Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Chinese Communist Party's Working Style: Reflections on the "Work Regulations of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China" [中国共产党中央委员会工作条例]

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"Armed with Marxist-Leninist theory and ideology, the Communist Party of China has brought a new style of work to the Chinese people, a style of work which essentially entails integrating theory with practice, forging close links with the masses and practicing self-criticism. . . . Twenty-four years of experience tell us that the right task, policy and style of work invariably conform with the demands of the masses at a given time and place and invariably strengthen our ties with the masses, and the wrong task, policy and style of work invariably disagree with the demands of the masses at a given time and place and invariably alienate us from the masses. The reason why such evils as dogmatism, empiricism, commandism, tailism, sectarianism, bureaucracy and an arrogant attitude in work are definitely harmful and intolerable, and why anyone suffering from these maladies must overcome them, is that they alienate us from the masses. " (Mao Zedong, "On Coalition Government" in III Selected Works (24 April 1945) p. 314 (Report to the Chinese Communist Party 7th Congress).

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One cannot truly understand a political-economic model, and especially the moral normative principles through which they see the world and give effect to the way in which they organize the reality experienced around them except through a study of their self organization.  How a state sees itself as a moral-operational being, how it constructs the structures of its collective singularity (eg, the "state," the "nation," the "people", the "vanguard", etc), helps one understand the framework through which the governing culture perceives the world, and responds t it.  It helps understand how it values benefit, and how it recognizes threat.  It helps understand the relation between the individual and the collective.  And it is fundamental to the understanding of the meaning of rights and duties in relation to the state and the objectives for which the state is organized. The legitimacy of political authority, the politics of politics, then, is expressed in the rules, often arcane but potent, of the organization of administrative and political power. Process and administrative organization, then, is the means through which a political community expresses its values and organizes power in relation to the theory (national political morals--distinguishing between what s "correct" and what s "error") which gives that power distribution legitimacy.

This post briefly considers the revised "Work Regulations of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China" [中国共产党中央委员会工作条例] (Deliberated and approved at the CCP Central Committee Politburo meeting of 28 September 2020, and issued on 30 September 2020 by the CCP Central Committee) in light of its deep embedding within the quite strict requirements for Party Working Style in the CPC's Constitution (to which reference is made, of course, in Article 1 of the Revised Work Regulations). To that end I will use (with thanks) the English translation provided by China Copyright and Media.



It has long been a core premise of Chinese Leninism that meeting objectives is the start but hardly the end of the project of governing as a vanguard political element responsible for moving the nation toward the establishment of a communist society. More than that is required. "Comrades! Now that we understand our tasks and the policies for accomplishing them, what should be our attitude in carrying out these policies and performing these tasks?" ((Mao Zedong, "On Coalition Government" supra). The working style of the Party, that is the way in which it organizes its operations to give political effect to process and to ensure an alignment between process and ideology, remains a central element of Chinese Leninist theory (one can argue about the sometimes wider and sometimes narrower gulfs between theory and practice under the leadership of core leadership personalities since 1949). Indeed, the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party emphasizes that this is a political-moral imperative and central to its leadership responsibility as the national vanguard.

 To lead the Chinese people of all ethnic groups to achieve the two centenary goals and realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation, the Communist Party of China must . . . strengthen its long-term governance capacity, its advanced nature, and its purity; and, in the spirit of reform and innovation, make comprehensive moves to press ahead with the great new project of Party building. . . . It must uphold the principle that the Party builds itself in the interests of, and exercises governance for, the people, and see that its fine traditions and positive work style continue to thrive. It must constantly work to improve the way it exercises leadership and governance and strengthen its ability to resist corruption, prevent moral decline, and withstand risks. It must constantly strengthen its ability to purify, improve, reform, and excel itself. (Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party; General Program).

This, like Marxist Leninist ideology itself, is a dynamic process that requires adjustment to suit the times but always true to the core responsibilities and principles of both Marxism (the establishment of a communist society) and Leninism (the preeminent role of the vangurad Party as the hub, the core of leadership, through which politics is exercised). "The Party must adapt to developments and changing circumstances, improving its leadership system and style of leadership and strengthening its capacity for governance." (Ibid.). 

It merits study, then, when one of the more central elements of the core of Party leadership  reforms (if ever slightly) its own working style.  One ought to study it both for its terms and more importantly, to its fidelity to the core principle that work style is a fundamental political expression of the Chinese Leninist mass line as an essential element of the self criticism necessary to guard the core of leadership against "dogmatism, empiricism, commandism, tailism, sectarianism, bureaucracy and an arrogant attitude in work are definitely harmful and intolerable" (Mao Zedong, "On Coalition Government" supra).

