Strengthen Party Self-Governance as an Ongoing Mission

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China III Updated: 2021-12-29

Strengthen Party Self-Governance as an Ongoing Mission*

January 11, 2018

To further strengthen Party self-governance now and in the future, we must implement the guiding principles of the 19th CPC National Congress held in 2017, and follow the guidance of the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. While enhancing our Four Consciousnesses and bolstering our Four-sphere Confidence, we must uphold and strengthen overall Party leadership, uphold the authority of the Central Committee and its centralized, unified leadership, and see the Party's political foundations reinforced, its ideological commitment buttressed, its organizations consolidated, its conduct improved, and its discipline enforced, with institutional improvements incorporated into every aspect of strengthening the Party. We must step up our efforts to combat corruption, carry on with our work to improve the Party's political environment, and strengthen its ability to innovate, its power to unite, and its capacity to deliver. These are firm guarantees for a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and for building a modern socialist China.

First, we must focus our efforts on reinforcing the Party's political foundations, and uphold the authority of the Central Committee and its centralized, unified leadership. A governing Marxist party must take a clear political stance. A multitude of facts have shown that many problems within the Party are attributed to weak political commitment and a lack of regular and sound political activities.The 19th CPC Central Committee incorporates and prioritizes the Party's political progress into its overall effort to strengthen itself – a major decision that has been made from an overall strategic perspective.

To reinforce the Party's political foundations, we must give priority to upholding the authority of the Central Committee and its centralized, unified leadership. All the political problems within the Party, in the final analysis, are ascribed to lack of loyalty to the Party. Loyalty defines the quintessential character of Communists, and numerous revolutionary martyrs have demonstrated such loyalty by sacrificing their lives. "My loyalty comes from the bottom of my heart, and it stretches all the way from the Earth to the Heavens."1 "I shall hold to my beliefs even at the cost of my life."2 They were dauntless and no torture could force them to yield. They would be loyal to the Party and never betray it for as long as they should live. Loyalty to the Party must be sincere and unconditional. As a measure of practice as well as a political criterion, it must be embraced in implementing the Party's decisions and plans.

When the commander in chief gives orders, all troops obey and act accordingly. All Party organizations must implement the decisions and plans of the Central Committee to the letter. Under any circumstances, Party officials must be politically firm and reliable, be loyal and honest to the Party, follow the leadership of the Central Committee, and strictly abide by the political discipline and political rules. They must remain steadfast on the right path, increase their awareness to observe discipline, keep their moral integrity, and improve their willpower to resist corruption. They must turn the Four Consciousnesses into concrete action to obey the Party's command and assume their obligations to the Party.

A political party should have faith. For the Communist Party of China, this refers to the faith in Marxism, communism and socialism with Chinese characteristics. Party officials should learn to capture the essence of the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. They must read more Marxist classics and classical works on adapting Marxism to the Chinese context to truly understand the Marxist stance, viewpoint and methodology, and internalize them so that they uphold faith in Marxism and persevere in pursuing their ideals with strong convictions. These ideals should be the beacon of faith for Party officials.

Political faith and ideals do not spring fully-formed into existence, and it is not easy to stick to them. We must withstand the Four Tests3, and overcome the Four Risks4. We should take account of today's realities to plan for the future. We should have a deep understanding of the dialectical relationship between the long-term goal of communism and the common ideal of building socialism with Chinese characteristics. The communist ideals would be no more than empty talk without our current efforts to develop Chinese socialism and to rejuvenate the Chinese nation. But we should not avoid talking about these ideals or abandon them simply because they will take a long time to achieve. An ancient scholar once said, "We worry about the next one thousand years when we are only to last less than a hundred."5 Our confidence in the path, theory, system and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics can ultimately be condensed into faith in socialism and Marxism. It is a fact that we are in the initial stage of socialism, but we should aim high for the future. Our education campaign on reaffirming ideals and convictions since 2012 has proved effective and should be continued.

