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Xi Jinping Ensures His Future With a Resolution That Rewrites China’s Past




Only two leaders of China’s ruling Communist Party leaders have been powerful enough to rewrite the nation’s history. On Thursday, President Xi Jinping became the third.

His version of Chinese history is simple: The party is great, glorious and always correct. As long as people follow the party, China will rise to inevitable greatness. It stands on the cusp of greatness now, and one leader will soon make that greatness a reality: him.

Such are the contents of a new historical resolution “on major achievements and historical experiences in the Party’s hundred years of struggle” passed in Beijing on Thursday by the Communist Party’s Central Committee.

The communique says the Communist Party has “walked through 100 years of glorious history” and “written the most magnificent epic in the Chinese nation’s thousands of years of history.” But the declaration is, crucially, also about the future: It lays the groundwork for Xi to serve an unprecedented third term as president, underlining a political supremacy not seen in China in at least a generation.

“The party’s establishment of Comrade Xi Jinping’s position as the core of the entire party and party center reflects the common wishes of the entire party, military, state and peoples of all ethnicities,” the communique says. “It has decisive meaning for the development of party and state affairs in the new era and the historical progress of the Chinese nation’s great rejuvenation.”

Only two former leaders of the Communist Party, revolutionary founder Mao Zedong and economic reformer Deng Xiaoping, have issued historical resolutions before, in 1945 and 1981 respectively. Both resolutions consolidated the power of a single man who then steered the country through transformational decades that followed.

Xi’s resolution does the same, analysts say. It underscores his frequent proclamations that China has entered a “new era” of rejuvenation under his rule. Despite a slowing economy and growing tensions with the United States, it’s a statement of confidence and party unity ahead of the 20th Party Congress next year, when Xi is expected to be given a third term.

“All of this is what we might call ideological Sherpa work, preparing the ground for a big announcement that consolidates Xi Jinping’s position as paramount leader … and solidifies the party as the driving vehicle of historical destiny for China,” said Rana Mitter, director of the University China Center at Oxford University.

The resolution posits a century’s worth of continuous success, according to the version released in state media Thursday. In contrast to previous resolutions that admitted party errors while affirming overall correct leadership, this one focuses solely on party triumphs.

In the section on the Mao era, when tens of millions died of starvation and violence, the communique praises the party for leading the people in “the broadest and deepest social transformation in Chinese history” and taking a “great leap” toward socialism.

“Chinese people are not only good at destroying an old world, but also good at building a new world. Only socialism can save China, only socialism can develop China,” it says, with no mention of the famine caused by the Great Leap Forward collectivization campaign or the brutalities of the Cultural Revolution.

Such florid rhetoric is no surprise to anyone who has heard Xi’s previous remarks on history, read the new versions of party history issued this spring or seen the banners, slogans and museum exhibits about “studying party history and following the party forever” on display in every city across China this year.

Still, it is a striking divergence from Deng’s 1981 resolution, which walked a careful line between affirming the ultimate correctness of Communist Party leadership and rejecting the Mao-era “mistakes” that ravaged the country.

“The big focus in 1981 was to try to make a clear statement about why the party was on the right track now, even though it had made major mistakes,” said Jeff Wasserstrom, professor of Chinese history at UC Irvine. “This is much more ‘Let’s focus on how well China’s doing right now.’ … It’s using history in a celebratory tone.”

Such framing also simplifies the party’s story to one of “clear-cut heroes and clear-cut villains,” Wasserstrom said. In terms of the latter, “they’re not to be found in the party. They’re to be found in the foreign powers that bullied China during the century of national humiliation and the Japanese and the Americans during the Korean War.”

The Party has used history to promote nationalist narratives of united struggle against foreign enemies in recent years, especially as tensions rise between China and numerous countries over trade, tech, human rights, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet, the South China Sea and other areas.

As many foreign powers respond to China’s military buildup and aggression toward its minorities, neighbors and border regions, the party has cultivated a domestic narrative that the world is against China and wants to “contain” it out of jealousy over its growing strength.

That, too, is mentioned in the resolution, which says that “major changes unseen in the world in a hundred years” — a euphemism for American decline — has intertwined with the COVID-19 pandemic to create a “more complex and severe external environment.” Domestic economic tasks and coronavirus containment are also “extremely arduous,” the communique says.

