Biden-Xi talk; Full text of the historical resolution
Today’s newsletter is focused on the Biden-Xi virtual meeting and the full text of the historical resolution and so is light on other topics.
The expectations for the Biden-Xi video chat were low and they were met. The fact that they are talking is positive, and it sounds like the September call between the leaders created conditions with the PRC system for lower-level officials to start engaging more constructively on some issues. This latest meeting is likely to do the same.
There have been working-level discussions, mostly run out of the US embassy I hear, and I believe one of the outcomes from this latest meeting is more structured discussions on specific topics, though nothing like the “strategic” dialogues of the earlier Era. This morning National Security Adviser Sullivan mentioned in a talk to the Brookings Institution that the two sides would “look to begin to carry forward discussions on strategic stability”, though he said they would not be like the structured, mature US-Russia talks on that topic.
Talking is better than not talking, and if the leaders can figure out how to put guardrails in place to avoid colliding into conflict (perhaps we need Jersey Barriers too) then that is positive. I do not get the sense that Xi and his team believe their approach to the Biden Administration has been unsuccessful so I would not expect any significant, substantive changes to the tone or the trajectory.
The Chinese side leaked after the meeting that the US and China have reached a deal in allowing more journalists into their respective countries. It is not clear if that means that US journalists who had to leave will be allowed back in, or if they will only approve visas for new reporters.
One thing to watch for is whether state media tone down the vitriol towards the US, and if there is a shift in public opinion management on the Chinese Internet to narrow the scope for anti-US sentiment? Perhaps the former may happen, I would not bet on the latter.
Another question is whether the conventional wisdom that a PRC leader seeks to stabilize US-China relations in the year before a Party Congress will be operative from now until the 20th Party Congress. I have heard arguments that Xi needs to have a stable, constructive US-China relationship to help him achieve his political goals, and I do think that has been the case in prior Party Congress cycles. I am not so sure this time, as we are in the New Era, and Xi has emerged from this Plenum with even greater leadership supremacy, at least some of which I believe has accrued from his approach to dealing with the US, and with the general view from inside his system that the US is in decline.
The full text of the “Resolution of the CPC Central Committee on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century 中共中央关于党的百年奋斗重大成就和历史经验的决议” is out, as is Xi’s explanation of the rationale for the resolution and the process involved in its drafting. The relevant organs released official English translations of both documents, though as always the Chinese-language version is the more important one.
I have read the explanation and skimmed through the resolution, it deserves and will get a closer read.
It is a forward-looking document, more about creating history as summarizing it. Xi’s explainer tells us the official reason for creating this third historical resolution:
The Central Committee considers it important in both a practical and historical sense to have a comprehensive review of the major achievements and historical experience of the Party over the past century as we celebrate its centenary and the fulfillment of the First Centenary Goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and move on toward the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects. This review will help build a broader consensus and stronger unity in will and action among all members and rally and lead Chinese people of all ethnic groups in achieving new and great success in building socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era.
I would be careful in how we interpret what is and what is not in this resolution compared with the prior two, as the resolution itself states:
The Party adopted the Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party at the seventh plenary session of its Sixth Central Committee in 1945 and the Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China at the sixth plenary session of its 11th Central Committee in 1981.
These two resolutions embody a facts-based review of major events in the Party’s history, as well as important experience gained and lessons learned. These documents unified the whole Party in thinking and action at key historical junctures and played a vital guiding role in advancing the cause of the Party and the people. Their basic points and conclusions remain valid to this day.
And Xi’s explainer states:
…the resolution before us needs to focus on the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics along with a brief summary of Party history prior to the 18th National Congress based on existing reviews and conclusions…
The previous two resolutions, along with the Party’s long list of important literature, document the major events, meetings, and figures in Party history prior to its 18th National Congress, and contain well-considered conclusions on historical issues. These points and conclusions are to be upheld in the new resolution.
There is a lot to go through in the full text but I want to start today with a followup to my comments in the November 11 newsletter “6th Plenum Communique and historical resolution”) I wrote that the summary read like a bit of a diminution of Deng Xiaoping’s stature relative to Mao and Xi’s. That newsletter talked a bit about the shifting usage of “leap飞跃“，translated as breakthrough or step in the official English version, and how it was used to describe Mao Zedong Thought and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era but not Deng Xiaoping Theory.