The Politburo met on Friday (May 27) and deliberated the Regulation on Political Consultation Work of the Communist Party of China (see below for the translation of the meeting readout).
What is "political consultation" work?
The Communist Party refers to the running of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) system as "political consultation work". Political consultation work is part of the broader united front effort to influence non-Communist Party elites.
CPPCC bodies are advisory bodies without decision-making powers. They exist at the national as well as local levels. To illustrate, Shanghai has its municipal-level CPPCC while Pudong New Area has its district-level CPPCC.
Members of the CPPCC bodies include retired Communist Party cadres, leaders from the eight officially recognised minor political parties allied to the CCP, and non-party-affiliated social and economic elites.
According to the Chinese government:
The CPPCC is an organization of the Chinese people’s patriotic united front, serving as a key mechanism for multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC. The CPPCC plays a major role in promoting socialist democracy in China. It is an important channel and specialized body for socialist consultative democracy, a key component of the state governance system, and a distinctively Chinese political institution.
In drawing the non-Communist Party elite into the political system, the Party has three main aims. First, it wants to concot democratic legitimacy by creating an appearance that a broad section of Chinese society is represented by the state's political institutions.
Second, it wants to forestall dissent and opposition by having influential non-Party forces within the system rather than without. In exchange for their cooperation, members of the CPPCC are given political recognition, access to officials (ie., influence) and opportunities for material rewards (eg., access to markets, government contracts, etc).
Third, the Party wants to draw on the expertise, overseas connections and social prestige of non-Communist Party elites to advance aims such as socio-economic development and influencing domestic and international public opinion.
New regulation in context
While the full text of the new regulation has not yet been made public, it comes in the context of the the revitalisation of the united front under Xi Jinping.
The importance of the Party's united front work declined following its consolidation of power in the 1950s. The relationship between the Communist Party and China's old elite turned decisively from co-optation to marginalisation and prosecution.
The importance of united front work start to rebound in the 1990s due to the proliferation of new social groupings, professions and identities resulting from the profound social, economic and technological transformations of the post-Mao era.
Under Xi, the united front system is undergoing a renewal both in terms of hardware (organisation and budget) and software (theories and regulations). In 2017/2018, we saw a major organisational restructuring and streamlining of the united front system. This was followed in January 2021 by the publication of the Regulation on United Front Work of the Communist Party of China, which was a milestone.
In a new era epitomised by online celebrities, rising religiosity and tech entrepreneurs, co-optation, influence and social legitimation have acquired added importance and urgency for the Communist Party. This is the context in which the Politburo deliberated the Party's new regulation on political consultation work.
中共中央政治局召开会议 审议《中国共产党政治协商工作条例》 中共中央总书记习近平主持会议
The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee convened a meeting and deliberated the Regulation on Political Consultation Work of the Communist Party of China. The General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, Xi Jinping, presided over the meeting.
Xinhua (Beijing), May 27 — The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee [hereafter "Politburo"] convened a meeting on May 27 and deliberated the Regulation on Political Consultation Work of the Communist Party of China. The General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, Xi Jinping, presided over the meeting.
The Politburo pointed out that political consultation is an important component of the system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China; it is an important process of the socialist consultative democracy; and it is an important means of pooling wisdom, driving consensus and promoting scientific and democratic decision-making.
Formulating the Regulation on Political Consultation Work of the Communist Party of China is significant for:
— strengthening the Party's leadership of political consultation;
— improving the level of science, institutionalisation and standardisation of political consultation work;
— persisting with, and improving, our country's new political party system; and
— consolidating and developing the patriotic united front.
The Politburo stressed that in order to effectively carry out political consultation work, we must:
— take Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as the guide;
— implement General Secretary Xi Jinping's important thoughts on strengthening and improving United Front work and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference work; and
— strengthen the "Four Awarenesses" [the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, follow the leadership core, and keep in alignment with the Party centre], firm the "Four Confidences" [in the path, theory, system, and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics], achieve the "Two Upholds" [to firmly uphold General Secretary Xi Jinping's core position in both the Central Committee and the Party as a whole, and the Central Committee's authority and its centralised, unified leadership].
We must persist with and strengthen the overall leadership of the Party. We must ensure the correct political direction for political consultation and enhance its effectiveness through the institutional system and working mechanisms of political consultation which is under the leadership of the Party.
We must also:
— persist with following the Party centre and serve the overall situation;
— focus on building consensus;
— through political consultation, seeking common grounds while respecting and neutralising differences in order to unify understanding on fundamental as well as important issues;
— unite forces from all sides around the Party; and
— drive the formation of a powerful combined force to fully build a modern socialist country and realise the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
Party committees (groups) must strengthen organisation and leadership in implementing the [new] Regulation, ensure practical implementation, and put into practice the general and specific policies, and the decisions and deployments, of the Party Central Committee concerning political consultation work.
The Politburo also considered other matters at the meeting.
By Adam Ni