Saturday, September 23, 2023

China’s Xi Jinping Secures His Third Term in Power, Rejecting Dissidents

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Removing a former leader. Removing a close ally. The elevation of a cadre of yes-men. China’s 20th Communist Party Congress had it all, and by the end, Chinese President Xi Jinping had tightened his grip on power.

The meeting, which takes place every five years and concludes on Saturday, was already a newsworthy event, as Xi was widely expected to tighten his grip on China with a third term as leader. Xi, 69, is already past the unwritten retirement age for Chinese leaders and rewrote the constitution in 2018 to allow him to run for more than two consecutive terms; that has led many observers to believe that he… set oneself up as ruler for life.

Xi’s seizure of power is an unusual, but not exactly unprecedented, phenomenon in the People’s Republic of China; Mao Zedongthe country’s first head of state, he held that role for only ten years, but he remained head of the Communist Party until his death in 1976, with a hand in national policy – including the devastating Cultural Revolution.

But the party congress was perhaps the clearest, most concise indicator that the party, and by extension the People’s Republic of China, belongs to Xi.

The 20th Party Congress was defined not only by Xi’s taking a third term in power, but also by the dramatic events. Xi announced a stir in his 24-person Politburo, which does not include women for the first time since 1997 and also deviates from the standard 25-person lineup. That group, a centralized decision-making committee within the Chinese state, is led by the party’s general secretary, Xi Jinping. Now it’s also full of Xi’s people, David Stroup, a lecturer in Chinese politics at the University of Manchester, told cafemadrid via Telegram.

“Broadly speaking, the Standing Committee of the Communist Party,” a seven-member inner circle within the Politburo, “is made up of a group of people who will be loyal to Xi, and formed by Xi’s faction,” Stroup said. said, noting that “other competing factions, such as the Youth Communist League faction under former party secretary Hu Jintao, had not been given any representation in this body.”

The Politburo Standing Committee now includes Wang Huning, who has been a member of the Standing Committee since 2017 but will play a different role; Cai Qi, who will be head of the General Secretariat and oversee day-to-day party affairs; and Li Xi, who will head the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the state’s anti-corruption agency. All of these men are over 65, the typical age limit for elite membership, pointing to Xi’s “continuous trailblazing and rule-breaking” side to maintain power.

“Xi surrounds itself with people who are staunch loyalists in a way that will reflect that loyalty is a concern that replaces others,” Stroup said.

Xi continues his purge pattern

The meeting was also notable for high-profile purges, including those of Xi’s current Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, and former President Hu Jintao.

Li Qiang, who will be Xi’s deputy in the Party when Li Keqiang steps down in March, is a surprising pick for Xi’s number two, and likely his next prime minister. He has never worked in central government, but did oversee a rather disastrous two-month Covid-19 lockdown in Shanghai, where he is currently party secretary. “The Shanghai Lockdown disaster has not stopped Li’s elevation precisely because he followed Xi’s command despite all the criticism,” Yang Zhang, a sociology professor at American University’s School of International Affairs, said in a statement. tweetedindicating that he will be loyal to Xi’s ideology no matter the cost.

While Stroup noted that some rotation in the Standing Committee was expected, it is noteworthy that Li Keqiang’s replacement is not a technocrat or anyone ideologically similar.

“Li [Keqiang] has always been seen as a bit of a counterbalance to Xi — not that there is much control over Xi — but as a moderating influence on Xi,” he said. “If you alternate people like Li and replace him with hardliners and people who are more willing to do the things Xi wants to do, it’s an important shift. Even if we saw this retirement, or some of the older guys moving away, I don’t know that the message being sent here is any less surprising or powerful.”

Hu, the former president and party leader, was much more forcefully removed from the proceedings; he was accompanied from the stage of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing by two stewards from his seat next to Xi during Saturday’s closing ceremony.

“There are people who say this is as simple as a failed Covid test,” Stroup told cafemadrid. “I don’t think that’s right. What I would say about Hu’s removal is that it was certainly intentional; at an event so organized, an event so choreographed, an event so scripted, nothing like this would have happened if it wasn’t meant to be […] or if it wasn’t an attempt to make other things happen,” as Hu voted against Xi remaining in power, Stroup said.

While the reasons for Hu’s removal is not yet clear, the view is undeniable. Hu is not only an elder statesman and Xi’s immediate predecessor as head of the Party and of China, but he is also resigned after two terms — a precedent that Xi overthrew when he amended the constitution in 2018, allowing him to run for more than two consecutive terms.

Hu is also the head of a rival faction within the party, the Youth Communist League, although Xi has wiped out most of the factions or at least greatly reduced their influence during his tenure. In particular, Hu’s faction was focused on curbing the excesses of President Jiang Zemin’s move to a free-market economy and pursuing slower, more measured reforms, Stroup told cafemadrid. His dramatic removal may have indicated to other members of the faction that “their benefactor could not help them, that Hu was no longer protecting them, that Hu was powerless.”

Xi is no stranger to purges; he began ridding the party of potential competitors when he took office in 2012, under the auspices of an anti-corruption campaign. In fairness to Xi, corruption was a major problem for the party when he took power. But as Rahul Karan Reddy wrote earlier this year for the Organization for Research on China and Asia, a think tank based in New Delhi, efforts to stamp out corruption in the party have allowed him to punish other party members and political factions that threatened his hegemony. Anti-corruption laws and mechanisms have also expanded much further in Chinese society and have been an effective method for Xi to punish dissent.

Xi has consolidated power in other ways — and it’s accelerating

Since Xi took leadership of both the nation and the Chinese Communist Party, he has steered China in a more authoritarian direction. Xi’s government has ruthlessly cracked down on pro-democracy activism in Hong Kong, forced as many as two million ethnic Uyghur, Kazakh and Uzbek Muslims in brutal labor and re-education camps in the Xinjiang Autonomous Regionand threatened those who were seen as challenge his power.

He also introduced his own ideology, Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, often shortened to Xi Jinping Thought. The 14 Principles Of Xi Jinping Thought are not only intended to guide military and government doctrine, but also guide ordinary people in their relationship with the government. Xi Jinping Thought focuses on issues such as social welfare and sustainable development, but also unequivocally demonstrates the dominance of the Party – and therefore Xi’s – over national institutions. Ultimately, they are a reminder that, as the first principle states, “Under the party, the government, the military, the people, academia and all circles, the party leads everything.”

Xi Jinping Thought was: enshrined in the Chinese constitution as well as the party constitution at the last party congress as the guiding ideology for both. It also becomes integrated into curricula from primary school to university level – perhaps paving the way for it to be as much a part of China’s social fabric as Quotes from Chairman Mao Zedong, commonly known in the West as “Mao’s Little Red Book”.

But there have also been accelerated efforts to regulate the personal lives of ordinary Chinese citizens in the past two years, Stroup told cafemadrid. “Things like entertainmentthings like ride sharing appstech sectors, even for-profit English teaching, all these various offshoots are heavily regulated under the guise of stopping predatory behavior.

Stroup also pointed to increased sinification—that is, attempts to integrate people of all Chinese ethnicities, religions, and languages ​​by limiting or prohibiting the expression of those identities in favor of a unified Chinese identity—as an attempt to gain power and eradicate dissent.

“Many of these things have different facets and different appearances; some look like economic regulations trying to curb sectors where dissent can bubble up, others are more focused on more culturally determined programming,” he said.

“But all these things are evidence of sinification and evidence of centralization – and remarkable in the past two years, especially in the approach to the party congress.


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