The only way of knowing that something actually took place between 15 and 18 September was a short press report released by Xinhua, saying that the party vowed to improve internal party democracy, the fight against corruption, economic stability and inter-ethnic harmony.
By far the greatest news was the failed appointed of Xi Jinping. All observers had predicted that he would follow Hu Jintao’s pattern of ascension. Hu became vice-chairman of the CMC at the fourth plenum meeting in 1999, paving the way for him to take over as president and party secretary.
The failure to see Xi appointed might be a sign that the party is divided and this despite the fact that Xi is appreciated by all factions; Hu’s and Jiang Zemin’s, the old guard and the ‘princelings,’ that is the children of party elders.
It would also appear that the plenum gave everyone a broad margin to speak on the party’s paper on internal democracy, which intends to let members talk about problems, make complaints and criticise. It is not clear though, whether the internal democracy envisaged includes direct elections to the party’s many offices.
Other promises also remain vague, like the annual pledge to fight corruption, which comes at a time when the number of party officials caught with their hands in the till (but rarely tried) grows each year.
The strategy to ensure economic stability is equally vague, focusing essentially on lending to the banks but providing little stimulus to domestic consumption and improved standards of living for the people.
Even pledges of greater ethnic harmony sound hollow in the face of daily reports about heightened inter-ethnic tensions in Xinjiang and Tibet, both of which are more like internal colonies than places of harmony.
Overall, after almost 60 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Communist Party seems less interested in meeting the needs of the population than in holding on to power without sharing it.
Still in one of the many meetings ahead of 1 October, Hu yesterday urged top political officials to better carry forward democracy, strengthen solidarity and resolve contradictions to improve relationships between parties, ethnic groups, religions, different social classes and people at home and abroad.
However, for him this means adhering “to the path of socialism with Chinese characters instead of copying the Western political system and pattern,” because the supremacy of the Party and its leaders must be maintained.