Trouble in Xi Jinping’s Communist Paradise?

Commentary It seems Chinese leader Xi Jinping is riding high in the saddle these days. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) allowed China to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in semi-arid and snowless Beijing. Is semi-arid too extreme a description for February in Beijing? Why would the Winter Olympics be hosted in a city that averages two-tenths of an inch of precipitation during the month of February, as reported by Weather and Climate? It does not compute. However, Beijing finally received “some significant snow” on Feb. 12. Anyway, the Olympics has been carefully choreographed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to be a veritable “coming-out party” for the self-declared “helmsman” of China. China, the economic colossus. China, where world leaders kowtow to Xi in return for economic concessions. China, a leader in world sports. China, where there are no crowds of cheering spectators like all previous Olympic Games. China, where the CCP’s “zero-COVID” measures—including draconian “isolation rooms” for Olympic athletes and coaches who test positive for the disease—have thoroughly controlled the SARS-CoV-2 virus (not). China, where the Olympic village is a virtual prison both to isolate the athletes from possibly infected Chinese and also to minimize media access. China, where propaganda swirls around Chinese-American athletes who chose to represent either China or the United States. State-run Chinese media have made a mockery of the IOC’s rule that the Olympics are supposed to be “non-political.” China, where NBC, a U.S. television network, scarcely mentions (except in passing) the ongoing Uyghur genocide or any other persecution of minority groups, and withholds any real criticism of the country. The Olympic Rings are seen inside one of the Athletes’ Villages for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics before the area was closed in Hebei Province, northern China, on Jan. 3, 2022. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images) Oops! The flies are indeed buzzing. Those last few items are a clear indication that the rest of the world is onto Xi and the CCP, as far as the Olympics is concerned, despite the deluge of articles in state-run Chinese media that praise the Winter Games from every conceivable angle. But media outlets outside of China give a different story: • The lowest opening night ratings in Olympic history, according to OutKick.• China’s “closed-loop management” of the Olympics (as state-run China Daily bleats here) exposed as nothing more than a dose of authoritarian controls.• A Uyghur cross-country skier briefly featured as torchbearer during the opening ceremony is “disappeared” from public view afterward, per The Wall Street Journal.• And of course, the genocide continues while the Games go on, as two U.S. congressmen opine in The Hill. Despite those hiccups, hosting the Olympics is just the latest feather in Xi’s cap—at least as characterized by the CCP and state-run Chinese media. At the sixth plenum of the CCP’s 19th Central Committee last November, Xi and others trumpeted the accomplishments of “100 years of successful Chinese Communist Party rule in China,” including “achieving a moderately prosperous society,” “eradicating poverty,” and gratuitously claiming that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is the only socio-economic system that can work in China. At the plenary session, Xi presented a “historical resolution” that summarized all of this blarney as the justification for him being given an unprecedented third five-year term as CCP leader. And of course, leadership continuity was an important part of the pitch, too, as the CCP really, really values “stability” as a top priority. The resolution was accepted without dissent. But the flies continue to buzz. Will the 20th CCP Party Congress late this year result in a rubber-stamping of that resolution and a continuation of Xi’s autocratic rule? Or will CCP “factional strife” stemming from internal and external pressures result in a shakeup in the upper echelons of CCP leadership? Some have argued that all is not well in Xi’s China. For example, on Dec. 31, SinoInsider made this interesting prediction for 2022: “Factional struggle in the CCP elite will reach a boiling point, with a chance of a decisive conclusion. Neither Xi Jinping nor his rivals want the other to achieve their respective political goals at the 20th Party Congress, and will seek to undermine each other.” According to this piece from The Jamestown Foundation, CCP factions include “the Shanghai Faction led by ex-president Jiang Zemin and former vice-president Zeng Qinghong; the Communist Youth League Faction led by ex-president Hu Jintao; and other princelings (offspring of the founders of the People’s Republic of China [PRC]) who do not think highly of Xi.” An opinion piece from Financial Times hones in on Xi’s likely balancing act as he attempts to hold onto power past the 20th Party Congress: “… keep[ing] Chinese political elites sweet enough to maintain the

Trouble in Xi Jinping’s Communist Paradise?

