CCP Internal Resilience – post 8 of 10

United we stand

As David Shambaugh pointed out in China's Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation, CCP has expended great effort in analyzing the collapse of the CPSU in 1991.  The principal conclusion is that dissolution comes from dissension at the top. Xi admonished the Party in a December, 2012 speech.  Analyzing the reasons for the fall of CPSU, he saw individuals and factions vying for power, and “nobody was man enough to stand up and resist.”  Xi sees himself as the man to stand up in China now.  Loyalty to Xi is the only test of loyalty to CCP.

For the last forty years, the operating principle at the top has been one of collective leadership.  Members of the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) make policy in different disciplines by chairing various “leading small groups” (lingdao xiaozu) - in foreign affairs, national security, and financial and economic affairs. In the past, the PBSC met once a week and the full Politburo once a month to pass on the major decisions taken by these leading groups.   Mr. Xi has altered the power and meeting schedule of the leading small groups.  This is one way in which collective leadership, which was a way to bring alternate voices to the table and bond senior members of the leadership, has been damaged under Xi.

Below the top, fear is still a great motivator.  If a cadre wants to criticize the leader, or protest the plan, or be obstructionist, and is identified as a threat to the Party, then there is nowhere else to go.  This is literally true.  There are several recent stories of academics being called in to the discipline inspection bureau for having said something unpositive about CCP in class.  The stories include one faculty member begging on his knees to keep his job; others were dismissed.  There is no school, no government unit, no business that will hire a disgraced cadre.  You are blackballed.  Remember the Hotel California lyrics– ‘We are all just prisoners here, of our own devise. You can check out (from CCP) anytime you like; but you can never leave.”  The Weberian model of bureaucracy – rational and impersonal – is supposed to be blind, deaf, and dumb to special interests or favors or even special conditions.  CCP is most certainly not that.  In any case, one should keep one’s head down and go along.  That has its own form of binding energy.

This is unquestionably an important feature of CCP internal governance.  Insubordination is punishable within CCP, completely outside the province of government law.  Cadres fear shuanggui – the demand to appear at a designated time and place for questioning – far more than government arrest.  It is from within the internal CCP adjudication process that come the stories of torture and killings of cadres.

One colleague confided to me that the main reason for CCP members to go along is that they live in fear – fear of crossing some powerful leader with an inadvertent policy judgment, fear of loss of status, fear of being implicated in some now illegal act that was standard operating procedure before Xi.  That fear comes with a decent salary, good benefits, opportunities for advancement and travel, a good apartment or two, at least one car, and a very good middle class life.  This is the great contradiction that most cadres need to mentally resolve.