TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Chinese state media is reporting President Xi Jinping forced top party officials to conduct “self-criticisms” in meetings this week.
Xinhua News reports on Dec. 25 and 26, the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo held a Democratic Life Meeting—an organizational review for “collective” decision-making to restore public faith in the party. During the meeting, members were made to carry out a “criticism and self-criticism” session.
Self-criticism was a practice favored by Mao Zedong as a mechanism for both shaming individuals who had done or said thing contrary to core party interests, and realigning their thoughts with party ideals. The sessions often yielded violent results.
Xi Jinping revived the practice after his election to admonish top officials for “formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance” in 2013. During the most recent Democratic Life Meeting, he also encouraged officials to explain how they have taken the lead in implementing his instructions and key party policies to “strengthen and centralize the unified leadership” of the Party Central Committee.
Professor Willy Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong said the timing of the meeting is unusual. He believes it implies some members have done or said things contrary to Xi’s interests, and that there is tension at the top level of China’s government.
The news comes as rumors circulate that the ongoing U.S.-China trade war has unsettled domestic politics. Several reports over the past few months have speculated that top ranking officials are in conflict with Xi over how to handle the situation.
Xi’s campaign to crackdown on corruption among officials is also likely to have stirred tensions.
Xinhua describes that Politburo members first talked with the “relevant comrades in charge” before conducting cross-checks on each other in this week’s meeting, to “achieve more unified thoughts.”
Xi also continued to emphasize the important of “democratic centralism”—a Leninist decision-making process in which decisions are reached collectively but often dictated by those with more power.
The CCP Politburo consists of 25 members, seven of which form the bureau’s Standing Committee—Xi Jinping’s selection of most-trustworthy political allies. Since Xi took power in 2012, however, the Standing Committee’s influence has exponentially decreased, with power becoming more and more centralized around the president himself.