And, indeed,  in the face of the current CPC Line  structured around "top level design" in economic and societal matters . This was made claear in the 14th Five-Year Plan (FYP) (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the 2035 Long-Range Objectives (中共中央关于制定国民经济和社会发展第⼗四个五年规划和⼆〇三五年远景⽬标的建议, ZhongGong Zhongyang Guanyu Zhiding Guomin Jingji He Shehui Fazhan Di Shisi Ge Wunian Guihua He ErLingSanWu Nian Yuanjing Mubiao De Jianyi), the official communique on which stressed that “Experience has repeatedly indicated that with comrade Xi Jinping as the core of the “central party authorities” (中央, Zhongyang) and with the core of the party being the “navigator and helmsman” (领航掌舵, linghang zhangduo) … we can definitely win over various difficulties and impediments on the road ahead” (Xinhua, October 29; Cpc.people.com.cn, October 29). (quoted from the analysis in Willy Wo-Lap Lam, “Helmsman” Xi Jinping primed to rule at least until the early 2030s," China Brief (3 November 2020) for the Jamestown Foundation ("The Fifth Plenary Session of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Central Committee, which took place from October 26 – 29, has elevated the status of President and CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping to that of Helmsman, a title once reserved only for the late Chairman Mao Zedong. . . . Mao’s title can be translated as “Great Helmsman” (伟大的舵手, weida de duoshou). In comparison, Xi’s new title might more literally be translated as “core navigator and helmsman” (核心领航掌舵,hexin linghang zhangduo).").

 The "Work Regulations of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China" [中国共产党中央委员会工作条例] serve as a baseline for giving content to the expression of "correct" power and the working style that is appropriate to a Leninist vanguard. While a number of variations were possible, one learns much from that variation chosen for the New Era: a top down structure in which the democratic elements are carefully guided under the leadership of the core, built around an endlessly replicated binary of Hub-spoke; mass-leader; center-periphery. This core principle of organization serves as the core organizing principle of New Era Chinese Leninism and its implications are quite profound. First it is a deceptively simple system core. The hub-spoke model can be adjusted to every level of government. It can be used to organize China's internal and external relations (most successfully China's Belt and Rad Initiative); it is as well an easy instrument through which to organize law systems (including the social credit system that is reflected brilliantly by this model). It is also a means of managing democratic expression (the mechanisms of the mass line) by embedding it within the parameters of Leninist vanguard leadership-guidance. The model applies not just between the vanguard and the masses, but also within the party up the hierarchy of leadership to its (1) center; (2) core; and ultimately (3) helmsman navigator. It applies as well to the way that China (as the leadership center) sees and apples its role in the world.

Chapter 1 (Articles 1-4) contain the general provisions of the Work Regulations.  

Article 1 situates the regulations within the framework of the Communist Party's constitution, and thus centering the political and ideological elements of what is to follow.  AT the same time that alignment provides the measure against which the regulations might be held to account, as well as actions undertaken thereunder. That this is rarely done is no excuse; that the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection may not view its duty as focused in this direction does not make those responsibilities any less important, whether they are realized now or in the future.  But realized they must be if the CPC itself expects to undertake its core Basic Line requirements for leadership working style. 

Article 2 situates the Central Committee between the National Congress and the Central Committee  and the Politburo and its Standing Committee elected by the Central Committee. That pyramid is not just a pyramid of power but of frequency of meeting--the National Congress meets every five years, the Central Committee effectively annually,  the Politburo monthly and its Standing Committee weekly.  Frequency tends to augment the position of each institution relative to the other; and together they constitute the spokes of Party power that emerge from out of the core of leadership of the CPC which sits at the center--its 核心领航掌舵. This hub and spoke model is then replicated throughout the organization of Chinese political, societal and economic organs.  It is replicated again in China's Going Out initiatives--including the Belt and Road Initiative. It is the core of the CPC's working style. 

Articl3 3 then turns to the normative source of Central Committee power. These replicate and augment the normative sources specified as part of the CPC Basic Line in its Constitution. Most interesting is its reinforcement of the hub abd spoke working style: " it does not forget its original intention, keeps its mission firmly in mind, assumes all responsibility for the entire picture, coordinates all sides, and unites and leads the entire Party, the entire military, the entire country and the people of all ethnicities in the untiring struggle to comprehensively construct a strong, modern Socialist country, and realize the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation with a firm and correct political position and political direction." 

Article 4 then lists the six core principles that guide the political work of the Central Committee; these are extracted from the General Program of the CPC's Constitution. The emphasis, again, is on the "Party at the center," implementing the CPC Basic Line, maintaining strict discipline and ensuring the continued status of the Party as the vanguard of forces as well as its ideological purity. 