Commentary

It seems Chinese leader Xi Jinping is riding high in the saddle these days.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) allowed China to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in semi-arid and snowless Beijing.

Is semi-arid too extreme a description for February in Beijing? Why would the Winter Olympics be hosted in a city that averages two-tenths of an inch of precipitation during the month of February, as reported by Weather and Climate? It does not compute. However, Beijing finally received “some significant snow” on Feb. 12.

Anyway, the Olympics has been carefully choreographed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to be a veritable “coming-out party” for the self-declared “helmsman” of China.

China, the economic colossus.

China, where world leaders kowtow to Xi in return for economic concessions.

China, a leader in world sports.

China, where there are no crowds of cheering spectators like all previous Olympic Games.

China, where the CCP’s “zero-COVID” measures—including draconian “isolation rooms” for Olympic athletes and coaches who test positive for the disease—have thoroughly controlled the SARS-CoV-2 virus (not).

China, where the Olympic village is a virtual prison both to isolate the athletes from possibly infected Chinese and also to minimize media access.

China, where propaganda swirls around Chinese-American athletes who chose to represent either China or the United States. State-run Chinese media have made a mockery of the IOC’s rule that the Olympics are supposed to be “non-political.”

China, where NBC, a U.S. television network, scarcely mentions (except in passing) the ongoing Uyghur genocide or any other persecution of minority groups, and withholds any real criticism of the country.

Epoch Times Photo
The Olympic Rings are seen inside one of the Athletes’ Villages for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics before the area was closed in Hebei Province, northern China, on Jan. 3, 2022. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Oops! The flies are indeed buzzing. Those last few items are a clear indication that the rest of the world is onto Xi and the CCP, as far as the Olympics is concerned, despite the deluge of articles in state-run Chinese media that praise the Winter Games from every conceivable angle.

But media outlets outside of China give a different story:

• The lowest opening night ratings in Olympic history, according to OutKick.
• China’s “closed-loop management” of the Olympics (as state-run China Daily bleats here) exposed as nothing more than a dose of authoritarian controls.
• A Uyghur cross-country skier briefly featured as torchbearer during the opening ceremony is “disappeared” from public view afterward, per The Wall Street Journal.
• And of course, the genocide continues while the Games go on, as two U.S. congressmen opine in The Hill.

Despite those hiccups, hosting the Olympics is just the latest feather in Xi’s cap—at least as characterized by the CCP and state-run Chinese media.

At the sixth plenum of the CCP’s 19th Central Committee last November, Xi and others trumpeted the accomplishments of “100 years of successful Chinese Communist Party rule in China,” including “achieving a moderately prosperous society,” “eradicating poverty,” and gratuitously claiming that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is the only socio-economic system that can work in China.

At the plenary session, Xi presented a “historical resolution” that summarized all of this blarney as the justification for him being given an unprecedented third five-year term as CCP leader. And of course, leadership continuity was an important part of the pitch, too, as the CCP really, really values “stability” as a top priority. The resolution was accepted without dissent.

But the flies continue to buzz.

Will the 20th CCP Party Congress late this year result in a rubber-stamping of that resolution and a continuation of Xi’s autocratic rule?

Or will CCP “factional strife” stemming from internal and external pressures result in a shakeup in the upper echelons of CCP leadership?

Some have argued that all is not well in Xi’s China.

For example, on Dec. 31, SinoInsider made this interesting prediction for 2022: “Factional struggle in the CCP elite will reach a boiling point, with a chance of a decisive conclusion. Neither Xi Jinping nor his rivals want the other to achieve their respective political goals at the 20th Party Congress, and will seek to undermine each other.”

According to this piece from The Jamestown Foundation, CCP factions include “the Shanghai Faction led by ex-president Jiang Zemin and former vice-president Zeng Qinghong; the Communist Youth League Faction led by ex-president Hu Jintao; and other princelings (offspring of the founders of the People’s Republic of China [PRC]) who do not think highly of Xi.”

An opinion piece from Financial Times hones in on Xi’s likely balancing act as he attempts to hold onto power past the 20th Party Congress: “… keep[ing] Chinese political elites sweet enough to maintain their support but disunited enough to enfeeble their resistance.”

Then there is the ever-present use of internal exile or long-term imprisonment for those who deviate from the Party line. The classic carrot and stick approach.

