Several U.S. media pointed out the similarities between Xi Jinping and Mao Zedong. After the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, where Xi strengthened his third term as General Secretary of the CCP, those who left, those who were promoted, and the changes to come will determine how the next five years of the Chinese regime will be.
In this sense, analysts and experts from several U.S. media commented that Xi is expanding his power and has more influence than Mao Zedong.
For some reason, the analysis of which is beyond the scope of this article, most of these Western media tend to omit the social horrors experienced by the Chinese people under Mao Zedong’s regime, such as the Great Famine, the Great Leap Forward and the destruction of Chinese cultural roots and moral values.
Those who followed Mao were careful not to stray too far from the line he left for the CCP and maintain the stamp of control, power, and violence that marked the Communist Party.
However, the media mention some points in common between Xi’s leadership and Mao. The big difference now lies in Xi’s third term, something unprecedented within the Party and an objective achieved thanks to modifications in the CCP Constitution.
On October 22, the CCP reported the completion of the 20th Congress, which is held every five years, and published the list of elected members. The following day, the re-elected General Secretary confirmed the new formation of the Politburo and Standing Committee.
Premier Li Keqiang and parliamentary chief Li Zhanshu will retire from the CCP’s positions of power. Li Keqiang was close to Xi and also to Hu Jintao.
As noted by the SCMP, the new leadership is younger than the previous one. However, Xi decided to keep Foreign Minister Wang Yi and 72-year-old Zhang Youxia, a man with vast military experience who oversaw the People’s Liberation Army’s special exploration, armament, and equipment programs.
China’s state news agency, Xinhua, said Xi Jinping led inspection and selection teams for interviews of the more than 300 candidate members of the Central Committee. These teams visited local governments, state-owned enterprises, and military units to search for candidates.
The Xinhua report, published on October 23, noted, “Party Secretary Xi Jinping personally took charge of the planning and was personally in charge of supervision.” SCMP said this was the first time a Chinese state media outlet had directly confirmed Xi’s involvement in selecting members for the Party’s Central Committee.
“[The inspection team must verify whether] the candidates are highly aligned with Comrade Xi Jinping’s central leadership in terms of their thoughts, policy stance, and actions; whether they will unswervingly execute the policies and plans of the party’s central leadership; and whether they will strictly abide by the party’s political discipline,” Xinhua stated.
It is clear that the new Central Committee members will be loyal to Xi Jinping.
The game of differences between Mao and Xi
Some U.S. media highlighted that Xi had to ensure, as a priority to reassert his power within the CCP, the absolute loyalty of the new members of the Central Committee and the Politburo, following in the footsteps of Mao Zedong.
To Larry Ong, senior analyst at the consulting firm SinoInsider, these observers who compare Xi and Mao are not taking into account Xi’s limitations within the CCP, the factional struggle, and the objectives he has failed to achieve since coming to power.
Xi Jinping is reportedly going through a crisis of credibility and reputation, which is why his strategy is based mainly on propaganda and not so much on the results or achievements of his policies.
According to Ong, resentment towards Xi has increased, despite the positive consensus towards the highlights of the 20th Congress agenda.
Voice of America published a series of interviews with senior CCP leaders, but without revealing their real names. These elite party members told VOA that Xi had lost popularity since the 2018 amendments to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. These amendments removed limits on the re-election of the PRC president and vice president. A female CCP cadre told VOA that nearly 90% of members of her acquaintances within the Party do not support Xi’s re-election.
In this regard, China expert Perry Link said Xi Jinping broke with several of the old CCP rules by assuming a third term as party General Secretary and involving himself in the process of selecting new Central Committee members.
In addition, he said that many slogans, such as “read Chairman Xi’s book and listen to Chairman Xi’s words,” can be seen on the Internet in mainland China and are very similar to those of the CCP’s Cultural Revolution “it’s Mao Zedong’s tune, Mao Zedong used that model [of propaganda], now this looks more and more like Mao Zedong’s era.”
For Link, however, the differences between Xi and Mao run deep. “Mao Zedong was smarter and more charismatic than Xi Jinping, Mao had more depth than Xi Jinping.” He added, “I don’t think (Xi) has much knowledge. He knows how to intrigue and play political tricks, but for issues of broader knowledge, I don’t think he has anything.”
Link pointed out another difference between Xi and Mao is the current situation; now, Chinese citizens know more about democracy, civil rights, private property, and other completely suppressed concepts under the Maoist regime. For this reason, he said, “I don’t think [Xi’s power] is permanent, I think his regime is quite fragile.”