Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on telegram
Share on whatsapp
Share on linkedin
Share on print
Share on email

Political Watch: Decoding the Second Plenum

◎ The second plenum of the 19th Central Committee represents a break with the past in three ways.

On Jan. 19, the Chinese Communist Party 19th Central Committee concluded its two-day Second Plenary Session. The 204-member elite body passed a proposal to amend the Chinese constitution and added Xi Jinping’s political thought to it, as well as confirmed the establishment of a National Supervisory Commission, a state-run anti-corruption body.

The backdrop:
1. The second plenum of the 19th Central Committee represents a break with the past in three ways:

  • The plenary session was held a month earlier than in previous years.
  • Amending the constitution was the main agenda for the second plenum.
  • The official announcement of what was discussed at the second plenum didn’t mention if candidate recommendations were made for State Council, Chinese legislature, and political consultative body positions.

2. In previous second plenums, the Central Committee usually deliberate the list of candidates for top state offices when appointments are made at the Two Sessions in March. Some of the key offices that need filling at this year’s Two Sessions include Chinese president and vice president, State Council premier and vice premiers, state Central Military Commission chairman and vice chairs, as well as the heads of the Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate, and the National Supervisory Commission.

Our take:
1. This is the fifth time the CCP has amended the state constitution since its implementation in 1982 (the state constitution was first formulated in 1954). The earlier amendments took place in 1988, 1993, 1999, and 2004.

The CCP usually amends the state constitution following a power shift in its leadership or to preserve its rule when faced with a crisis (new political theories are crafted to shift the goalposts of the impending communist “utopia” and delay the expectations of the masses). Party leaders who amend the constitution are also signaling their power consolidation.

2. With “Xi Jinping Thought” written into the Party charter and the Chinese constitution, Xi has paved the way for himself to take the step in political reform.

3. With the confirmation of the National Supervisory Commission, Xi has split state power into four separate branches under Party central’s oversight: The National People’s Congress (legislature), the State Council (executive), the Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate (judicial), and the National Supervisory Commission (supervision).

4. If the candidates for the State Council, Chinese legislature, and political consultative body weren’t deliberated during the second plenum, the Central Committee might hold a third plenum at the end of February before the Two Sessions commence in March. And if there is a third plenum this year, the 19th Central Committee could hold an unprecedented eighth plenum four years from now (Central Committees usually convene only seven plenary sessions).

Search past entries by date
“Unique insights are available frequently from the reports of Sinoinsider.”
Michael Pillsbury, Senior Fellow for China Strategy, The Heritage Foundation
“Thank you for your information and analysis. Very useful.”
Prof. Ravni Thakur, University of Delhi, India
“SinoInsider’s research has helped me with investing in or getting out of Chinese companies.”
Charles Nelson, Managing Director, Murdock Capital Partners
“I value SinoInsider because of its always brilliant articles touching on, to name just a few, CCP history, current trends, and factional politics. Its concise and incisive analysis — absent the cliches that dominate China policy discussions in DC and U.S. corporate boardrooms — also represents a major contribution to the history of our era by clearly defining the threat the CCP poses to American peace and prosperity and global stability. I am grateful to SinoInsider — long may it thrive!”
Lee Smith, Author and journalist
“Your publication insights tremendously help us complete our regular analysis on in-depth issues of major importance. ”
Ms. Nicoleta Buracinschi, Embassy of Romania to the People’s Republic of China
"I’m a very happy, satisfied subscriber to your service and all the deep information it provides to increase our understanding. SinoInsider is profoundly helping to alter the public landscape when it comes to the PRC."
James Newman, Former U.S. Navy cryptologist
“Prof. Ming’s information about the Sino-U.S. trade war is invaluable for us in Taiwan’s technology industry. Our company basically acted on Prof. Ming’s predictions and enlarged our scale and enriched our product lines. That allowed us to deal capably with larger orders from China in 2019. ”
Mr. Chiu, Realtek R&D Center
“I am following China’s growing involvement in the Middle East, seeking to gain a better understanding of China itself and the impact of domestic constraints on its foreign policy. I have found SinoInsider quite helpful in expanding my knowledge and enriching my understanding of the issues at stake.”
Ehud Yaari, Lafer International Fellow, The Washington Institute
“SinoInsider’s research on the CCP examines every detail in great depth and is a very valuable reference. Foreign researchers will find SinoInsider’s research helpful in understanding what is really going on with the CCP and China. ”
Baterdene, Researcher, The National Institute for Security Studies (Mongolian)
“The forecasts of Prof. Chu-cheng Ming and the SinoInsider team are an invaluable resource in guiding our news reporting direction and anticipating the next moves of the Chinese and Hong Kong governments.”
Chan Miu-ling, Radio Television Hong Kong China Team Deputy Leader
“SinoInsider always publishes interesting and provocative work on Chinese elite politics. It is very worthwhile to follow the work of SinoInsider to get their take on factional struggles in particular.”
Lee Jones, Reader in International Politics, Queen Mary University of London
“[SinoInsider has] been very useful in my class on American foreign policy because it contradicts the widely accepted argument that the U.S. should work cooperatively with China. And the whole point of the course is to expose students to conflicting approaches to contemporary major problems.”
Roy Licklider, Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Columbia University
“As a China-based journalist, SinoInsider is to me a very reliable source of information to understand deeply how the CCP works and learn more about the factional struggle and challenges that Xi Jinping may face. ”
Sebastien Ricci, AFP correspondent for China & Mongolia
“SinoInsider offers an interesting perspective on the Sino-U.S. trade war and North Korea. Their predictions are often accurate, which is definitely very helpful.”
Sebastien Ricci, AFP correspondent for China & Mongolia
“I have found SinoInsider to provide much greater depth and breadth of coverage with regard to developments in China. The subtlety of the descriptions of China's policy/political processes is absent from traditional media channels.”
John Lipsky, Peter G. Peterson Distinguished Scholar, Kissinger Center for Global Affairs
“My teaching at Cambridge and policy analysis for the UK audience have been informed by insights from your analyzes. ”
Dr Kun-Chin Lin, University Lecturer in Politics,
Deputy Director of the Centre for Geopolitics, Cambridge University
" SinoInsider's in-depth and nuanced analysis of Party dynamics is an excellent template to train future Sinologists with a clear understanding that what happens in the Party matters."
Stephen Nagy, Senior Associate Professor, International Christian University
“ I find Sinoinsider particularly helpful in instructing students about the complexities of Chinese politics and what elite competition means for the future of the US-China relationship.”
Howard Sanborn, Professor, Virginia Military Institute
“SinoInsider has been one of my most useful (and enjoyable) resources”
James Newman, Former U.S. Navy cryptologist
“Professor Ming and his team’s analyses of current affairs are very far-sighted and directionally accurate. In the present media environment where it is harder to distinguish between real and fake information, SinoInsider’s professional perspectives are much needed to make sense of a perilous and unpredictable world. ”
Liu Cheng-chuan, Professor Emeritus, National Chiayi University