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Central Political and Legal Work Conference: The Chinese Communist Party Does Not Feel Safe

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Hu Zimo | Bitter Winter

Reading between the lines of the important meeting, it appears that the Communist Party is expecting in 2022 “infiltration, subversion, and sabotage.”

The yearly conference on Central Political and Legal Work, which concluded on January 16, is an important meeting for the Chinese Communist Party, and normally indicates priorities in the field of security and law enforcement. President Xi Jinping sent “instructions” to the conference, which were delivered by Guo Shenkun, a member of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee. The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission (CPLAC) published a summary of the conference, which was said to have reached four points of consensus.

“Consensus 1: We should pay attention to summing up the effective exploration of the political and legal fronts since the 19th Congress of the CCP.” This consensus was articulated in “ten explorations,” aimed at identifying the areas in which Xi Jinping and the CCP offered specially important instructions that CCP cadres and security personnel need to carefully study and implement. 

The first is the omnipresent “Xi Jinping’s thought on the rule of law,” a legal philosophy based on the submission of the law to the CCP (rather than vice versa) that Bitter Winter has repeatedly presented to its readers. The second is to study and promote the “Regulations on the Political and Legal Work of the CCP,” which tightened the control of top leaders on rank-and-file CCP members.

The third is “to fight proactively in key areas and explore new ways to help safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests.” One “key area” identified is the need to “promote the implementation of the National Security Law in Hong Kong, stop violence and chaos, and restore order in Hong Kong.” The fourth is “to implement a special campaign to safeguard national political security, and explore new ways to effectively prevent and resolve political security risks.” CCP cadres and security officers should “not only build an iron wall to prevent foreign hostile forces from infiltrating, subverting, and sabotaging, but also strive to eradicate the soil that affects political security within the country.”

The fifth is “to win the three-year special campaign against gangsterism and evil, and explore new ways to improve the social security ecology.” “Gangsterism” indicates corruption but also everything the CCP perceives as a threat to social stability. The sixth is “to carry out pilot projects for the modernization of social governance in the city areas, and explore new ways to speed up the modernization of the social governance system and governance capacity.” Once again, the CCP mentions the infamous “Fengqiao Experience,” a Mao-era strategy of terrorizing opponents through public punishment and inciting citizens to spy on their neighbors.

The seventh is “to comprehensively deepen the reform in the field of politics and law, and explore new ways to improve the socialist political and legal system with Chinese characteristics.” This includes a warning to these judges who do not understand that their role is to promote the interests and agenda of the CCP. The eight is “to help the high-quality development of the economy and society, and explore a new way for political and legal services to protect the overall situation of the CCP and the country,” which also includes “active” (sometimes called “wolf warrior”) diplomacy abroad.

The ninth is “to speed up the development of a political and legal network dealing with the new media, and explore new ways to win the active battle of ideological struggle in these fields.” Xi Jinping has repeatedly indicated that the “online ideological battle” has not yet been won, and more control of the Internet and social media is needed. The tenth is “to carry out the education and rectification of the national political and legal team, and explore a new way of self-revolution on the political and legal front.” 

After the Fengqiao Experience, another Mao-era reference often quoted by Xi Jinping is introduced here, the Yan’an Rectification Movement, a bloody purge Mao carried out between 1942–44. There is even a certain mysticism in these references, as Xi calls for a “self-revolution,” which is the CCP secularized view of the traditional Chinese religious notion of self-cultivation.

“Consensus 2: We must confront the complex situation faced by political and legal work.” The CPLAC notes that “the world has entered a period of turbulent transformation,” which also affects China. “External forces” are now “a  major threat,” and require a strategy of “containment, counter-hegemony, anti-infiltration, and counter-subversion.” These forces try to use the COVID-19 epidemic to weaken China, whose economy is not as strong as it used to be because of international factors, such as global inflation, but also of domestic factors, such as the explosion of high-risk bubbles generated by the dangerous activities of misguided businesspersons. 

“The infiltration and subversion activities of hostile forces, the CPLAC laments, have been continuously integrated and upgraded. Undercurrents are surging in the ideological realm. The surrounding security situation has become more and more variable, and the situation of violent terrorist separatist forces promoted abroad to create trouble in China is worsening. The situation of the anti-separatist struggle involving Xinjiang and Tibet is complicated, and affects the security of the whole country.” Controlling what is said on social media and the Internet on these issues is an enormously difficult task.

“Consensus 3: The CCP needs in-depth study of critical topics in political and legal theory and practice.” Once again, the solution to all problems is to study Xi Jinping’s texts. CCP cadres will find there the idea of “mass prevention and control” as “a magic weapon for political and legal work to overcome the enemy and win.” They will also learn from Xi Jinping’s texts that there will be no mass control until the CCP achieves a total control of the Internet.

“Consensus 4: We must do a good job in the major tasks of this year’s political and legal work.” This may look like a platitude, but in fact refers to a laundry lists of areas where the routine of surveillance and control should continue, including xie jiao and “illegal” religion.

What does this conference tell us about the climate within the CCP? With the Beijing Olympics approaching, and new COVID-19 outbreaks threatening the CCP narrative that China has won the COVID war, the Party does not feel safe. It believes it is under attack by an international conspiracy that has made the narrative of genocide and cultural genocide about Xinjiang and Tibet, and gross human rights violations in Hong Kong and everywhere else, very difficult to overcome internationally. 

The threat of “infiltration, subversion, and sabotage” is agitated to keep public security vigilant, but on the other hand the CCP is really afraid that its control is not as total as it should be—particularly because, as Xi Jinping keeps repeating, the total control of the Internet is very difficult and has not been achieved yet.

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