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Self-Reform: The Second Answer to Breaking the Cycle of Rise and Fall

Source: Xi Jinping The Governance of China IV Updated: 2023-12-15

Self-Reform: The Second Answer to Breaking the Cycle of Rise and Fall*

November 11, 2021

Self-reform is key to ensuring our Party never betrays its nature and mission. In my speech at the ceremony marking the centenary of the CPC, I pointed out that the Party has never represented any individual interest group, power group, or privileged stratum. The resolution adopted at this plenary session reiterated that point. This is a response to any attempt to divide our Party from the people or set the people against our Party by those with ulterior motives, and also a reminder to the whole Party that we must remain firm and clearheaded: For whom do we govern, for whom do we exercise power, and for whom do we seek benefit?

Ours is a very large party with 100 years of history, and we have governed this country since 1949. How can we break the historical cycle of rise and fall? Mao Zedong offered the first answer to the question in Yan’an back in 1947. He said, “The government will not dare slacken its effort only under the people’s scrutiny.” Now, after a century of exploring the path, especially with a new approach since the Party’s 18th National Congress in 2012, our Party has given the second answer: by carrying out self-reform.

The courage to engage in self-reform is a distinctive feature that differentiates our Party from other political parties. Mao Zedong said, “Conscientious practice of self-criticism is still another hallmark distinguishing our Party from all other political parties.” It is this character that has enabled our Party to rise time and again at critical moments, to bring order out of chaos after making mistakes, and to become a Marxist party that still stands strong despite setbacks. For any political party, remembering the founding mission and never having a change of heart, even in toughest times, is always the most difficult part.

“Selflessness in governance creates social equity.” Our Party has no interests of its own – this is the source of our courage and strength in self-reform. It is because of this that we have regularly examined our conduct and reflected on mistakes from a purely materialist perspective. It is because of this that we have been able to overcome attempts by individual interest groups, power groups, and privileged strata to corrupt us. We have been able to seek out and punish Party members who have done wrong under the influence of these groups.

Ours is a great party not because we do not make mistakes, but because we never conceal mistakes. We face up to them and reform ourselves. We have upheld truth in the guiding principles, correcting mistakes such as the Right opportunist leadership of Chen Duxiu after the failure of the Great Revolution (1924-1927), the “Leftist” mistakes of rash action and adventurism during the Agrarian Revolutionary War (1927-1937), the “Leftist” dogmatism during Wang Ming’s leadership when the Party was headquartered in Yan’an (19351948), and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) which was completely repudiated after the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee in 1978.

Through the movement to rectify Party conduct in the Yan’an period, the campaigns to improve Party conduct and fight corruption, waste and bureaucratism in the early years of the PRC, the Party-wide rectification and the many education campaigns following the launch of reform and opening up, we have addressed prominent problems of unwholesome thinking, organization and conduct, and lack of political commitment.

We have resolutely fought corruption. Liu Qingshan and Zhang Zishan – two senior Party officials who took large bribes in the early 1950s – were given capital sentences. Prioritizing the battle against corruption and the fight to improve Party conduct since 1978, we have established a framework for preventing and punishing corruption, and forged a strong resistance to corruption among officials.

Since the Party’s 18th National Congress, we have shown unprecedented courage and resolve in implementing full and rigorous self-governance, and developed a complete set of rules and regulations for the Party to cleanse, improve and reform itself. In response to the Seven Malpractices and other prominent problems undermining the Party’s image, authority, and ties with the people, we have enforced strict discipline, supervision, and accountability, and focused on key senior officials to make our Party stronger.

Just as it takes a heavy dose of medicine to treat a serious disease and stringent laws to address disorder, we have been determined to “take out tigers”, “swat flies”, and “hunt down foxes”, removing potential dangers in the Party, the state, and the military even though it means pain for the time being. How many of the world’s political parties can match our resolve and scale in fighting corruption? Some extol the multiparty rule of the West and their separation of powers, refusing to believe that our Party is capable of thorough self-reform. But reality has taught them otherwise.

Our Party has won wide acclaim for its achievements over the past hundred years. We cannot lose ourselves in self-congratulation; we should carry on with self-reform. As an ancient Chinese philosopher said, “One should not be seduced by praise, nor should one fear opprobrium.” All Party members must always be ready for self-reform, and be aware that there is no end to full and rigorous governance of the Party. We must not feel complacent about our progress so far. The major corruption cases recently investigated have warned us that we should never slacken our efforts in improving Party conduct and fighting corruption.

Members of the Central Committee and Party officials at all levels should keep a clear head, and know the real situation regarding the mindset, organization, conduct, and clean governance. We must have the courage to face up to problems and carry out self-reform through vigorous self-examination. If you are sick, go to the doctor. Take medicine if needed, and have surgery if necessary. We will not hold back on punishing corruption. Whoever commits a crime will be investigated and we will turn a blind eye in no case. We will not relent in cleansing the viruses that damage the health of the Party and undermine its progressive and wholesome nature. There will be no leniency for anyone who damages the interests of the country and the people, encroaches upon the Party’s governing foundations, or weakens the socialist state power. There will be no tolerance for anyone trying to form political factions, cliques or interest groups inside the Party.

When we celebrate our centenary, a milestone of success, we must keep alert against the possibility that as an organization we might one day become fragile and feeble. We must not forget the setbacks in our past, or the times we lost our way, or the hard lessons of the governments around the world that have failed due to complacency. We cannot be halfhearted or soft-handed in dealing with our problems – that will only lead to our demise. We should guide social transformation with self-reform and advance self-reform through social transformation, to ensure that the Party continues to exercise strong leadership in building socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era.

* Part of the speech at the second full assembly of the Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee.

(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)