Irregularities within the Party over the years have all been the results of deviating from the Party Constitution, and violations of Party discipline by leading Party officials – the culmination of their indifference to the rules of the Party Constitution. The 19th CPC National Congress wrote into the Party Constitution the fresh experience and theoretical innovations in Party governance since the 18th CPC National Congress. The unity of the Party in thinking and action should first of all be embodied in understanding and complying with the Party Constitution. Reverence for the Party Constitution is the fundamental political discipline. Party organizations at all levels and all Party members should study, observe, enforce and safeguard the Party Constitution, use it to discipline our words and deeds, and maintain a high degree of unity with the Central Committee in terms of political stance, direction, principles, and path.

Since the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in 2014, I have repeatedly warned of the dangers of the Seven Malpractices6. They are in essence political issues which can be put into two categories: first, cliques bound together by political and economic interests attempting to usurp Party and state power; second, unauthorized activities fanned by factionalism that sabotage the Party's centralized and unified leadership. We must not bury our heads in the sand in the face of these dangers; instead we should take resolute measures to prevent or curb them and remove hidden and potential troubles. We should underline political discipline and rules at all times, strictly investigate and deal with violations of rules and discipline, and allow no factions pursuing self-interest or local cliques acting on their own. We should advocate values such as loyalty and honesty to the Party, fairness and practicality in work, and integrity in our members and officials, and ensure that they strengthen their Party awareness and political ability through sound intra-Party activities and improve themselves politically and ethically. As an ancient scholar said, "We will not act recklessly if we think right."Leading Party officials should be grateful to the Party and the people and hold them in reverence, never seek position or privileges, and put a cap on their desire for material enjoyment and other perquisites. "Only the gentle breeze caressing the river and the bright moonlight pouring down on the mountains are a bounty and ceaseless feast for the eye and the ear that nature offers."8 This sentiment of Su Shi, a great writer of ancient China, as he expressed in these words, is most precious but not seen among us now. We had nothing with us when we were born and will take nothing away with us when we die. Once we think this through, we can play a model role by being clean and have integrity prevail within the Party.

Second, we must implement the Central Committee's Eight Rules on improving Party and government conduct, and maintain close ties with the people. The Eight Rules are not intended for just five or ten years – they are to be upheld in the long term. To do this we need perseverance and tenacity. We must pay attention to both their present and future effect, implement the rules strictly and earnestly, and get every Party member and all Party organizations involved so as to make this a regular practice that produces effective results. We must keep an eye on new signs and manifestations of hedonism and extravagance, particularly on festive occasions, and prevent the resurgence of such tendencies by identifying them early. Those in command need to take full responsibility for correcting the practices of favoring form over substance and bureaucratism. We need to address the issue of giving only lip service to the Central Committee's decisions and policies. We need to conduct in-depth analyses of tough issues and take practical measures based on reality and public concerns to ensure the implementation of the Central Committee's decisions and plans down to the primary level. All provincial authorities and central departments should revise anew their follow-up measures accordingly, based on what has been achieved over the past five years in implementing the Eight Rules, and release them to the public for supervision.

In improving Party conduct, we must focus on maintaining close ties with the people. The Four Malfeasances are more than specific misconduct; they represent a fundamental betrayal of our Party spirit and purpose. Many problems among primary-level Party organizations are attributed to the fact that some Party members and officials are not concerned with the people. Some are reluctant and some refuse to communicate with the people, and some just do not know how to do it. There are also a few who ignore the people's needs or dare not face them – they are struck dumb when faced with the people. Leading officials must resist the temptations of privileges in thought and in action. Mao Zedong once said, "The people choose their leaders and leadership tools from practice. It is wrong for those who are chosen to become conceited and consider themselves of great consequence, rather than serve their role."9 His words still resonate today.

In December 2012, at a session of the Political Bureau for deliberation on the Eight Rules, I said, "Only when we are under pressure and supervision can people enjoy a more comfortable and satisfying life and have a higher opinion of us." The higher the position officials hold, the more they should connect with and serve the people, respect them and maintain closer ties with them. We must remain dedicated to the people, reach out to them, and resolve their prominent problems with solid measures. To win their trust and support we must always put people's interests first, seriously address any issues of pressing public concern, and correct any activities that damage the interests of the people.