Chapter II then considers the role of the Central Committee near the core of leadership of the CPC. 

Article 5 explicitly references the hub and spoke model at the center of the CPC political model: "The Central Committee, the Politburo, and the Politburo Standing Committee are the brains and central axis of the Party’s organizational system, they grasp the orientation, plan the overall picture, direct policy and stimulate reform in the undertaking of advancing Socialism with Chinese characteristics." It also makes explicit the role of the Party center in deciding and resolving major issues.  But again, the relationship among the three is made explicit as well, each brings one closer to the core of leadership, though together they constitute the center of leadership

Article 6 then specifies the ideological placement of the Central Committee within this architecture and in relation to the core current New Era projects--the China Dream and the like. Article 7 then specifies two things.  The first is the constitution of the spokes of the Leninist wheel: "[a]ll levels’ Peoples Congresses, governments, consultative conferences, supervision bodies, judicial bodies, procuratorate bodies and armed forces, all democratic parties and non-party affiliated persons, people’s organizations, enterprise and undertaking work units, grass-roots mass self-governance organizations, social organizations, etc." The second is that is specifies the nature of the relationship between the masses (the spokes) and the center (the hub): they "must all consciously accept the leadership of the Party Centre." This is again emphasized in Article 8 that commands all organizations of the CPC and its cadres to serve, emulate, uphold the authority of, and maintain a high degree of consistency with the Party Center.  Not just the Party Ceter, of course, but more pointedly, its "united leadership."  Yet in the process of creating this hub and spoke architecture, one wonders what role for democratic centralism, except under the direction of the core of leadership; and one wonders of the role of emancipating the mind except under the leadership not just of the CPC (that is the core relationship with the masses) but for CPC cadres under the leadership of the center.  For each level of the party, however, the core and the center will be differently defined. 

Chapter III (Articles 9-13) then turn to the matter of leadership systems in the manifestation of an ideologically pure working style.

Article 9 speaks to the constitution of the Central Committee and the election of its members. Article 10 then touches on the core of leadership and its constitution--the Politburo, its Standing Committee and the General Secretary--now the navigator and helmsman of the Party. Article 11 then focuses on the sensitive position of the Central Military Commission and Article 12 of the Central Discipline Inspection Committee.  Together these form the leadership center, with the general secretary at its core. 

Having defined the leadership center (and its core) and within the fundamental principle of hub and spoke at the center of Chinese Leninist organizational theory, Artice 13 then describes the power of the Party Center. In the process it organizes political power through process and organizational hierarchy through which the mass line and other principles of Leninist organizational vulture might eb realized, but subordinate to the political framework the essence of which now the political ideology of Leninism. The Ceter is "responsible for top-level design, comprehensive planning and coordination, overall advance and supervision of implementation in related major work areas," for the establishment of working bodies, and designating Party groups to represent the CPC within the state administrative apparatus and within the structures of Chinese consultative democracy (specially the CPPCC, the courts and the procuratorates).

Chapter IV (Articles 14-18) specifies the powers of the leadership center. Chapter V (Articles 19-22) Leadership Center methods.These follow traditional Chinese Leninism, with broad grants of power, most of which are delegated up the chain to the Politburo (Article 15) and from there to its Standing Committee (Article 16). It is the shortest enumeration that is the post potent.  Article 17 provides "The Central Committee General Secretary is responsible for convening the meetings of the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee, and chairs the work of the Central Secretariat." and Article 18 then constitutes a Central Secretariat that carries out the instructions of each but again subject to the hub and spoke principle of leadership. 

Leadership methods mirror Chinese New Era Leninism. There is an emphasis on Socialist Rule of Law emphasized in the last several National Congresses (Article 19); it exercises political leadership in accordance with the Leninist principles in the CPC Constitution (Article 20 ("It strengthens ideological leadership, and uses Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era to arm the entire Party and educate the people. It strengthens leadership in demeanour, and concentrates the Party’s hearts, the military’s hearts and the people’s hearts with the force of formidable truths and the force of human dignity. ")). It specifies the working style inherent in the role of the leadership center as the hub (Article 21 ("assumes responsibility of the entire picture and coordinates all sides, it ensures that the entire Party, the entire military, the entire country and the people of all ethnicities advance together with united determination, united actions and in step")). And, of course, the leadership center has primary responsibility for ensuring the purity and forward movement of the core obligation of the vanguard of social forces it represents--the guidance of the nation toward the establishment of a communist society (Article 22 (" leads the entire Party in a magnificent self-revolution and a magnificent social revolution with a high sense of responsibility, a strong worrying mentality, and a dauntless revolutionary spirit, incessantly promoting the advance of the magnificent undertaking of Socialism with Chinese characteristics in a new era")). 

