Mon, Nov 13, 2017 - Page 6 News List

A critique on Xi’s power and policy

By Parris Chang 張旭成

At the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 19th National Congress last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) rose to unprecedented political supremacy in Communist China, something not seen since the time of Mao Zedong (毛澤東).

Xi has packed the regime’s topmost policymaking organs — the CCP Central Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee — with allies and cronies, without any possible successor in sight. This signifies that Xi is to extend his tenure beyond his current five-year term, which ends in 2022.

As the nation’s “core leader,” Xi holds the posts of CCP general secretary, chairman of the Central Military Commission and president (head of state) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In addition, Xi has created and led more than a dozen “leading groups” or “working groups” on issues as varied as national security, finance, Taiwan and cybersecurity, and thus has been called China’s “chairman of everything.”

The CCP congress has elevated Xi to the same glorified status as Mao, the founding father of the PRC, and former leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), chief architect of China’s “open-door” reforms, by amending the CCP’s charter and adding to it “Xi Jinping Thought for the New Era of Socialism with Chinese Special Characteristics” as “a new component of the party’s guide for action.”

Xi suggested in his political report that if Mao made China independent and Deng made it prosperous, he would make it strong again — thus he is ushering China into a “new era.”

Does Xi command the same exalted authority and influence in the party and the nation as Mao and Deng before him? The answer is: not quite.

After all, both Mao and Deng had been revolutionary leaders in China’s Civil War, founders of the PRC, and their decades of struggle and self-sacrifice gave them an aura of charisma and authority that Xi could never match. The power and influence of Mao and Deng were not based solely on leadership posts, but on deeds and accomplishments.

What has Xi achieved since his rise to power in 2012? Most observers would agree that the sweeping anti-corruption campaign to purge corrupt cadres has been his most resounding success.

In the course of the campaign, a large number of senior officials were investigated and persecuted.

Xi’s political ally Wang Qishan (王岐山), who headed the CCP’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said that 440 so-called “tigers,” or senior officials with vice-ministerial rank or above, including 160 generals, were removed.

Among them were super-sized tigers Zhou Yongkang (周永康), a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and China’s internal security czar until November 2012, and two ranking generals of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Xu Caihou (徐才厚) and Guo Boxiong (郭伯雄), who were former vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission and politburo members.

The purges eliminated Xi’s political opponents and their followers, creating open positions. Through patronage, Xi rewards his cronies and co-opts supporters, enabling him to place his allies in key positions and to consolidate power.

In stark contrast to his predecessor Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), who was seen as a weak leader, Xi exercises full command over the PLA, institutes reforms and reorganization with an iron hand and has downsized the PLA by 300,000, including removals of a large number of corrupt and disloyal PLA officers.

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