The party’s answer to such challenges has been to stamp out all dissent and discussion of weaknesses or mistakes, past or present, and to ramp up propaganda and the cult of personality surrounding Xi. Stacks of his books fill front shelves in every bookshop. Posters of his face hang in village homes. His slogans are strung up in every town and city.

An effusive profile of Xi published by state news agency Xinhua this week praised him as “a man of determination and action, a man of profound thoughts and feelings, a man who inherited a legacy but dares to innovate, and a man who has forward-looking vision and is committed to working tirelessly.”

Many observers, including some in China itself, recoil from this exaltation of a single leader. It is precisely what Deng, mindful of the tumult and violence of the recently ended Cultural Revolution, had tried to prevent by instituting 10-year term limits for Chinese leaders in the 1980s.

“There’s no doubt that Xi Jinping is abrogating many of the fundamental principles that Deng Xiaoping tried to enshrine in the leadership system,” said Orville Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society.


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“He’s basically saying the Deng Xiaoping phase has ended. Our eagerness to reform, our willingness to accommodate foreigners, our more collaborationist attitude toward being in the world — all of that has ended. China is strong enough and it can act the way great power has always acted. It can bully other countries and throw its weight around, and it’s either our way or the highway,” Schell said. “This is the new period.”

But the new resolution does not directly repudiate Deng. It praises his economic reforms while ignoring his criticisms of Mao. It ignores all pesky contradictory historical details to project a new message: that all phases of party leadership were correct and necessary because they were led by the party, and are now culminating in today’s age of glory.

“For the Politburo, history is not an academic investigation. It is another form of political language,” said Mitter at Oxford.

There have been times in party history — notably in the early 1980s — when its leaders were willing to admit and examine past mistakes, if only to find a way forward for the nation.

Not so anymore. “Both Xi and the Party as a whole have decided that the open debate of different viewpoints on history is ideologically uncomfortable for them,” Mitter said. “At the moment, putting forward an almost entirely uncritical view of history is more useful politically.”

The communique ends with an announcement that the 20th Party Congress will take place in Beijing late next year. This will be “an extremely important Party Congress, a major event in the party and nation’s political life,” it says, without specifying why — as if there were any space left for a surprise.

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Why Mexico’s President Is Promoting a Recall Against Himself




Standing before hundreds of thousands of cheering supporters in downtown Mexico City’s central square, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador saved his most striking comment for the end of his speech.

He urged the Mexicans packed into the Zócalo to participate in an April referendum to decide whether they want to boot him from office more than two years early.

“None of, ‘They chose me for six years and I can do whatever I want,’” López Obrador said at the rally Wednesday to mark his midterm. “If one who governs is not up to the task and obeying the people, revoke their mandate and out!”

The president, 68, likely believes he has nothing to worry about.

Recent polls show that about two-thirds of the public approve of his performance since taking office in 2018 on a platform that promised a radical transformation of Mexican society to combat corruption and inequality and to roll back free-market economic policies.

Families and marching bands making their way to the Zócalo passed vendors hawking gray-haired López Obrador dolls and posters with the hashtag #QueSigaAMLO, or “may AMLO continue,” referring to the president by his initials. Many said they view a referendum, authorized by a 2019 constitutional reform spearheaded by the president, as proof of his honest character when compared to decades of presidents accused of corruption.

“AMLO is the first president that dares to put himself to the test before the people,” said Debanhi Andrea Garcia, 22, who drove 14 hours from the state of Nuevo León with her boyfriend. “Because he’s like that, we support him.”

Supporters of López Obrador hold banners in support of the president at Mexico City’s Zócalo.

(Manuel Velasquez / Getty Images)

Mexicans have until Dec. 25 to sign a petition supporting the referendum, which can move forward only with the signatures of at least 3% of eligible voters, among other caveats.

So far, the initiative has received more than 703,000 signatures from Mexicans who have valid voting credentials, or 25% of the required total, according to the National Electoral Institute, an independent agency overseeing the process. (That tally includes signatures that will be discarded because they are duplicates or have other irregularities.)

Officially called the “revocation of mandate,” the measure follows other efforts by the president to increase citizen engagement in public policy. López Obrador has also backed referendums to decide whether former Mexican presidents should be prosecuted for alleged crimes, on the construction of a new airport near Mexico City and on the development of a tourism train line that would run through the Yucatan Peninsula.

