By Malcolm Moore
03 Mar 2013
BEIJING: The Communist party must improve its conduct or face extinction within a decade, Xi Jinping, China’s next president, has warned, as he prepares for his inauguration.
Thousands of delegates streamed into Beijing over the weekend for the annual political meetings that will, by their close in a fortnight’s time, confirm Mr Xi, 59, as head of state.
But in a speech to cadres in the Chinese capital, Mr Xi once again expressed his preoccupation over the Communist party’s future.
As the Party faces ever-expanding challenges, Mr Xi said, cadres should absorb the lessons of China’s past. “History is the best textbook,” he said.
“You must not be bought by money,” he added, quoting Mencius, the Chinese philosopher born in 372 BC.
The twin threats of waning public confidence and gnawing corruption are now so great that the Party will only make it to its 100th birthday, in eight years time, if “the capabilities of all party members unceasingly continue to strengthen,” he said.
Over the past four months since he became president-elect, Mr Xi has repeatedly expressed his fears over the future. In December, he reportedly told officials in Guangdong that China must heed the “deeply profound” lessons of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse? An important reason was that their ideals and convictions wavered,” Mr Xi said, according to a summary of his comments that was leaked online.
“Finally, all it took was one quiet word from Gorbachev to declare the dissolution of the Soviet Communist Party, and a great party was gone,” Mr Xi reportedly said. “In the end nobody was a real man, nobody came out to resist.”
Even as politicians gathered in Beijing, a new dispute rumbling in the far south of China illustrated once again that rural Chinese are well aware of their rights and prepared to fight for them.
Just over 60 miles away from Wukan, where protests at the end of 2011 saw the local Communist party and police chased away, the village of Shangpu was surrounded by a police blockade while residents chanted for a change of government.
The villagers told the news agency Agence France Presse that the local government would not attack them during the political meetings in Beijing.
The two-week conclave in the capital involves two separate meetings. One, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which started on Sunday, draws celebrities such as the former basketball player Yao Ming and the actor Jackie Chan, as well as many of China’s business tycoons, to give “advice” on how best to run the country.
The other, the National People’s Congress, which begins on Tuesday, can best be understood as China’s parliament. Its members will rubber-stamp a series of proposals, including this year a reorganisation of various government ministries and the inauguration of Mr Xi’s administration.
Almost 800,000 Chinese voted on what the People’s Congress should address this year, with almost a fifth saying that more social security was needed, followed by a greater anti-corruption drive.