Third, we must enforce discipline in all respects and govern the Party strictly. "When the law is effective and discipline enforced, the nation is under good governance and people's support is won."10 Strict discipline guarantees our Party's march from victory to victory. The 19th CPC National Congress highlighted the enforcement of discipline and integrated it into the overall plan for strengthening the Party, underlining our determination to govern the Party with strict discipline.

Every Party member's effort is needed to improve conduct and combat corruption. We are all participants rather than bystanders in this campaign. Every Party official should draw lessons from those breaching discipline, be alert to potential problems, follow principles and be stricter with ourselves, so that we become immune to corruption. We should enhance education on discipline, offer education and guidance before taking disciplinary action, and use typical cases around us to send a message and shame officials into ceasing their wrongdoing. "When we see a bad example we should turn to check our own conduct."11 In this way, we can ensure that all Party members and officials enforce self-discipline as part of their normal behavior.

We must pay more attention to checking erroneous ideas at the outset, reminding officials of their problems, and forbidding them from doing anything unethical just because it seems insignificant. We need to improve regulations on discipline, and keep our institutions up to date. Power comes with responsibility. The Party Constitution specifies the scope of power of all Party organizations including Party leadership groups for disciplinary punishment. Party committees, or Party leadership groups, at all levels must be resolute in enforcing oversight and discipline, and must take on their political responsibility for full and rigorous governance over the Party.

As an ancient scholar said, "It is easy to nip a vice in the bud but difficult to correct deep-rooted problems."12 In recent years, we have put forward the four forms of oversight over discipline compliance13 based on past experience and new requirements for strengthening Party discipline. In response, some officials have confessed on their own initiative their lapses and serious mistakes to the Party organization, and they have been treated leniently. Some others, on the brink of violating discipline, have returned to the right path after receiving warnings and before it was too late. Inspired by these examples, most officials hold discipline in awe and abide by principles. This demonstrates the effect of the Party's policies and methods and its full concern and care for officials. We should make a greater effort to use the first method – criticism and education – and correct minor mistakes whenever they arise. We should get general problems out in the open, straighten them out, and close the case accordingly, to help relieve officials of any concern. Party members and officials summoned by or receiving inquiry letters from discipline inspection departments should clarify their problems at meetings for criticism and self-criticism, to ensure the seriousness of intra-Party political activities. We should communicate with and warn those found in violation of discipline, to make them clarify their problems in exchange for leniency. We should educate those in serious violation of Party discipline about moral and political integrity in disciplinary review and make them realize, repent, and correct their mistakes. In the case of the very few who are unrepentant and are suspected of breaking the law, and continue to deceive the organization to the last moment while committing serious violations of Party discipline, we must thoroughly investigate and deal with them in accordance with the law and discipline as a warning to others.

Fourth, we must intensify efforts to address both the symptoms and root causes of corruption, and secure a sweeping victory. We have fought against corruption with decisive measures since the 18th CPC National Congress, and we must continue to carry it through to the end after the 19th CPC National Congress, to eliminate vice and exalt virtue, consolidate the foundation of our values, and make sure both symptoms and root causes are addressed.

To this end, we should have effective means to deal with symptoms while consolidating what we have achieved in addressing root causes. Without the deterrent effect of punishment, it is hard to achieve substantial results. We will continue to maintain our tough stance on corruption, and make no exception for any organization or individual. We will impose tight constraints for long-term deterrence, and punish those who take bribes and those who offer them. We need to resolutely deal with existing cases and curb the emergence of new ones. We need to focus on corruption cases involving interest groups formed by political degeneration and bribery; and on corrupt officials who have not restrained themselves from illegal activities, who are strongly suspected of wrongdoing, who have been repeatedly reported by the public for malpractice, and who are currently holding important offices with prospects of promotion. We must investigate and examine officials reported for political and organizational issues or corruption.

