mandag 8. november 2021

Xi Jinping is rewriting history. But it's the future he wants to leave his mark on

As Chinese leader Xi Jinping looks set to seek a third term in power, he is seemingly preoccupied with the past, not the future. When more than 300 members of China's political elite gather in Beijing this week their main task will be to review a draft history resolution that defines the ruling Communist Party's "major achievements and historical experiences" since its founding 100 years ago. The agenda of the most crucial Central Committee meeting before the twice-a-decade leadership reshuffle next fall is carefully and deliberately chosen. It speaks of the importance Xi attaches to party history, and his own place in it.

In some ways, that obsession with history can be seen as rooted in a tradition dating back to ancient China. For centuries, Chinese imperial courts appointed historiographers to document the rise of an emperor, which often involved compiling -- and rewriting -- the history of his predecessor.
To the Chinese Communist Party, history -- or rather, certain curated versions of it -- can be extremely useful.

China's alleged "historical claims" to disputed territories and waters, for instance, have been used by Beijing to bolster its case for contemporary sovereignty, while the narrative attached to the so-called "century of humiliation" by foreign powers -- from the First Opium War in 1839 to the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 -- has become a central source of legitimacy for the party.