Two novels question the stability of the Communist Party as China’s Congress is taking place: NPR

Sullivan, Meghan Collins / NPR The 20th Communist Party Congress is being presented to the world this week by China as an elaborate political performance shrouded in secrecy.

More than 2,000 senior party figures are gathered to elect the next set of leaders, including the new Communist party leader. Despite sporadic pretenses of democratic agreement, the purpose of this party congress is to deliberately convey the opposite: that the current party leader, Xi Jinping, has complete control over all the levers of power as he enters his third term in office.

When observing from a distance, it is simple to get the impression that the party, led by one man, is very much in control. Thanks in great part to a strong system of informational and digital restrictions, dissent in China is at a minimum. The majority of population movement is still heavily restricted by zero-Covid policies. A once-emerging network of media outlets, NGOs, and law firms has been destroyed by the continuous purging of civil society. Despite some internal party strife, Xi still appears poised to install his supporters in positions of authority and so remain committed to the political program of national renewal that Xi asserts has led the party for the past century.

Two recent works cast doubt on the Chinese party state’s perception of inevitability. The Dutch historian Frank Dikötter’s book China After Mao : The Rise of a Superpower details how the party’s hold on information, financial institutions, and political institutions has persisted despite economic waste, ideological inconsistency, environmental damage, and a desire for ruthless despotism.

In other words, the party’s greatest achievement is not that it is all-knowing and all-powerful, but rather that it has been able to maintain power. Instead, its resilience is the result of amazing flexibility to deal with a lengthy list of issues, many of which were self-imposed and would have brought down a less adaptable system. The Communist Party has only had one completely smooth change of power in the past forty years. They have also had to deal with near-bankrupting inflation, fatally repress pro-democracy demonstrations, and manage a disorganized, stop-start mix of capitalist reform and socialist austerity.

The party has not always had top-down control over all political and socioeconomic issues, either. The American historian Julian Gewirtz , the China advisor poet for the Biden administration’s National Security Council, and var viewsCacheL10n = {"admin_ajax_url":"https:\/\/\/wp-admin\/admin-ajax.php","post_id":"1030"};