We must take out "tigers" whenever we see them and swat the "flies" that buzz around. We should combat corruption in whatever form and address even the slightest signs. "Tigers" and "flies" – major and minor corruption cases – are both to be brought under investigation. The campaign for strengthening Party self-governance should be extended to primary-level Party organizations. Corruption that directly affects people's lives must be harshly punished. We should carry out investigations in the fields of poverty relief and public wellbeing. In order to ensure that policies designed to benefit the public are implemented to their satisfaction, we should be tough in dealing with officials who embezzle disaster and poverty relief funds and supplies, who violate policies relating to land acquisition and resettlement, and misappropriate compensation funds, and who exploit their position at the primary level to take bribes, embezzle funds, and seek benefits for relatives and friends. While combating corruption, we should also eliminate criminal gangs, evil forces and illegal and criminal activi- ties such as pornography, gambling, and drug abuse, and clamp down on individuals, families and clans who abuse or exploit their local communities. We must hunt down both gang-related organizations and the hands behind them to enhance the people’s sense of gain, happiness and security.

Justice has long arms. We need to expand international cooperation on the fight against corruption, tracking down corrupt officials who have fled overseas and preventing more from fleeing. While continuing to issue Red Notices for wanted fugitives, we need to enhance international cooperation on anti-corruption law enforcement and strengthen deterrence against corrupt officials who attempt to flee abroad.

The key to addressing both the symptoms and root causes of corruption lies in action. Our Party has established the best practices of combating corruption – to ensure that the officials do not dare to be, are not able to be, and have no desire to be corrupt. We must strengthen deterrence, strengthen the institutional cage, and strengthen their vigilance. We need to break the chain sustaining abuse of state assets through reform and institutional innovation to prevent officials from falling prey to corruption. We must strengthen checks on and oversight over the exercise of power, and establish effective systems and mechanisms.

Fifth, we must improve the oversight systems of the Party and the state to increase the Party's ability to cleanse itself. As Goldbach's conjecture challenges mathematicians, self-supervision challenges countries worldwide in state governance. In seeking the solution to breaking the cycle of rise and fall14, we must act with force and continue to improve and renew ourselves. The effort to strengthen Party discipline since the 18th CPC National Congress has proved that the mechanism to cleanse the Party is effective and we are fully capable of dealing with existing problems within the Party. We will establish an efficient oversight system with complete coverage under the Party's unified command, and align efforts in intra-Party oversight with oversight by state agencies and other political parties, judicial oversight, public oversight, and oversight through public opinion.

Discipline inspection is a strategic institutional process for scrutiny within our Party. We will intensify political inspection with a view to highlighting the Party's comprehensive leadership and strengthening the Party. The deterrent role of discipline inspection will be provided by Party self-governance and scrutiny of compliance with the Party Constitution and guiding principles of the 19th CPC National Congress. We will strengthen discipline inspection at the central, provincial, city and county levels to realize full coverage of inspection within one office term of Party committees at each level, creating a supervision network that facilitates coordination in discipline inspections among these levels. We will apply new approaches to inspection, accelerate efforts to review the effect, and adopt more flexible methods, such as randomly selecting the targets for inspection, to deter and warn potential wrongdoers. To deter misconduct and address the problem from the root, we must improve the whole discipline inspection system and ensure the results serve their intended purposes, and call to account those who fail to carry out their responsibility, fail to reach the desired effect, or act in a perfunctory manner.

Reform of the national supervision system is a major political reform bearing on the overall situation and a key measure to strengthen self-supervision of the Party and the state. We will establish supervision commissions at the national, provincial, city, and county levels in line with the schedule and roadmap specified by the Central Committee. We will create an anti-corruption working mechanism under the Party's unified leadership and an authoritative, efficient supervision system. We will develop a law on supervision, revise and improve relevant laws, form a power supervision network covering inspection, personnel dispatching, and supervision, and turn institutional strengths into effective governance.

Sixth, we must build a team for discipline inspection and supervision that is honest, clean, responsible, and loyal to the Party and the people. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the discipline inspection and supervision departments at all lower levels have enhanced the Four Consciousnesses and maintained a high degree of unity with the Central Committee by resolutely implementing its policies and plans, upholding the Party Constitution and performing their duties with loyalty. Being selfless and fearless, and always ready to assume responsibility, they have performed their duties for the Party and the people.