“He does conceive his power as being a function of people reiterating their support actively,” said Francisco González, a professor of Latin American politics at Johns Hopkins University. “He wants it officially confirmed to give him that comfort of being the popular leader who is doing the right thing for Mexico.”

Since taking office, López Obrador has also expanded social welfare programs while introducing sharp austerity measures. He has halted renewable energy projects, promoted a constitutional reform to increase the country’s control of the electricity market, and given more power to the military — putting it in charge of projects such as the tourism train.

President López Obrador gives an address to mark the midpoint of his term.

(Manuel Velasquez / Getty Images)

His critics say that he hasn’t done enough to reduce high levels of homicides, including many killings of women and attacks against journalists and public officials. Dozens of candidates across the country were assassinated ahead of last spring’s midterm elections for governorships and legislative and mayoral seats.

Critics also are concerned about López Obrador’s attacks against democratic agencies that could check his power, notably the National Electoral Institute. He has repeatedly disparaged the independent agency, which last May sanctioned him for making statements in at least 29 news conferences that it said could be considered government propaganda that could influence the midterm elections. In Mexico, such statements by public officials are generally barred during the election season.

But the president’s vision of transformational change continues to resonate among many voters who view him as a paternal figure. López Obrador is in constant dialogue with his electorate, holding press conferences every morning that last hours.

“The figure he has constructed of an honest man, an honorable man, an incorruptible man — that helps him in a society that is used to seeing terribly corrupt politicians,” said René Torres-Ruiz, a political scientist at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City.

Even if enough signatures are gathered, hurdles to a referendum remain. The National Electoral Institute’s members have said that the agency doesn’t have the budget to carry out the vote and at least 40% of eligible voters must participate for the referendum to be binding. The referendum on former presidents last August fell far short of the 40% voting figure.

Ariadna Gomez, left, and another volunteer collect signatures for a referendum on whether Mexico’s president should continue.

(Leila Miller / Los Angeles Times)

Stephanie Brewer, the director for Mexico and migrant rights at the D.C.-based Washington Office on Latin America, said that winning a referendum would increase López Obrador’s perception that he could move forward freely with his agenda.

“What he wants is to come out of the vote, supposing there is one, politically strengthened with this renewed and amplified popular mandate,” she said.

Opposition parties have accused the president’s supporters of twisting the stated purpose of the referendum into a tool to promote López Obrador’s agenda. The 2019 reform called for a referendum to “revoke” a president’s mandate rather than “ratify” it and a complaint before the National Electoral Institute by the National Action Party referenced how volunteers have registered voters next to posters that advertise the referendum as a means of promoting the president rather than recalling him from office.

Luis Cházaro, a congressman from the Party of the Democratic Revolution, told The Times that the referendum “has been transformed into a promotional tool for the party.” He does not plan to participate.

In Coyoacán, a cobblestoned neighborhood in Mexico City known for Frida Kahlo’s home, volunteers last Sunday gathered signatures at a plaza in front of posters of the president that said “may AMLO continue.”

Ariana Garcia, a 24-year-old volunteer, said she uses the term “ratification” for people she senses like the president and “revocation” for those she thinks oppose him.

“People tell you, ‘But I don’t want my president to leave,’ so we tell them, ‘OK, then in this case you can ratify your support for the president,’” she said.

A supporter of López Obrador listens to his speech at a rally to commemorate the president’s midterm.

(Marco Ugarte/Associated Press)

Roberto Garcia, a systems engineer in Mexico City, said that he would vote against the president, uncomfortable that the federal government recently issued a decree that requires federal agencies to automatically approve infrastructure projects that are deemed to be of interest to the public or national security. He also sees the referendum as “a type of manipulation,” suspicious of why the president has contradicted the National Electoral Institute, saying it has enough funding to hold a vote he himself has fought for.

María de los Angeles Resendiz, a grandmother of 10 from the state of Mexico, will support López Obrador without hesitation.

Resendiz, 62, watches the president’s 7 a.m. news conferences each day with her husband while preparing breakfast and washing dishes. If she needs to skip one, she’ll track it down later on YouTube. She also listens to summaries in case she’s missed something.

Before López Obrador took power, Resendiz tried to stay as far away from politics as she could. She became disillusioned when she was a little girl after the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre, in which soldiers killed as many as 300 people at a student protest in Mexico City.

