People today, I focused on 10 important terms in the Party’s political lexicon in my WATCHWORDS series (English and Chinese). Those terms were:

1. The “Four Basic Principles,” including Mao Zedong Thought (四项基本原则/毛泽东思想)
2. “Stability preservation” (维稳)
3. “Political reform” (政治体制改革)
4. “Cultural Revolution” (文革)
5. “Power is given by the people” (权为民所赋)
6. “Power of decision-making, power of administration and power of monitoring” (决策权,执行权,监督权)
7. “Intraparty democracy” (党内民主)
8. “Social construction” (社会建设)
9. “Scientific view of development” (科学发展观)
10. “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” (中国特色社会主义).

In the series, I looked at the origins of these political watchwords, their development through time (as seen in Chinese media and in past political reports), and explained how they can give us clues to how the Party is thinking or trending on various critical issues.

I have not yet had time to go carefully through the entire 64-page report delivered by President Hu Jintao earlier today, but I have studied a number of the key points. Here is the situation in Hu’s political report to the 18th National Congress with respect to the 10 terms I focused on in my series.

1. The “Four Basic Principles” (including “Mao Zedong Thought”). I have said before that this term, as a banner for the Maoist left in China, can be seen as a strong political indicator. In my series, I said that if both of these terms were abandoned, this would signify the leadership’s intention to push ahead with political reforms. But if the phrase Four Basic Principles is used to the extent that we saw in 2007, or its frequency is reduced only slightly, this signals a perpetuation of the status quo, with no substantive progress on political reform. Any increase in the frequency of use of either term would suggest a political turnabout.

In this political report, both the “Four Basic Principles” and “Mao Zedong Thought” continue to appear.

2. “stability preservation”. As I pointed out in my series, the appearance of this term in the political report to the 18th National Congress would mark a serious turnabout for China politically.

In this political report, the term “stability preservation” does not appear in the main points (要点).

3. “Cultural Revolution”. We want to look for any signs of soul-searching about the Cultural Revolution in the political report, which would be a positive sign pointing to possible political reform. This would mean emphasis of the term, but not simply in the context of praise for China’s progress (which would not be significant).

In the main topics of this political report, “Cultural Revolution” does not appear, in either its full or shortened forms (文革/文化大革命).

4. “Political reform”. As I pointed out, a positive sign would be the appearance of this term in a section header (章节标题) of the political report. The term did appear in a section header in every political report from the 13th National Congress to the 16th National Congress, but this did not happen in Hu Jintao’s 2007 political report. We also want to look at the term’s frequency — has it gone up? And have related negative signals gone down in frequency? The appearance of the phrase “protecting rights, checking power” would be a positive sign. The appearance, on the other hand, of hard-line language such as “opposing Westernization” or the “Five Will Nots” would be a negative sign.

In this political report, “political reform” is written into a section header. The header of the fifth section is: “Continuing on the Political Development Road of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Promoting Political Reform” (坚持走中国特色社会主义政治发展道路和推进政治体制改革). I will look later at the frequency of use of the term “political reform” in the report. We do not see terms in the report like “opposing Westernization” or the “Five Will Nots”. But we do see the appearance of “[we will] resolutely not follow Western political systems” (绝不照搬西方政治制度模式), which did not appear in the 2007 political report. We also see a new term: “[We will] not take the wicked [or "heretical"] way of changing our banner” (不走改旗易帜邪路).

5. “Intraparty power separation” or the “Power of Decision-Making, Power of Administration and Power of Monitoring”. I said before that full 2007 phrase to look for in this report was: “[The Party] must build and improve power structures for mutual conditioning and mutual coordination of the powers of decision-making, administration and monitoring, improving oversight mechanisms” (要建立健全决策权、执行权、监督权既相互制约又相互协调的权力结构,完善监督机制). If we did not see this phrase repeated in this year’s political report, I said, this would be a negative sign. On the other hand, if the phrase was altered to include the idea of these powers operating independently of one another, this would be a positive sign.

In this political report, the 2007 does appear, but there is no further language to suggest powers operating independently of one another.

6. “Power is given by the people”. As I explained in my fifth article in the series, Xi Jinping introduced this phrase after the 17th National Congress. I argued that any appearance of this term at all in this year’s political report would be a positive sign.

In this political report, the term does not appear.

