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Is the CCP About to Rehabilitate the Cultural Revolution?

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Is the CCP About to Rehabilitate the Cultural Revolution?

The official historical narrative – as defined by Xi Jinping – is set to feature prominently at the CCP plenum in November.

Is the CCP About to Rehabilitate the Cultural Revolution?

Chinese waiters dressed like red guards during the Cultural Revolution period perform revolutionary songs and dances at a Cultural Revolution-themed restaurant in Nanjing, in China’s Jiangsu province, on February 6, 2007.

Credit: Depositphotos

There are claims that a new “Resolution on History” may be on the horizon in China. This would revise a previous “Resolution on History” issued under Deng Xiaoping in 1981 criticizing the Cultural Revolution.

“Questions of the party’s historical experience and major successes” and “summarizing the 100-year struggle” will be the focus of the Sixth Plenum of the 19th Party Congress scheduled for November, according to a Xinhua report on August 31.

Following Xinhua, on September 1 privately owned New York-based media company Duowei News claimed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has a third “Resolution on History” in the works, citing unnamed sources “closely involved in party governance.”

There have been two previous “Resolutions on History” (历史决议) since the CCP’s founding. The first was issued in April 1945 at the CCP’s wartime base at Yan’an, Shaanxi province. Mao Zedong forged it as a device to repudiate ideological rivals, consolidate his leadership, and deepen the CCP’s allegiance with Stalin’s Soviet Union.

The Second Resolution on History came in Beijing in June 1981, after 32 years of CCP rule in China. It was passed by Deng Xiaoping at the Sixth Plenum of the 11th Party Congress to denounce the excesses of the Cultural Revolution and even assign blame to Mao as the one “chiefly responsible.”

Given Xi’s repeated castigation of “historical nihilism,” a new “Resolution on History” could apply a more favorable judgement to the early decades of CCP rule, according to Duowei News.

“It is foreseeable that the CCP’s ‘Third Resolution on History’ would cover many controversial events including the Anti-Rightist Movement, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and even the 1989 June 4 Incident,” the article stated.

The claims of an impending “Third Resolution on History” from Duowei come one year out from the 20th Party Congress, when a new Central Committee will be chosen. Xi, however, is expected to stay on as leader, bucking over two decades of tradition, given that he abolished term limits in 2018.

Duowei News is owned by Hong Kong businessman Yu Pun-hoi and specializes in Chinese political news. Despite being blocked within China, the site is mostly supportive of the CCP.

Deng Yuwen, who formerly edited the CCP newspaper Study Times but is now frequently critical of the party, argued that a “Third Resolution on History” is likely in an op-ed for Deutsche Welle Chinese last week.

According to Deng, proposing a “Resolution on History” would be a risky move for Xi, revealing his insecurity, but if successful could help to reinforce his power and address lingering dissatisfaction over his removal of term limits. “Although Xi could completely ignore these questions [over his abolition of term limits] … to do so would undermine him among skeptics in the party, of whom there are more than a few, including at an elite level.”

But with a “Resolution on History,” Deng argued, Xi can emphasize that “with his thinking, line, and leadership, the CCP will … achieve its goals for the second century.”

Xi bypassed an opportunity to issue a “Resolution on History” in 2018 on the 40th anniversary of the Reform and Opening Up policy. “There were voices calling for him to do so, to address some of the social issues that came with the reforms,” the op-ed stated. “But he did not do it then… In this way, the ‘Third Resolution on History’ is not just a review of the 40 years of Reform and Opening Up, but also involves the 100-year history of the Chinese Communist Party.”

The backdrop to the announcement of the Sixth Plenum’s focus on history and “struggle” includes a firebrand essay published in official media earlier in the month, titled “Everyone can sense that a profound transformation is underway.”

The piece, written by ultra-leftist Li Guangman, praised the CCP’s crackdown on what Li described as “capitalist cliques” and “sissyboy celebrities.” It first appeared on an obscure blog but was republished in edited form by outlets including The People’s Daily, the CCP’s official mouthpiece.

Talk of a “Cultural Revolution 2.0” is underway on Chinese discussion forums beyond the reach of China’s censors.

According to Deng Yuwen, a “New Cultural Revolution” is the wrong label for Xi’s program as it ignores the fact that the maintenance of stability remains a high priority.

“A more appropriate description for what Xi thinks he is doing is ‘Creating a Clean Society’,” said Deng in a YouTube broadcast on Tuesday. “He doesn’t want to hand over an ‘unclean’ society to the next generation of the CCP.”