Remnant and Hybridization: The Effects of Governing
President Xi’s initiatives can be seen as patriotic in that he is dedicated to ensuring China’s future, and they are revolutionary in that his goal is to reshape Chinese society rapidly (Wilbur 1970: 35). However, in the relationship between President Xi and the Party itself, there is a tension between bureaucracy and the cult of personality. In other words, the “institutional charisma” of the Party is in tension with the personal charisma of the leader. In this tension, there are two questions to be addressed: (1) Which of these is the source of the Party’s legitimacy? (2) Can the Party ever recover its central sacred character? (Schwartz 1970: 154-155). During the anti-corruption campaign and the anti-four undesirable working styles programme, the remnant, that is, the profane nature of the Party was revealed as embodied by those leaders who were publicly accused of corruption, and conspicuous consumption was revealed (Schwartz 1970: 156). But at the same time, the hybridization of the two charismas blurs the tension between the leader and the Party, and thus makes the source of legitimacy indiscernible. In this chapter, we discuss how the institution of the Party and the personal cult of President Xi have become merged together in the process of attempting to regain the Party’s legitimacy through the anti-corruption campaign, anti-four undesirable working styles campaigns and also through the Mass Line Education (MLE) programme.
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S. Zhang, D. McGhee, China’s Ethical Revolution and Regaining Legitimacy, Politics and Development of Contemporary China,
In the context of the Party rejecting the notion that reform of society can begin with the reform of elite institutions alone (Lewis 1970: 23), President Xi advocates a move towards an ethic of cultivation of all communist officialdom. Connolly describes this type of ethic of cultivation in the following way:
It requires attention to the nuances of life; it applies tactics patiently and experimentally to the self; it affirms ambiguity and uncertainty in the categories through which ethical judgment is made. But a politics of engagement and insurgency often generalizes conflicts so that one set of concerns becomes overwhelmed by others; it opens up the probability of more total- istic definitions of one side by its opponents; it sometimes foments rapid transformations exceeding the temporal and spatial rhythms of ethical cultivation. Thus cultivation of care for the contingency of things and engagement in political contestation, then, are locked into a relation of strife amidst their mutual implication. (1993: 383)
That is to say, the good Party “would be peopled by men who would abnegate their private interests for the public good, men constantly inspired by a sense of duty to the fatherland, men who would sacrifice themselves without stint, and men who would live simple and austere lives” (Schwartz 1970: 159). A number of our participants reported the positive impact of the new regulation on themselves, their families and also on wider society:
A lot of things are returning to normal, such as work and family life (much more time at home). There used to be a lot time out in the past, but now it is more justified by the regulations that no one comes to invite you anymore, which is much better and easier way to live. Going out all the time used to put us under great pressure as we were asked to drink lots of alcohols. Now we have much less pressure, which has produced enormous effect on the promotion of the harmony of the family and to the entire society. (Mid-level official from a provincial government)
Thus, many of the officials who are enjoying the new normality appear to be grateful that the Party has created this possibility through becoming a moralizing agent capable of mobilizing and empowering officials (159-160). From this, we can tentatively conclude that the care of the self needs the care of the Party in the sense that the protection offered by the new regulations not only restricts the opportunities for “going out,” but they also empower officials to refuse invitations to go out. This is similar to what Foucault calls the establishment of the mechanism of self-defence in the face of social enemies; in our case, these are corrupted officials, who are obstacles to governing and who refuse to appropriately govern, and as a consequence can be accused of exercising a counter-power opposed to the fulfilment of the China Dream (Foucault 2015: 51-52). Thus, the care of the Party becomes fundamental to the care of the individual, family and society.
Every top-down regime has its own institutional structure and the agents of a government are not always principled agents, particularly in vast, many-layered bureaucracies, such as the Communist Party, where officials at different places in the hierarchy are subject to different constraints and incentives (O’Brien and Li 2006: 51). In this chapter, we will expose the various resisting strategies officials employ in their confrontation with the anti-corruption and the anti-four undesirable working styles campaigns. By doing so, we will further explore (by way of drawing conclusions) what we have already developed so far in this book, that is, the various possibilities for the emergence of remnants and hybridizations. We will also lay the foundations for our next book, which will be a further examination of President Xi’s recent initiatives in view of promoting a professionalized Party for fulfilling the China Dream on the world stage. If what we call the ethical revolution is stage one of President XI’s governance strategy, which focuses on getting the Party’s house in order, we will call what follows stage two of the process of reforming the Party, wherein loyal officials are further encouraged to be “capable of governing” in the era of globalization in the context of President Xi’s “One Belt and One Road” strategy. By using the notion of hybridization, we will reveal how the combination of “loyalty and capability,” that is to say, officials being both “red and expert” simultaneously, is the hybrid of a number of different combinations.
In this chapter part of what we will explore are the possibilities and opportunities for resistance in the context of the so-called ethical revolution from the perspectives of the officials we interviewed. In this chapter, by the notion of resistance, we mean that the Party’s discourses can become one among many potential lines of interpretation, other than the Party’s own. We argue that it is in the great melting pot of meaning that remnants and hybridizations are produced, and where the possible ramifications far outweigh the neat categories of official thought with too many possibilities (Weller 1994: 18). This perspective will expose the richness of the interpretive possibilities within the Party, and also illuminate how resistance can come to dominate in the competition to impose an interpretation (15). Having exposed the various interpretations surrounding the Party’s discourses, we will then analyse the variety of possible resistant practices, which will include what O’ Brien and Li call “rightful resistances.” The kinds of practices associated with “rightful resistance” operate near the boundary of authorized channels, and they employ the rhetoric and commitments of the powerful in order to curb the exercise of power, which hinges on locating and exploiting divisions within the Party, and relies on mobilizing support from the wider public (O’Brien and Li 2006: 2). These resistances are neither a withdrawal from politics nor are they associated with the violent acts that might overturn the system, they simply resist within the system (Bevir and Rhodes 2010: 59). They sit near the fuzzy boundary between direct resistance, prescribed politics and politics by other means, in a middle ground that is neither clearly transgressive nor clearly contained (O’Brien and Li 2006: 52). Sometimes, they also reinforce present power relations while allowing space for dissent and resistance.