Given how heavily dependent the Chinese population is on the Chinese Communist Party in their lives, every unexpected political move can draw powerful attention.  

The situation is even more delicate as we approach the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which will dictate the country’s policies for at least the next five years. 

And with the end of Xi Jinping’s second term, uncertainty increases because it is possible that unexpected events may occur before his possible nomination for a third term, something that is not acceptable to his opponents. 

Official media confirmed that Xi signed the promotion order for Lieutenant General Wang Qiang to general on September 8. He was immediately conferred the position of commander of the People’s Liberation Army, commanding the Northern War Zone. 

Up to this point, it could be seen as a routine promotion, but the strange circumstances surrounding that promotion led analysts to suggest that a violent coup attempt might have been behind it.

Was a coup foiled?

A coup may well have been thwarted, based on several leaked videos showing large explosions, and no official explanation for them. One compilation was presented by journalist Jennifer Zeng, who wrote, “At around 2:00 am on September 8, sound of gunfire, explosions and fighter jets could be heard at Yuhong Airport, a military airport in Shenyang City, Lianoning province in China. Yuhong Airport belongs to the CCP’s air force of the PLA’s Northern War Zone.”  

Moreover, netizens wrote their comments, including one sharing a guess published by Sound of Hope media:

“Guess wrote, After Wang Qiang took over as commander-in-chief, the original commander and his subordinates rebelled, so commander Wang Qiang deployed forces to wipe out all insurgents. The battle began in the middle of the night on the 9th, concentrating to the west of Tiexi district.”

He added, “There are many troops, and then after the battle, all the captured people were escorted in troop-laden trucks by numerous police forces to the city headquarters for interrogation. Perhaps this process will surface gradually.”

In support of these hypotheses, netizen @Ke2Knwxx82xYzZp, attached a video of military trucks driving through the city of Shenyang, and explained,  “On September 9, more than a dozen vehicles containing the bodies of the failed troops of Li Qiaoming, commander of the Northern War Zone, passed through the suburbs of Shenyang.”

He added that each truck, could carry a dozen corpses, and a dozen trucks could carry one or two hundred people. A military coup was foiled after the intense bombing in the early morning of September 7-8 in the Forbidden City. The CCP tried to erase the news globally, but it was caught by #劳直播 (#Lao live) and announced to the world.”

The version of this tweet is reinforced by the YouTube channel, Lawrence playing on Twitter (Haipai News Show) [劳伦斯玩推特(海派新闻秀], who highlights the facts in his hourlong show saying,  “Northern War Zone Commander Li Qiaoming mutinied, and led his troops to occupy Shenyang Yuhong Airport: Xi Jinping sent planes to bomb for two consecutive days on September 7 and 8, and on the 8th to pacify the rebels, Xi Jinping hurriedly promoted Wang Qiang as the new [commander].”

The fact that former Northern War Zone commander Li was replaced by newly promoted Wang makes one suspect that the rumors are true..

Foremost, Li’s “current whereabouts are unknown,” according to Radio Free Asia. Moreover, “he is far from reaching the retirement age of 65,” making it all the more unusual that he was dismissed without following normal dismissal procedures, and with almost a month to go before the upcoming 20th CCP Congress.

However, for analyst and commentator, professor Zhang Tianliang, it is unlikely that these events were generated by a coup attempt. He even considers the possibility that the videos are not true. He therefore commented, “So if we haven’t seen any news about it so far, we can basically be sure that the riot in the northern war zone is fake news.”

He added that while people may have expected something like this to actually happen, at least so far, it doesn’t seem that it has, and it is likely some kind of online campaign, or perhaps even some fake video.”

Much more important to Zhang, however, are the amendments being sought to the CCP Constitution, with respect to Xi’s rule. 

Is Xi Jinping following in Putin’s footsteps?

Regarding the possible amendments to the constitution, Zhang also considered the possibility that Xi was proposing a new position within the Politburo, that of president of the CCP.

He stated, that Xi Jinping could have amended the Party constitution by adding the position of party chairman. Then he could become party chairman and serve another 10 years.

It is important tp remember that Xi reportedly intends to extend his term of office for at least five more years. This has caused much controversy, because the rule only allows 2 consecutive five-year terms and Xi is already at the end of his second term. 

In spite of this, if the new position is approved, Xi could hold the Party reins not only for another five years, but for up to ten more years. 

Zhang emphasized the similarity he finds between Xi’s plans with the one followed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Putin personally ruled his country for 10 years, and then continued for another 10 years as prime minister under President Dmitry Medvedev, his ally. At that time, he was constitutionally barred from serving a third consecutive term as Russia’s president.

Putin subsequently influenced a change to the constitution so that his current term will last until 2036. 

Popular anger grows

At the same time as this political uncertainty, the Chinese have to deal with CCP regulations that are not only strange in other countries, but cause them much suffering. This is the case with the isolations and restrictions generated by the zero COVID policy.

After months of extreme lockdowns subjecting them to torturous food rationing and countless COVID tests, citizens’ anger is gradually increasing.  

The author, Helen Gao, offers a possible explanation for the widespread discontent as she describes in her Foreign Policy article, “The unusual eruptions of public rage are not just a result of the Party’s failure to keep up its side of the bargain; it is also the fact that much of the recent difficulties are the product of erratic, reckless Party policies.”

In addition to the lack the political rights that would allow Chinese people to participate in making important decisions to determine their destiny, the CCP’s erratic rules contribute to the chaos. 

Gao added, “The Chinese public no longer knows what the rules are. Reckless policies have obliterated the established rules.” She went on, “But the crudeness of the policy instruments and their vast collateral damage has deeply unnerved the public.”

She also sees a deterioration in the Chinese regime, “A party that has been known since the 1980s for its pragmatism and commitment to social stability has turned itself into an agent of chaos and, in extreme cases, a direct threat to people’s livelihoods.”

Thus, the malaise of the people in China is not surprising, which would justify their yearning for substantial changes in the government during the 20th National Congress, so that it can regain the stability and cultural greatness that characterized it for millennia. 

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