7. “social construction”. I noted in my series that the critical thing to watch was whether the phrase “expanding the scope for self-governance at the grassroots,” which appeared in 2007, reappeared in this year’s report. If it disappears (and is not replaced by “social self-governance”) that would be a negative sign, I argued.

In this political report, the term does disappear, and it is not replaced by “social self-governance.” The term used instead is “self-governance according to the law” (依法自治), and this appears in the following context: “. . . improving [our] mechanisms for strategy and work on national security, remaining highly vigilant against and resolutely on guard against separatism, infiltration and subversive activities by hostile forces, ensuring national security.” This is a term from the politics and law committee to talk about “social management,” and marks a very hardline position.

8. “Intraparty democracy”. This term appeared five times in the political report to the 17th National Congress, a relatively high frequency. As I wrote before, we want to look at how often this term appears in this year’s political report as well as at whether or not it is accompanied by language about more concrete measures, such as “open nomination and direct election,” “differential election” and “fixed tenure.”

Judging from the main points (要点) of this year’s report, it seems that “intraparty democracy” appears less frequently than in the report to the 17th National Congress. There is no mention of “open nomination and direct election,” and as for “differential election” and “fixed tenure” no concrete measures are raised.

9. Scientific View of Development”. The term, President Hu Jintao’s “banner term,” or qihao, appeared 21 times in the 2007 political report. I said in my series that if the term appears the same number of times or marginally less often in this year’s report, this will be normal. Appearance with greater frequency, however, would signal that Hu intends to extend the influence of his banner term beyond the 18th National Congress. Also worth looking at is whether the meaning of the Scientific View of Development changes in any way in the political report. Is there any stress, for example, on “people-based” governance? Is there mention of civil and political rights along the lines of what we saw in China’s National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015)? Any changes like this to the content of Scientific View of Development would be positive.

In this political report, the Scientific View of Development makes a strong showing. Most importantly, this term’s rank has been elevated. Along with “Deng Xiaoping Theory” and the “Three Represents,” it has become a guiding ideology (指导思想) of the Party. There is no mention at all in the political report of the term “civil rights.”.

10. “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”. In my analysis of the political report five years ago, I found that this watchword appeared 51 times. A hypothesized on the basis of Hu Jintao’s speech on July 23, 2012, that this watchword, actually a changing medley of political terms, would at this year’s congress become a term representing the banner terms for the last three generations of Chinese leaders — Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. As I pointed out in my series, it is important to look at how socialism with Chinese characteristics is defined in this year’s political report. Specifically, does the term still include the “Four Basic Principles” or “one core, two basic points” (一个中心, 两个基本点) — this second term being a phrase that includes the “Four Basic Principles.” If socialism with Chinese characteristics continues to includes these ideas, I said, that could be read as a discouraging sign.

This year’s political report does show us that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” has indeed become a common banner term including three generations of leaders — Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Moreover, the Four Basic Principles is still included in the definition of the phrase.

My preliminary conclusion: conservative forces within the Party are still very powerful. According to the line marked out by the political report to the 18th National Congress, there is very little prospect that substantive moves will be made on political reform.

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10个“提法”在18大的表现

18大召开前,笔者曾在CMP网站和纽约时报中文网撰文,分析了中共的10个关键词语:1,“四项基本原则”(含毛泽东思想);2, “维稳”;3, “政治体制改革”;4, “文革”;5, “权为民所赋”;6, “决策权,执行权,监督权”;7, “党内民主”;8, “社会建设”;9, “科学发展观”;10, “中国特色社会主义”;比较它们在历次党代大会、特别是文革后7次党代大会政治报告中的表现;分析17大以来5年间这些提法在党报和其他媒体传播中的最新变化;试图通过话语体系,对18大后的政治走向作模式识别。
18大现已召开,胡锦涛已做报告(虽未念全文,只讲了“要点”)。笔者根据收看电视直播的记录,整理出上述10个关键词语在18大报告中的表现如下:

1,“四项基本原则”(包括“毛泽东思想”)。笔者曾说,这个提法,具有极大的政治风向标意义(它们是毛左的旗帜),如两者均被弃用,说明政改号角吹响。如任何一个的出现频率与17大同,或虽然减少依然存在,意味政治发展止步不前。出现频率若再增加,是严重的政治退步信号。
18大报告要点中,“四项基本原则”和“毛泽东思想”均出现了。