China
Chinese Communist Party’s head Xi Jinping (center) and lawmakers stand for the anthem during the closing session of the rubber-stamp legislature’s conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on March 11, 2021. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, this insightful article from the anonymous writer “Fang Zhou” and translated by China Heritage claims that Xi “will be a transitional figure in the history of the Party. He has already reached the limits of which he is capable and probably even exceeded the boundaries of what he might have achieved.”

Is that the Jiang faction speaking? Nevertheless, while claiming in flowery terms that Xi is the “architect of his own demise,” Fang is reluctant to predict a definitive end to Xi’s reign.

Buzzing flies!

Others point to the fact that Xi has not left China in over 700 days as a sign of his political weakness. According to the Foundation for Defense of the Democracies, “the simple explanation for Xi’s refusal to leave China and his recent, over-the-top loyalty push is that Xi recognizes he is increasingly vulnerable.”

Xi is big on “stability” and “regime security” and demands loyalty from CCP apparatchiks and the leadership of the People’s Liberation Army on a regular basis. Is he worried about a “palace coup” by a competing CCP faction if he travels outside China?

The flies are buzzing!

One problem for any anti-Xi factions in the CCP is the almost certain use of “internal Party regulations” to control the public and private behavior of CCP members. As previously reported by The Epoch Times, “internal Party regulations” are also referred to as “gang rules” because “the CCP is regarded as ‘a gangster’ since it always deems itself as being greater than the country and it places its internal discipline ahead of state law.”

Xi’s exploitation of those internal rules against allies of the Jiang and Hu factions and the princelings as part of his continuing “anti-corruption campaign” will put a damper on public and private dissent to Xi’s policies and plans.

CHINA-PROPERTY
A building under construction is seen in Shanghai, China, on Sept. 24, 2021. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

The inimitable Gordon Chang points out in a Newsweek commentary on Feb. 8 that Xi is sitting on an internal debt bomb fed by real estate speculation that is estimated by experts to be 350 percent of China’s GDP. He also points out that this estimate masks “hidden debt”—debt obligations unreported by provincial and local leaders.

How does Xi—let alone the CCP—defuse that bomb while keeping the CCP factions off-balance enough to not push him out of power?

Those are some seriously buzzing flies!

Where does all this speculation by observers outside China lead when it comes down to predicting Xi’s longevity as general secretary of the CCP, “president” of China, and chairman of the Central Military Commission?

And can any editorials in state-run Chinese media that speculate about CCP leadership be believed?

One could make a career of trying to read between the lines in the state-run media to discern a kernel of truth.

China is a communist dictatorship that is impervious to public pressure, especially by the carefully controlled chattering classes or the people, as long as “food security” and an improving standard of living continue to be delivered to Chinese citizens by the CCP.

What agitprop pundit in China Daily or the Xinhua News is going to risk internal exile or prison by crossing Xi?

Decisions by the Politburo of the CCP are made behind closed doors, the CCP selects all slates of candidates in all elections, and any speculation about leadership changes or “pressures” that might force such changes are not based in anything other than analysis of the various “flies” such as those described above—analysis from the outside, not from within the CCP’s decision-making clique.

Are articles such as the Fang Zhou treatise referred to above—which seems to be a kind of counter to Xi’s “historical resolution”—that are published outside China derived from any real “inside knowledge” of the goings-on in the Politburo and upper echelons of the CCP? And what is the article’s real purpose? Only the authors know for sure.

The events unfolding in China in 2022 bear close watching, as—whether we like it or not—China exerts enormous influence on the rest of the world in many spheres of human endeavors: economic, scientific, military, and geopolitical. And the speculation about whether Xi can swat away all the gathering flies and succeed in his quest for another five-year team as CCP chairman will crescendo throughout the year regardless of what those of us outside China think and say.

I am inclined to believe that all the chattering about Xi and the possibility of a leadership change is just the entertainment part of “bread and circuses with Chinese characteristics.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Stu Cvrk retired as a captain after serving 30 years in the U.S. Navy in a variety of active and reserve capacities, with considerable operational experience in the Middle East and the Western Pacific. Through education and experience as an oceanographer and systems analyst, Cvrk is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received a classical liberal education that serves as the key foundation for his political commentary.