Chapter VI (Articles 23-30) touch on matters of "decisions and arrangements." These include the principles of collective leadership through which the leadership center is supposed to work.  The provision is likely to be ignored in practice more than it should be as it expresses the core of Chinese Leninism that constituted the essence of the Chinese characteristics of Leninist working style: "principles of collective leadership, democratic centralism, individual fermentation, and decisions by meetings." The challenges of embedding these within the structures of the hub and spoke model remain to be developed within Chinese New Era Theory to the extent necessary to move the CPC forward toward the realization of the fundamental objectives of this era. It does, however, echo much that was written by Hu Angang early in the leadership of Xi Jinping--perhaps suggesting a rehabilitation and recentering of those insights (Cf. Article 23). It speaks as well to the organization of meetings of each of the institutions of the Party leadership Center and the punishment of its members. Most interesting s the shared power, exercised under the Guidance of the General Secretary, to "convene meetings, to research policy decisions, and arrange and coordinate major work in relevant area" (Article 29).  Like the use of executive orders by the US Presidents, the use of these bodies has been a hallmark of the working style of the present General Secretary. Lastly Article 30 transposes the mass line pattern to the highest levels of Party organization. 

Chapter VII (Articles 31-33) treats issues of "self-construction."  Again, the emphasis is on the construction of the center of the Hub --the "Two Upholds" (uphold the central party leadership and uphold the center of that leadership) and of the responsibilities of senior leaders in the assertion of their leadership.  Lastly Chapter VIII (Supplementary Provisions) vest the interpretation of the regulations in the Central Committee General office (Article 34). Of course that means under the guidance of the leadership core, but this is understood.  Lastly Article 35 touch on the effective date of the provisions. 

Taken as a whole, the Regulations, as revised, suggest a New Era iteration of, and a return to (as in so many other areas of New Era thinking) core Maoist approaches to Leninism but applied to contemporary contexts and more systemically coherent.  In particular, one might read the revisions as an updating and application (the refining of working style as principle and practice)  of the "four obediences" (四个服从): subordinate the individual to the organization, the minority to the majority, the lower to the higher level and the membership to the Central Committee.  The Online Party School describes it as follows.

“四个服从”是党的民主集中制原则的重要内容之一,是党的纪律建设的核心内容,是在六届六中全会上首先提出来的。它的具体内容是:党员个人服从党的组织;少数服从多数;下级组织服从上级组织;全党各级组织和全体党员服从党的全国代表大会和中央委员会。四个服从既反映了民主,又体现了集中,是党内生活秩序的总概括,是正确处理党内各种关系的基本准则,其实质是少数服从多数,其核心是全党各级组织和全体党员服从党的全国代表大会和中央委员会。七大以后的历届党的代表大会通过的党章中,都强调了这一组织纪律原则,并不断加以补充、发展和完善。(中共北京市委党校研究生部 师霞)(什么是党的“四个服从”纪律要求?)[The "four obediences" are one of the important contents of the party's democratic centralism principle and the core content of the party's discipline construction. It was first proposed at the Sixth Plenary Session of the Sixth Central Committee. Its specific content is: individual party members obey the party's organization; minority obey the majority; lower-level organizations obey higher-level organizations; all party organizations at all levels and all party members obey the party's National Congress and Central Committee. The four obediences reflect both democracy and concentration. They are the general summary of the order of life within the party and the basic norms for correctly handling various relationships within the party. The essence of the four obediences is that the minority obeys the majority. All party members obey the party’s National Congress and the Central Committee. The party constitutions adopted by successive party congresses since the Seventh National Congress have emphasized this principle of organizational discipline and have been continuously supplemented, developed, and improved. (Shi Xia, Graduate School of the Beijing Municipal Party School of the Communist Party of China)]
Note the connection between the hub ad spoke model, and democratic centralism. In a sense then, what has been done is to rework Mao Zedong’s 1938 vision of democratic centralism as the core building block of state and Party organization to suit the times. That suitability provides a basis for the construction of a interlocking model of guided discussion from the top (the New Era Mass Line) with discipline that looks to the center for leadership whose guidance is mandatory. This adds an important additional characteristic to the notion of "Centering" starting with the Leninist principle of the Party at the Center. Centerism appears to be the core principle of the New Era. And its implications for Leninism with Chinese characteristics in the New Era--for however long the New Era (the current historical stage of Chinese development) lasts.

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