Xi Jinping Holds Onto Power Amid Infighting Within the CCP
Commentary by Wang He
October 19, 2020
In less than eight years, Xi Jinping has established himself as the core leader and his political ideology is enshrined into the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s constitution. This not only places Xi above his predecessors Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and Deng Xiaoping, but he is also catching up with Mao Zedong’s legacy. However, now that the CCP is accelerating its own demise, most factions within the regime want to hold Xi accountable.
For example, in the first half of 2020, a few vocal CCP officials have requested for Xi to step down. “Princeling” (a descendant of a former high-ranking official) Chen Ping called for an urgent Politburo meeting to determine whether Xi is suitable to continue serving as the national leader. Another princeling, Deng Pufang, who is also the son of former Party leader Deng Xiaoping, openly criticized the regime’s policies in a speech he gave when he was re-elected as the honorary chairman of China’s Disabled Persons’ Federation in September 2018. Experts say the remarks were a veiled attack on Xi.
What is Xi’s reaction?
First of all, Xi took steps to solidify his authority over the regime and the military.
Xi wants to control three groups: high-ranking officials, dissenters, and big corporations.
1. High-ranking officials and retired Party veterans
Xi wants to crack down on any “non-organized political activities” by veterans. According to state media reports, the upcoming fifth plenum will pass new working regulations of the Central Committee that are intended to cement Xi’s core leadership and prevent him from being ousted by political rivals.
The regime punishes critics who openly criticize the CCP, including Princeling Ren Zhiqiang, a second-generation descendant of a senior CCP official, who was sentenced to 18 years; Cai Xia, a dissident and retired professor of the Central Party School, lost her retirement benefits; Xu Zhangrun, an intellectual and a professor at Tsinghua University, was removed from his post; and Xu Zhiyong, an activist and legal scholar, was detained earlier this year. All these incidents happened in the first half of 2020.
3. Big corporations
Financial tycoons, especially those with political ties, have been reined in by the CCP. The CEO of Anbang Insurance Group, Wu Xiaohui, was found guilty of fraud and embezzlement, and sentenced to 18 years in prison. The founder of Tomorrow Group, Xiao Jianhua, was placed under investigation. He reportedly laundered money for high-level CCP officials. The early retirement of Alibaba founder Jack Ma last year came at a time when Beijing was clamping down on private firms. In June 2018, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mandated that all of the country’s publicly listed companies must set up Party organizations for its employees.
Promoting Socialism: Xi Jinping Thought
Many books on Xi’s political doctrine, called “Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” (also known as Xi Jinping Thought) have been published—fostering a cult of personality around Xi. The first volume of “Xi Jinping: The Governance of China,” a collection of Xi’s speeches and writings, was published in 2014, and the third volume was just published this year. On July 20, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi declared the opening of the Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy research center in Beijing as “an epoch-making milestone in the diplomatic theory of New China.” Xi’s portraits have also been put up in many places such as temples and churches.
Party officials are required to study Xi Jinping Thought and are expected to be loyal to the CCP. The regime has severely cracked down on those whose “conduct violated political discipline” according to the 2018 Chinese Communist Party Disciplinary Regulations, such as those who “make a mockery of the Central Committee’s major directives, undermining the Party’s centralism and unity.”
On Jan. 1, 2019, the Chinese app “Xuexi Qiangguo” (which translates to “Study the Great Nation”) was launched, designed for online study of Xi Jinping’s Thought. According to a report by German cybersecurity company Cure53, the app has put individual users at risk of having their sensitive information decrypted and stored.
As Xi faces mounting pressure at home and abroad (i.e., over China’s sluggish economy and pandemic response), rival factions within the regime want to hold Xi accountable.
In “Governance of China,” Xi requires officials to be loyal to the Party and “not to take the old path of a rigid closed-door policy, nor an erroneous path by abandoning socialism.” There’s no alternative and this is the fundamental reason why Xi is trapped in a dead end. Where is his new path?
The only way out for Xi and his opponents is to abandon socialism. But are they willing to do so? It’s hard to tell.
In short, if Xi and his opponents are still trapped within the mindset of pledging their allegiance to the Party above everything else, then they would destroy themselves.
The elimination of the CCP will open up a path of a promising future for China.
Wang He has master’s degrees in law and history, with a focus on the international communist movement. He was a university lecturer and an executive of a large private company in China. He was imprisoned in China twice for his beliefs. Wang lives in North America now and has published commentaries on China’s current affairs and politics since 2017.