China going downhill fast under Emperor Xi

March 11, 2016 16:12
Xi Jinping (center left) and Li Keqiang (center right) appeared to be giving each other the cold shoulder during the opening ceremony of the NPC meeting. Photo: CNSA

On the surface, the main themes of this year’s National People’s Congress (NPC) and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) meetings were scrutinizing the 13th Five-Year Plan and how to jump-start the economy.

However, everybody, including officials who attended the meetings and journalists from around the world in Beijing to cover the event, knew that the two meetings were actually shrouded in an intense political atmosphere as a result of a mounting political struggle among members of the Politburo.

Since he assumed power three years ago, President Xi Jinping has been obsessed with consolidating his absolute power and resurrecting the Cultural Revolution-style personality cult.

In the meantime, he has also demonstrated his unlimited appetite for power by getting his claws into fields that used to fall under the jurisdiction of the State Council, such as financial, fiscal, monetary and economic affairs.

At the end of last year, Xi even proclaimed himself “the party’s core” and ordered more than 20 local party leaders from various provinces, cities and municipalities to publicly pledge allegiance to him.

However, it appears Xi’s status as “the party’s core” has never been officially approved by the Politburo, as none of the other party heavyweights -- including NPC president Zhang Dejiang, CPPCC chairman Yu Zhengsheng and Premier Li Keqiang -- has ever referred in public to Xi as “the party’s core”.

In fact, while Li mentioned Xi five times in the government report he delivered before the NPC this year, he didn’t use the word “core” at all, suggesting that there is no shortage of high-ranking party leaders who don’t acknowledge Xi as their “party’s core”.

At the NPC meeting's opening ceremony, it appeared that Li and Xi were avoiding each other; they didn’t shake hands or talk.

In the meantime, an online news website known as Wu Jie Xin Wen (無界新聞 News Without Boundaries) run by the propaganda apparatus of the Xinjiang committee of the Chinese Communist Party, published an open letter shortly before the opening of the NPC annual session saying Xi should be held accountable for the financial turmoil and catastrophic stock market crash that threw the entire country into disarray last year.

The open letter called for his resignation “for the sake of the well-being of the country and the safety of himself and his family”.

That such an outrageous, sensitive, subversive and rebellious letter was allowed to be published on an official party website is absolutely mind-boggling.

In fact any Chinese civilian who dared to publish an open letter questioning Xi’s leadership would be arrested immediately and charged with high treason.

Wu Jie Xin Wen would never have had the guts to run a letter like that unless it had got the support of some powerful people behind the scenes.

Apart from the almost open split between Xi and Li over who should have the final word on running the economy, a power struggle has also broken out between Liu Yunshan, one of former president Jiang Zemin’s most loyal lieutenants and an incumbent Politburo member who oversees the party's ideological propaganda, and Wang Qishan, secretary of the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

When the NPC and CPPCC meetings got underway, several party mouthpieces controlled by Liu simultaneously lashed out at Ren Zhiqiang, a real estate tycoon who is closely connected with Wang, for his defiant remarks against the party leadership.

Apparently, the media attacks masterminded by Liu were actually targeted at Wang.

And as expected, within a few days, the official website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection published an article in defense of Ren.

It has become increasingly apparent that almost every aspect of the society and economy in China has deteriorated sharply under Xi’s dictatorship, and the in-fighting among the oligarchs that rule China today has taken its toll on the people’s confidence, if any remains, in the Communist Party being capable of maintaining the economic growth of the country and improving their lives.

As the 85-year-old Professor Zi Zhongjun of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences pointed out in his recent article titled “I feel that we are on a trend toward barbarism”, “there have been countless examples throughout the history of mankind where barbarism triumphed over civilization.

"If we allow this trend to continue in this way, our country will soon be just another one of those examples.”

I cannot agree more with Professor Zi, because under the rule of Emperor Xi, by any measure, China is going downhill.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 10.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Adjunct Professor, History Department, The Chinese University of Hong Kong