The date of the Eighteenth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party was announced on 28 September 2012 following the Seventh Plenary Session of the Seventeenth Party Congress in Beijing and on the eve of an extended ten-day holiday marking the 1 October National Day.
In the formal celebration of 1 October, the Party congratulated itself on the successes achieved by travelling the ‘Chinese Path’ 中国道路, a formulation that has now replaced the sometimes-favoured ‘China Model’ 中国模式, a topic of contention among theorists and China analysts for some time. The People’s Daily editorial marking the 1 October festival was titled ‘Advance Along the Chinese Path that is Brimming With Hope‘ 奋进在充满希望的中国道路上–庆祝中华人民共和国成立63周年.
As for the Party Congress, it will be held on 8 November, a mere two days after the US Presidential election. As speculation mounted about the date of the Congress, the new line-up of leaders, the fate of Bo Xilai, the state of the Chinese economy, the Sino-Japanese contretemps in the realm of Party thinking and propaganda a new milestone was reaffirmed. The Scientific View of Development 科学发展观, the overall Hu Jintao-era guiding policy formulation that ostensibly emphasises sustainable development, social welfare, a Party-ordained humanistic society, relatively increased democracy and the unavoidable ‘Harmonious Society’, was further enshrined as a ‘banner’ or 旗号. By doing so Hu’s stable of thinkers were saying that Scientific Development not only claimed a purchase on the decade-long Hu era, but also was gaining a foothold on whatever plans his successors might have.
The Mao Zedong-era ‘theoretical banner’ is still celebrated as Mao Zedong Thought 毛泽东思想, that is a body of thinking developed by Mao, theoreticians and other Party leaders as part of the endeavour to adapt creatively what is regarded in the People’s Republic as the universal truths of Marxism-Leninism to China’s concrete reality. Deng Xiaoping‘s further contribution, which to all intents and purposes undid much of High Maoist thinking and policy is known as Deng Xiaoping Theory 邓小平理论. Jiang Zemin, Party leader during the 1990s is famed for supporting theoreticians who summed up his rule with the ‘Three Represents’ 三个代表. Hu Jintao‘s ‘brand legacy’ is the Scientific View of Development.
Now that the date for the upcoming Congress has been announced, the party-state propaganda-PR industry has geared up to welcome it (and its preordained success) with various forms of mass adulation and displays of celebration. Approved slogans, songs, TV shows, news items, vocabulary lists have been drawn up with meticulous (and eye-glazing) care and issued through the Party’s media and information apparatus. These will be iterated and reiterated well into November. A sample selection of visual pre-celebrations can be seen below. Images may be enlarged with a click of the mouse.
Source: Duowei News.
For a commentary on the ‘banners’ and a statistical analysis of their rise and fall in official pronouncements, see Qian Gang’s 钱钢 essay ‘Pride and Positioning‘ (28 September 2012), produced under the aegis of the China Media Project 中國傳媒研究計劃, Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong.
Qian makes the case that, although the Scientific View of Development first came to prominence at the Seventeenth Party Congress in 2007, it is possible that amidst concerns about future leaders wavering in their support for the panoply of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Thought-Deng Theory-Jiang Three Represents, Hu and his supporters are attempting to bestow upon the Scientific View of Development catechism a theoretical authority that will shape, and limit, future policy and intellectual options.
As Qian, a long-term and tireless analyst of the official Chinese media noted in ‘Pride and Positioning’:
During the first half of 2012, there were 571 articles in the People’s Daily that used the Scientific View of Development, down substantially from the same period in 2011. But as the Eighteenth National Congress drew closer this year, Hu seemed more intent on raising the pitch of his legacy term.
On 23 July 2012, Hu Jintao delivered a speech at a special forum attended by provincial-level leaders. In this speech, the relative frequencies of the four Party-banner terms were different from what we saw in his Ninetieth anniversary speech. Mao Zedong Thought was mentioned just once, while Deng Xiaoping Theory and the Three Represents were each given three mentions. The surprise was Hu’s Scientific View of Development, which came in with six mentions (plus three additional mentions of the shortened term ‘scientific development’).
