After ten years of arduous struggle to remain the absolute master of power in the most populous nation on the planet, China, Xi Jinping is approaching the moment of truth.
The crossroads that will take place in November, on the occasion of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), “it is also a battle of life and death for Xi,” says Chen Weijian, editor-in-chief of Beijing Spring magazine, quoted by Secret China.
The 20th Congress will be held in Beijing and will gather 2,300 delegates, representing about 90 million CCP members. They will decide the fate of more than 1.4 billion Chinese citizens for at least the next five years.
The event will also elect a new Central Committee, which will approve the Political Bureau members and the Standing Committee, who will be the heads during this period. The leader, Xi Jinping, is also expected to run for a third term.
However, despite the titanic work carried out to achieve this, the strong winds rising against him do not bode well for his success. Thus, one of the worst crises in its 100-year history may be brewing.
Xi Jinping’s most recent battle
After purging and sidelining millions of officials based on a supposedly anti-corruption campaign, the Chinese regime imposed on high-ranking officials the duty to report the business activities of their spouses and children. Those who fail to do so or try to circumvent the rules will be stripped of their rank.
This would be Xi’s most recent declared battle with his rivals for power, and one of the most lethal, given that no one in the CCP elite does not have children or spouses, directly or indirectly, with business ties.
Seen from another angle, Xi now has in his power all potential opponents to his re-election and will be able to determine who remains active or, on the contrary, will be dispossessed. The results would depend on the degree of loyalty of those involved.
“Anti-corruption is Xi’s tried and true way of removing political opponents. The former party bosses, except Hu Wen and Jiang Zhu, were almost all sent to Qincheng [a maximum-security prison, located in Beijing]…,” Chen also maintains.
He adds, “…and those who did not go in had no way out except to kneel down and lose their sincerity to save their lives.”
Who can come out ahead depends on his attitude toward Xi. This time, Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign is politically more precise and aims to pave the way for his re-election at the 20th National Congress.
Xi on the international scene
Although Beijing has tried to deflect the aggressiveness of its international policy through the intense use of propaganda at various levels, its blunders are taking their toll.
A report presented by the Atlantic Council, an American think tank in the field of international affairs, expressed last year, “Now, however, the mission for US China strategy should be to see China return to its pre-2013 path—i.e., the pre-Xi strategic status quo.”
Dr. Zhang Tianliang interprets this recommendation as a “change of Xi but not of the Communist Party.” In other words, Xi Jinping should be replaced from the perspective of this report. Zhang is a professor of Chinese history and host of the popular Chinese-language television program A Grand View of Chinese History.
He further emphasized that a force within the Democratic Party from the United States hated Xi Jinping more than the CCP and wanted to replace him immediately, as they could hardly tolerate him.
On the other hand, the recent appointment of the Chinese regime’s special representative for European affairs, Wu Hongbo, for a three-week tour was interpreted by business leaders as a strategy to improve his chances of re-election at the next CCP Congress.
“The Chinese want to change the tone of the story, to control the damage. They understand they have gone too far,” said one of the European business leaders, CNBC quoted on June 19.
Indeed, “At every stop, Wu conceded China had ‘made mistakes,’ from its handling of Covid-19 to its ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy, to its economic mismanagement,” wrote Frederick Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council.
It should be recalled that on a European visit before Wu’s trip, CCP official Huo Yuzhen was denied a meeting with Polish government officials. This would signify the possible ‘erosion’ of the regime’s power in Europe.
In this context, and even more shocking, is the loss of popularity experienced by Xi Jinping.
This is evidenced by the setback with which the citizens punished an attempt by the CCP to ascertain popular opinion.
In “Xi Jinping’s learning from Yuan Shikai’s ‘persuasion’ campaign,” launched by the Internet, the results were discouraging because although the comments exceeded 850,000 during the first day, most were hostile towards the Chinese regime.
“Ultimately, the glorification and ‘persuasion’ that the planners hoped for did not occur, but instead gave the public the opportunity to publicly criticize Xi Jinping,” the July 4 IPK media outlet contends.
Xi Jinping personally organized the campaign in February to boost his re-election at the 20th National Congress, with disastrous results. 99% of the commentators expressed their frustration with him, and with the CCP, amidst many, many complaints.
For its part, the Great Translators Movement, composed of dissidents of the Chinese regime, summed up this fiasco by tweeting: “What a story: CCP originally invited people to provide suggestions for the next national congress but banned it shortly afterwards. What did they really expect?”.
From another approach, according to former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s economic analysis, Xi will hardly achieve the set economic growth target of 5.5%, and this failure would be decisive in the results of his approval for a third term.
“For Mr. Xi, failing to reach the target would be politically disastrous,” Rudd considered, according to his May 10 Wall Street Journal article.
Along those lines, Rhodium Group founding partner Daniel H. Rosen, also with ties to the Atlantic Council, says, “China cannot have both today’s statism and yesterday’s strong growth rates. It will have to choose.”
Thus, even if Xi’s continuity in power of the CCP is approved, the intense pressures from countless sources would force him to implement substantial and unavoidable changes in the direction of the Chinese regime.
The author and historian Claude Arpi goes even further by considering that even these changes could end Xi Jinping’s absolute leadership.
So he writes: “Though Xi’s policies have started being questioned within China, it does not mean that he will not be given a third term.”
He adds, “It, however, is certainly a weakened Xi who will rule China after November. A collective leadership may take the place of the present imperial rule.”
Thus, one of the worst crises in its 100-year history would take shape. For the time being, we will have to wait until November to know the outcome.