Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Xi the Nuclear Dumpster Fire of a Leader in Trouble?

 
Xi Jinping
Xi in a group with his friends and allies

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 Foreign Policy
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 10 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jimmy Lai, the recently arrested publisher dissident in Hong Kong, said in an Uncommon Knowledge episode this past spring that Xi is far weaker, internally, than he appears, and his actions need to be understood as those of a weak leader trying to project strength. Xi’s overreach has soured China’s economy and alienated every single neighbor except, perhaps, Russia (at least not openly), and his bluster may plunge China into a war that would not only be unnecessary over time, but unprofitable to boot, all to satisfy his personal ego. Xi may well be on shaky ground, and if the elders decide he’s a risk….?

    • #1
    • August 14, 2020, at 7:09 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  2. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Xi has definitely besmirched the brand, what with his lung AIDs and Hong Kong heavy-handedness and hoodwinked Uyghur prisoners and all.

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Jimmy Lai, the recently arrested publisher dissident in Hong Kong, said in an Uncommon Knowledge episode this past spring that Xi is far weaker, internally, than he appears, and his actions need to be understood as those of a weak leader trying to project strength. Xi’s overreach has soured China’s economy and alienated every single neighbor except, perhaps, Russia (at least not openly), and his bluster may plunge China into a war that would not only be unnecessary over time, but unprofitable to boot, all to satisfy his personal ego. Xi may well be on shaky ground, and if the elders decide he’s a risk….?

    I think Jimmy Lai is right. The problem with being CEO of PRC Inc. is that you end up taking a lot of heat from the Board.

    • #2
    • August 14, 2020, at 7:21 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. Unsk Member

    Very informative post.

    • #3
    • August 14, 2020, at 7:48 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  4. KirkianWanderer Coolidge

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Jimmy Lai, the recently arrested publisher dissident in Hong Kong, said in an Uncommon Knowledge episode this past spring that Xi is far weaker, internally, than he appears, and his actions need to be understood as those of a weak leader trying to project strength. Xi’s overreach has soured China’s economy and alienated every single neighbor except, perhaps, Russia (at least not openly), and his bluster may plunge China into a war that would not only be unnecessary over time, but unprofitable to boot, all to satisfy his personal ego. Xi may well be on shaky ground, and if the elders decide he’s a risk….?

    He recently got into a diplomatic snipping war with Russia too, over Vladivostok. I think he feels entitled to a certain part of their Eastern territory, which only became incorporated in the last 200 or so years, and would try to reclaim it by force if he and Russia were in the right relative positions (as it stands he knows that Russia is still too militarily strong, and Putin would use such an action as a rallying cry to national unity). 

    • #4
    • August 14, 2020, at 12:38 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. KirkianWanderer Coolidge

    Interesting post! The Beidaihe meetings and Xi being in opposition to older leaders made me think of the infamous Lushan Conference of 1959, which effectively ruined General Peng Dehuai’s career and life (especially since Peng was a figure in long standing in the Communist camp after he left the warlord armies). 

    Provided Xi’s regime does outlast most of these elderly leaders (although it seems like Jiang Zemin may live forever), I wonder who will be left to offer even mild criticism? To be fair though, all of those former leaders aren’t exactly angels, and while they may disagree with him on economic policy in some ways, they have no warm and fuzzy feelings for human rights or the West. It does not surprise me that he shunned others of the princeling class, he seems like exactly the type to want subordinates that are personally loyal to, and solely dependent on, him. 

    I really enjoy reading the stuff that gets leaked by Chinese netizens, from apps like Weibo, before it comes under the hand of Chinese censors. This regime has produced some great writers and satirists, like Ma Jian and Liu Xiaobo, I wonder if there will ever be a direct Chinese equivalent to Solzhenitsyn. 

    • #5
    • August 14, 2020, at 12:54 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. ToryWarWriter Thatcher

    Starting to remind me of Krelminology.

    • #6
    • August 14, 2020, at 2:45 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  7. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnellJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):

    Starting to remind me of Krelminology.

    Yes. We definitely need a scorecard.

    • #7
    • August 14, 2020, at 3:42 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. KirkianWanderer Coolidge

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):

    Starting to remind me of Krelminology.

    Yes. We definitely need a scorecard.

    Slightly off topic, but The Communist Party of the Soviet Union by Leonard Shapiro (1960) is one of the best books of Kremlinology (and Russian history) ever. I don’t think anything to rival it has yet been written about the CCP, it will probably take its fall to have a complete enough archive and interview base in order to do so.

    • #8
    • August 14, 2020, at 4:08 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  9. I Walton Member

    If the Democrats win and we continue to weaken our economy, military and most of all focus, it’ll just be a matter of time. Even with a Trump win it’s not clear where this goes. They won’t change, but they’ll gradually rot and that takes time. If we rot more rapidly it’s over.

    • #9
    • August 15, 2020, at 6:12 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Sisyphus Coolidge
    SisyphusJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I have been finding “post Beidaihe” stories. Everyone thinks there was one and that the tea leaves point to fractures in the leadership but the CCP is the very definition of opaque and nobody knows anything for sure. Sinology is not for people who need certainty in all things.

    • #10
    • August 19, 2020, at 4:35 PM PDT
    • Like