In his speech, Hu Jintao resoundingly affirmed China’s accomplishments in the decade since the Sixteenth National Congress, saying it had made ‘historical achievements and progress’ chiefly because of the ‘formation and implementation of the Scientific View of Development’ under the guiding ideas of Mao, Deng and Jiang.
Hu Jintao’s exact words were:
The full and serious fulfillment of the Scientific View of Development remains a long-term, difficult task, and it faces a range of tensions and hardships that will be very challenging. We must, with greater resolve, more effective measures and an improved system, fully implement the Scientific View of Development. [We must] truly transform the Scientific View of Development into a powerful force driving the better and more rapid development of our economy and society.
In the wake of Hu’s speech, the People’s Daily ran a series of articles explicating it — explaining its ‘spirit’, as this is called in Party jargon. On 31 July 2012, an article called ‘Deeply Grasping the Major Importance of the Scientific View of Development’ offered a detailed review of Hu Jintao’s qihao. One week later, on 6 August, People’s Daily Online ran an article by Liu Yunshan, the Party’s propaganda chief. The article said China must ‘more conscientiously take the road of the Scientific View of Development’. This wave of pro-Hu propaganda suggested that the Scientific View of Development was not just a ‘guiding principle’, or zhidao sixiang [指导思想], but in fact was a fundamental policy to be put into full effect for the foreseeable future, even in the face of ‘hardship’. The context — and let’s not forget how sensitive the Party is to context — implied that the Scientific View of Development is a policy that will define how China handles its business for the next ten years.
The Scientific View of Development symbolizes Hu Jintao’s political power. Affirming this term means affirming Hu’s ten years of leadership; strongly emphasizing it signals his lingering influence. For this reason, we can look at how the Scientific View of Development appears at the 18th National Congress as an important indicator.
The 1 October 2012 People’s Daily Editorial mentioned above sums up the abiding importance of the Scientific View of Development in the following way (with an emphasis on ‘development’):
Meanwhile, Qian Gang is keeping a close watch on the particular (and powerful) keywords or watchwords 提法 of Party thought since it is this lexicon of power that determines the parameters of Chinese politics and possibility. In the lead-up to the Eighteenth Party Congress, Qian has been tracing the rise and fall of various formulations and is providing a forensic analysis of the struggles within the battlefield of linguistic usage as they develop in 2012. For details, see the bibliography, with links, below.—Geremie R. Barmé
For more on keywords, watchwords or formulations 提法 in the Party lexicon, see:
- Geremie R. Barmé, ‘New China Newspeak 新华文体‘, in The China Story Lexicon.
- China Media Project 中國傳媒研究計劃, HKU.
- Qian Gang, ‘Watchwords: Reading China Through its Party Vocabulary‘, 2012.
- Qian Gang, ‘Watchwords: the Life of the Party‘, 10 September 2012.
- 钱钢,《10个关键词语里的十八大》引言, 18 September 2012.
- Qian Gang, ‘Will a New Watchword be Born?‘, 21 September 2012.
- Qian Gang, ‘Pride and Positioning‘, 28 September 2012.
- Michael Schoenhals, Doing Things with Words in Chinese Politics: Five Studies, China Research Monograph, Berkeley, CA: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1992.
For background reading on Party slogans and official celebrations, as well as ‘unified calibre’ 统一口径 (guidelines for staying ‘on message’) propaganda in the People’s Republic, see:
- Anne-Marie Brady, Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China, Boulder, Co.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.
- Chang-tai Hung, Mao’s New World: Political Culture in the Early People’s Republic, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011.
- Sang Ye and Geremie R. Barmé, ‘Thirteen National Days, a retrospective‘, China Heritage Quarterly, Issue 17 (March 2009).
For a recent article that argues that the Hu-era Scientific View of Development is the perfection of the Chinese adaptation of Marxism in the modern era, see:
- 宋福范, 《中国特色社会主义理论体系是当代中国的马克思主义》, Central Party School Journal (June 2012).