Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects a joint military exercise in the South China Sea in April 2018. Photo: Xinhua

The Communist Party of China’s (CPC) third historical resolution outlines General Secretary and President Xi Jinping’s plans to reform the country’s army, strengthen its marine power, form stronger ties with neighboring countries and eventually “reunify” Taiwan with the mainland.

The final text of the third historical resolution, approved at the Six Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee on November 11, was released publicly on Tuesday afternoon Beijing time after Xi and US President Joe Biden held a three-hour virtual meeting in the morning.

The delay in the release of the resolution’s final text had caused some speculation that it was too controversial to be made public, while some commentators thought the delay was to avoid upstaging the Xi-Biden meeting.

Last Friday, Beijing officials said the resolution did not aim to rejuvenate the Cultural Revolution nor criticize former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening-up strategy. It still called the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre a “serious political struggle,” but said the incident was caused by hostile forces against communism and socialism.

The resolution’s declaration likely paved the way for Xi to extend his term by five more years at the 20th Party Congress next year, marking a potential record third term, given that it highly praised and emphasized Xi’s contributions over the past decade.

State media had previously hinted that Xi would use the resolution to rewrite and rehabilitate the official history of the Cultural Revolution, critique Deng’s market reforms for creating a huge wealth gap and promote his “common prosperity” drive.

But Beijing officials told a media briefing last Friday that presented only a summary of the resolution that the viewpoints and conclusions of the first and second historical resolutions remained valid.

In the second historical resolution, Deng criticized former leader Mao Zedong for initiating the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976, where untold millions were killed in a frenzy of ideological violence.

Members of the Red Guard in 1969 during the devastating Cultural Revolution. Photo: AFP / Jean Vincent

Joseph Cheng, a former professor of political science at the City University of Hong Kong, claimed the party wanted to release the resolution at a time when China-US relations were showing improvement. Cheng said it was probably the best time to publish the full text of the document shortly after the Xi-Biden meeting.

Lew Mon-hung, a Hong Kong businessman and a former member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said it was a relief that the third historical resolution did not rehabilitate the Cultural Revolution, as many businesspeople were worried that Xi would launch a similar initiative by promoting leftism and pushing his new “common prosperity” drive.

Lew said as the document had strongly praised Xi’s achievements, it was likely that Xi would be able to extend his term next year and stay at the core of the party’s leadership.

Other commentators speculated that the resolution’s original draft could have praised Mao and criticized Deng, but the content was amended after a meeting of the Central Committee’s politburo on October 18 as Chinese business representatives expressed concerns about language that could be perceived as a leftist turn.

The final text of the resolution is divided into seven parts, with the first three stating the party’s achievements in establishing a “New China”, building a socialist society and implementing socialist modernization.

The fourth part says Xi has led the country to achieve socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era since the 18th Party Congress in late 2012. It also listed 13 tasks that the party, with Xi as a core of its leadership, would prioritize in the future.

The resolution’s last three parts urged the Chinese people to stay united and follow the party’s leadership in order to realize national rejuvenation in the next century.

Of the 13 future tasks laid out in the fourth part, four were related to Xi’s plan to reform the army, safeguard national security, form diplomatic ties and achieve Chinese unification.

Students wave flags of China and the Communist Party of China before celebrations in Beijing on July 1, 2021, to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. Photo: AFP / Wang Zhao

“The party has set the goals of strengthening the army for the new era, including the goal to realize by the 100th anniversary of its army in 2027, the modernization of national defense and the army by 2035 and the goal to build a world-class army by the middle of this century,” said the resolution.

The army will upgrade its training, build a strong and firm air and coastal defense system, have the flexibility to carry out military struggles, effectively respond to external military provocations and deter “Taiwan independence” separatist acts.

“The party will strengthen its national security and defense educations … severely crack down on the infiltration, destruction, subversion and separatist activities of hostile forces,” the resolution said.

“It will carry out struggles involving Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet and the South China Sea and speed up the building of a maritime power to effectively safeguard national security.”

The resolution also said “resolving Taiwan problems and realizing Chinese unification” was the CPC’s historical mission, the common wish of all Chinese people and a necessary condition for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

It said the Taiwan government had intensified its independence activities since 2016. It also said mainland China had the power to decide the timetable of Chinese unification.

The resolution said the party would deepen its relations with neighboring countries to build a “Community of Common Destiny” in the region and further increase China’s international influence.

The remaining seven future tasks focus on the improvements of the party’s governance and the country’s law enforcement and developments in economy, culture, society and environmental protection.

Read: Xi’s historical resolution looks forward not back