She called López Obrador a “simple” man who has won her confidence with his anti-corruption platform. She eagerly described how his government has set money aside for youth job training and expanded welfare payments to the elderly.

“He’s given us back our dignity,” she said. “I am proud to say that I am Mexican and that he is my president.”

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Op-Ed: the U.S. Shouldn’t Ignore Mexico’s Ongoing Human Rights Catastrophe



On Dec. 1, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador reached the halfway point of his six-year term. Since his election in 2018, López Obrador has not only failed to improve the country’s disastrous human rights record, he has worked to undo many of the hard-fought gains in transparency and the rule of law that rights groups, activists and campaigners have achieved since the end of one-party rule in Mexico in 2000.

The United States has been noticeably silent regarding the Mexican president’s accelerating attacks on democracy. President Biden has instead chosen to focus on enlisting López Obrador to prevent migrants from reaching the U.S. border.

López Obrador, a prominent anti-establishment figure in Mexican politics for decades, is the kind of populist leader that has become increasingly common in Latin America. He was democratically elected in a landslide on a promise to “transform” Mexico by taking back control of the country from the elites whose policies he blamed for economic inequality, social breakdown and growing violence.

López Obrador inherited a human rights catastrophe. When he came to office in 2018, 12 years of a military-led drug war had led to horrific abuses. Homicides hit staggering numbers. Thousands of people disappeared every year. But he has not addressed these problems. Soldiers continue to kill civilians. Homicides remain at historically high rates. And according to the government’s figures, more than 25,000 people have gone missing on his watch.

Even so, López Obrador has remained immensely popular with his base. He appears to believe that his continued popular support gives him the moral authority to concentrate as much power as possible in his own hands and to attempt to control every part of the state to bring about his promised transformation.

He labels anyone who criticizes him or stands in his way as a “neoliberal” or “conservative,” nebulous groups of supposed adversaries whom he describes as corrupt and morally bankrupt. Leveling this charge allows him to avoid responding to genuine concerns raised by journalists who question him, women’s rights campaigners upset at his lack of action on gender-based violence, Indigenous communities who oppose his megaprojects, environmentalists who disagree with his coal and oil-focused energy policy, and press freedom campaigners concerned about his government’s harassment of journalists, among others.

He has eliminated or proposed eliminating many government agencies not under his direct control, including the independent energy and telecommunications regulators, funds for protecting journalists and responding to climate change and natural disasters, the independent transparency agency and the independent electoral authority. He recently decreed that his government’s construction and infrastructure projects would be automatically granted permits without any review and that as matters of “national security,” would be exempted from transparency rules.

He has also gone after the judicial system, which has delayed or blocked a number of his projects and proposals as abusive or unconstitutional. His efforts to intimidate the judiciary have grown brazen. López Obrador has publicly singled out those whose rulings he dislikes and called for a judge who ruled against him to be investigated.

In April, his coalition in Congress passed a law — since overturned — to extend the term of the Supreme Court chief justice who has ruled in favor of the president. And in August, López Obrador held a referendum on whether the government should put five previous presidents on trial for alleged crimes such as “neoliberalism” and the “privatization of public goods.”

The U.S. policy of ignoring López Obrador’s attacks on the rule of law came into stark relief in June, when Vice President Kamala Harris visited Mexico and met with him. At the end of the trip, a journalist asked the vice president if the United States was concerned about López Obrador’s hostile attitude toward the media and civil society.

Harris initially responded that she had urged the Mexican president to respect the independence of the judicial system, the press and civil society. However, hours later, her spokesperson issued a correction to the Spanish wire service EFE, saying the vice president had been confused; she and the Mexican president had only discussed immigration and the economy, nothing else.

López Obrador will be in office for another three years. His coalition still controls both houses of Congress and he has made it clear that he is willing to amend the constitution if necessary to remove obstacles to achieving his goals. Unless the circumstances change, there are no signs he intends to alter his course.

José Miguel Vivanco is Americas director at Human Rights Watch. Tyler Mattiace is a researcher at Human Rights Watch.

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Photos: As Roe Vs. Wade Challenged, Demonstrators Gather Outside Supreme Court



Juanito Estevez, of Freeport, N.Y., holds a cross as he and abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

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