As a disciplinary force within the Party, discipline inspection commissions are meant to exercise supervision and this will make some people unhappy. They should be absolutely loyal to the Party and willing to assume their responsibilities. They must have political integrity, a strategic vision, and the ability to craft overall plans and put them into practice. They must enhance supervision, enforce discipline impartially, and reinforce accountability. They must strengthen the scrutiny and inspection of compliance with Party regulations such as the Party Constitution and the code of conduct for intra-Party political activities. Their primary tasks are to uphold the Central Committee's authority and its centralized, unified leadership, and implement it in strengthening discipline, exercising scrutiny, carrying out inspections and regulating the accountability system. They should extend reform of the discipline inspection system by transforming its functions and methods to create new approaches, new initiatives and new measures. They should also strengthen the supervisory role of discipline inspection departments in colleges and state-owned enterprises, opening up a new page of discipline inspection and supervision work.

Discipline enforcers must first discipline themselves. Discipline inspection and supervision teams are bestowed with great power and carry a heavy responsibility. They are a key target of people with ulterior motives. Discipline inspection and supervision departments at all levels must discipline themselves with higher standards, observe stricter discipline, and be more resistant to corruption. Officials on the team must be reliable, responsible, law-abiding and incorruptible. Their power, granted by the Party and the people, must never be abused and must be wielded for the purposes of safeguarding justice and punishing corruption.

* Part of the speech at the Second Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.


Cai Hesen: "Ambitious Youth: Crossing Dongting Lake on the Way North", Collected Works of Cai Hesen, Vol. I, Chin. ed., People's Publishing House, Beijing, 2013, p. 23.

2 Xia Minghan: "Die for My Beliefs", Xia Minghan, Chin. ed., People's Publishing House, Beijing, 1984, p. 1.

3 This refers to exercising governance, carrying out reform and opening up, developing the market economy and responding to external development.

This refers to lack of drive, incompetence, disengagement from the people, and inaction and corruption.

5 Nineteen Ancient Poems (Gu Shi ShiJiu Shou).

6 This was put forward by Xi Jinping at the second full assembly of the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in October 2014: In order to seek promotion and greater power, some officials, ignoring the Party's political discipline and rules, have engaged in one or more of these malpractices: (1) making appointments based on favoritism and discriminating against those who hold different views; (2) ganging together to form self-interested factions; (3) making anonymous and false allegations against others and spreading rumors; (4) buying support and votes; (5) promising high positions in exchange for favors and relying on cronyism for promotion; (6) feigning compliance while opposing in action and going their own way; and (7) failing to comply with Central Committee decisions or even making baseless criticisms of them.

7 Zhu Xi: The Analects of Zhu Xi (Zhu Zi Yu Lei).

8 Su Shi: "Ode to the Red Cliffs" (Chi Bi Fu).

9 Mao Zedong: "Guidelines for Electing the Seventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China", Collected Works of Mao Zedong, Vol. III, Chin. ed., People's Publishing House, Beijing, 1996, p. 373.

10 Bao Zheng: Memorials to the Throne (Shang Dian Zha Zi). Bao Zheng (999-1062) was an official of the Northern Song Dynasty who was known for his integrity and impartiality in redressing injustices for the people.

11 The Analects of Confucius (Lun Yu).

12 Fan Ye: The Book of Eastern Han (Hou Han Shu). Fan Ye (398-445) was a historian during the Northern and Southern Dynasties.

13 The four forms are: (1) criticism and self-criticism meetings and oral and written inquiries which are to be conducted regularly, to ensure that those who have committed minor misconduct are made to "flush and sweat", be embarrassed and ashamed of themselves; (2) light penalties and minor organizational adjustments to official positions, which are to be applied in the majority of cases; (3) heavy penalties and major adjustments to official positions, which are to be applied in a small number of cases; and (4) investigation and prosecution, which are to be undertaken in a very small number of cases involving serious violations of discipline and suspected criminal activity. 

14 In a conversation with Mao Zedong during a visit to Yan'an in July 1945, Huang Yanpei, a prominent non-Party individual, expressed the hope that the government to be established by the CPC would bring an end to the cycle of rise and fall characteristic of governments in Chinese history. Mao Zedong replied that the CPC had found a new path to break this cycle, and that the new path was democracy. Only under public scrutiny, will a government be clean and efficient; only when everyone takes responsibility, will good governance prevail. 

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