2,“维稳”。笔者曾指出,这个烈性口号如在18大被启用,是严重的政治退步信号。
18大报告的要点中,这个词没有出现。

3,“文革”。笔者曾指,2012年,在薄熙来案发后,这个提法的重新启用有特别意义。如果18大报告中出现对文革的反思,是政治改革的积极信号。如果仅在颂扬改革开放历史背景时被一笔带过,意义不大。
18大报告的要点,没有涉及“文革”或“文化大革命”。

4,“政治体制改革”。笔者此前的文章指出,与17大报告比较,正面信号是这一提法被写入报告的章节标题(从13大到16大都写入了章节标题,但17大没有),或出现频率增加,负面信号是频率继续下降。“制约权力,保障权利”这个八字口号如出现,是正面信号。反对政改的“强硬派表述”:如“反对西化、分化”或“五不搞”出现,是负面信号。
18大报告,将“政治体制改革”写入了章节标题,其第五部分的标题是“坚持走中国特色社会主义政治发展道路和推进政治体制改革”,出现频率待统计。“制约权力,保障权利”的八字口号未出现。“反对西化、分化”或“五不搞”也没有出现。但出现了一个新提法:“不走改旗易帜邪路”。

5,“党内三权”(“决策权、执行权、监督权”)。笔者此前的文章认为,观察的关键,是“要建立健全决策权、执行权、监督权既相互制约又相互协调的权力结构,完善监督机制”这段17大报告中已有的话,是否继续出现?“党内三权”的提法如果被弃用,是负面信号。如果具体阐述中增加了三权各自独立运行的含义,是正面信号。
18大,这个提法出现了,但没有增加“各自独立运行”的含义。

6,“权为民所赋”。这是17大后习近平的新提法。笔者认为,在18大政治报告中只要出现,是积极信号。
18大,这个口号没有出现。

7,“社会建设”。笔者曾指,观察的关键,是“扩大基层群众自治范围”这个17大报告已有的提法。这个提法如消失(也并未代之以“社会自治”),是负面信息。
18大报告的要点中,这个提法消失,也没有代之以“社会自治”,而是用“依法自治”。相关段落中还称“完善国家安全战略和工作机制,高度警惕和坚决防范敌对势力的分裂、渗透、颠覆活动,确保国家安全”——这是政法委对“社会管理”的提法。

8,“党内民主”。笔者曾说,这个提法,17大报告的出现频率高,观察18大,频率的变化仍然值得注意,重点是政治报告是否对“公推直选”、“差额选举”等选举制度改革和“党代表常任制”提出明确的推进举措。
收看胡锦涛18大报告“要点”,感觉“党内民主”的出现频率不如17大。他没有提到“差额选举”、“公推直选”、“党代表常任制”。

9,“科学发展观”。笔者曾分析,这一提法在17大报告中出现21次。18大报告中,如果其频率相同或略微下降,是正常的。如果大幅上升,则反应胡在18大后还将延伸其影响力。值得观察的,是18大对“科学发展观”是否有新的定义,如果比此前更强调“以人为本”,使用了《国家人权行动计划(2012-2015年)》中关于公民权利和政治权利的表述,是正面信息。
18大报告,对“科学发展观”浓墨重抹。最重要的是,该提法级别提升,已和“邓小平理论”、“三个代表”并列,成为党的指导思想。在收看直播时,似乎没有听见“人权”、“公民权利”。

10,“中国特色社会主义”。笔者曾分析:这一提法在17大政治报告中出现51次。从18前胡锦涛“7.23”讲话透露的信息看,它将成为邓、江、胡的共用旗号,所以18大它的出现频率一定居高。这个提法居高,是政治力量平衡的产物,未必是政治发展的正面信息。值得观察的,是18大对“中国特色社会主义”的定义,要看18大的定义中,是否还包括“四项基本原则”或“一个中心,两个基本点”(此提法包含了“四项基本原则”)。如果依然包括,说明前景不乐观。
18大可以证实,“中国特色社会主义”将成为邓、江、胡共同旗号。在其定义中,依然有“四项基本原则”。

初步结论: 保守势力依然强大,按照18大报告所确定的路线,中国政治体制改革难有实质推进。

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