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Just when I was settling comfortably into a worldview where the Party General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party could behave in a massively destructive fashion to everyone at home and abroad without the slightest concern for consequences like Chinese emperors of old. The emperor was the rule by which all was to be measures. If he sneezed, China sneezed. Proudly. Harmoniously.
There is a group with the influence to unnerve even Xi. Katsuji Nakasawa writing in the Nikkei Asian Review:
China’s annual “Beidaihe meeting” will arrive in two weeks or so, kicking off the country’s most heated political season.
Although people call it a “meeting,” it is nothing more than an informal gathering of political figures to exchange views.
Yet, it is the one assembly that makes President Xi Jinping nervous, as he is subjected to criticism from retired Chinese Communist Party elders at the seaside resort of Beidaihe, in Hebei Province.
The son of a former vice premier, Xi is considered a “second-generation red” or “princeling.” His power base is made up of fellow children of revolutionary-era party leaders.
But shockingly to them, Xi did not appoint many second-generation reds or princelings to key positions when making personnel changes at the party’s 2017 national congress. Instead, he promoted mostly former subordinates who served him in regional governments.
This has sowed discord between him and other second-generation reds.
Who are the elders? There are between 10 and 20 figures who still have influence. They are the ex-leaders who stand on the Tiananmen rostrum during military parades.
Among those are former President Jiang Zemin, 93, former Premier Zhu Rongji, 91, former President Hu Jintao, 77, and former Premier Wen Jiabao, 77.
They have been the central players at Beidaihe meetings for many years.
This does not mean Jiang, Zhu, Hu and Wen are on good terms.
What they do have in common, however, is that they oversaw China’s high economic growth and upheld a moderate external policy of “hiding claws” and biding time for a ripe opportunity. Former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping introduced this tao guang yang hui diplomatic strategy.
Xi is pursuing a different course. After taking the party helm as general secretary in 2012, Xi quickly ditched Deng’s policy and began talking about China becoming a “great power.”
Under Xi, China has adopted a strategy of catching up with the U.S. economically and technologically much earlier than previously planned. But the ambitious strategy has led to a serious confrontation with the Trump administration, which sees the rise of China as a threat.
The party projects a sense of unity, but in reality it harbors multiple viewpoints. Xi’s current policies certainly do not enjoy overwhelming support.
Xi’s political path would become trickier to navigate if dissent were to spread from a handful of cadres to a wider camp, supported by influential elders behind the scenes.
Some something may be happening, or not. For the sake of the Chinese people and the world, I hope it’s the former and not the latter.Published in