Long Live; Emperor Xi Jinping
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 24 Mar , 2018

Mao Zedong became a natural inheritor of China after his ‘Long March’ and the defeat of Chinese Nationalist Forces under Chiang Kai Shek.  The Republic of China was quarantined to the coastal island of Taiwan in 1949.  The Communists, till now; a revolutionary force, did not have the required experience in governance unlike the Communist Party of Russia. Soviet Russia under Stalin, was a military marvel of its time, dominating the globe and providing the leadership model to all socialist nations. 

Mao also took his first model of institution building and governance from the Soviets.  However, after experimenting, realised that the two countries were very dissimilar.  He discarded the Soviet Model that was based on Marxian-Leninist thoughts, where the worker was the prima donna in the revolution. 

In China, which was an agrarian country, lacking industries of all types; it was the peasant, who was the basic building brick of the Chinese Communism.  So, he adapted the rules of Socialism as suited to China. Then started his experiments in social engineering, abolition of private property, experiment with Communes, “The Great Leap Forward”, and “The Hundred Flowers Bloom” Campaign and so on.  His famous pronunciamiento “The East Wind Will Prevail over the West Wind” the poetic rhetoric of Mao defined the future conflicts between East and West. It further culminated in the Cultural Revolution, with its iconoclasm that destroyed the rich Chinese culture and heritage and adoption of drab, colourless and puritanical communism. 

Mao as a “Paramount Leader” ruled for life and is rightly made responsible for death of millions, during his experimentation, besides being the founder of ‘People’s Republic of China’ (PRC).

The next Paramount Leader, who actually brought about the modernisation of China was ‘Deng Xiaoping’.  His contribution was immense and he brought in capitalistic economy without compromising Chinese Socialism.  He, truly can be considered the architect of Modern China.  The only stigma during his tenure is the Tien Mein Square incident that put China in adverse light. He was in public office till 1992, thereafter retired peacefully and died in 1997.  He was the one, who broke away from single personality cult and heralded an era of collective responsibility and started the trend to retire from public office.

A hundred year after Puyi, the last Qing Emperor of China, abdicated in 1912, in the aftermath of Xinhai Revolution; a princeling politician Xi Jinping assumed office of General Secretary of CPC.  Incidentally ‘princelings’ are those, who are descendants of former Communist Party senior office bearers.  Xi Zhongxun, a former Vice Premier and a member of Polit Bureau belonging to the first generation of Communist leader was the father of Xi Jinping.  Though he was purged, demoted, incarcerated during the Cultural Revolution; he was reinstated giving Xi Jinping, a good spring board to ascend in the closed, competitive and often nepotistic Communist Party hierarchy. His meteoric rise can be attributed to his provenance as well as his capabilities.

Xi in five years of his tenure at the helm, has no doubt brought about radical developments in China and the country is there to stay and possibly be the only competitor to US, in powerplay of international politics.

Xi is not only capable but also is armed with unbridled ambition.  He had two tenures cut out for him but not content, he had already planned his tenure for life.  In the 19th Plenary Communist Party Meet in Oct 2017; he charted out his path for amending the constitution to remove the limit of two tenures for the President and Vice President.  He did not even have the patience to wait for the second tenure to begin.  After amending the Constitution, it was also left for him, to convince the public about his indispensability to China.

The exercise started in earnest.  His larger than life image had to be refurbished and sold to the public.  His achievements have to be projected. His personality cult needs to be nurtured.  The propaganda machinery needs to be at full blast. Communist Party of China (CPC) started marketing a doctored movie ‘The Amazing China’.  The movie had to be a block buster.  All government organisations were to see the movie on payment, in order to show the voluntary element in the whole exercise.

Interesting satirical comments erupted on the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb), such as; “One cannot get tickets for the movie as the state has bought them in order to make it a block buster”.  It has been rated 1/10; in comparison, even the recently released “Padman” gets 7.9/10 and Padmavat gets 7.1/10.

The Data Base has its origin in Britain and presently is a subsidiary of ‘Amazon’ therefore, could be biased; hence, I went to the Chinese parallel “Douban” that offers opinions on films, music and books and has over 200 million registered users and a very powerful opinion maker.  However, the site has disabled the ratings for “The Amazing China”: Then, why not, the lead artist being Xi Jinping, who pops out time again with his benign smile; of course, less subtle than Mona Lisa? Propaganda comes easily to Xi, as his father was the Chief of Propaganda Department of the CPC, soon after the formation of PRC.

The theme of the movie is that China has already achieved so much in the first five years of Xi’s tenure; one more tenure is insufficient for him to consolidate, what he has achieved and more time is required to take China to its fullest potential. To be fair to Xi; one has to admit that he had brought China to be a predominant power.  He has literally taken control of the South China Sea, expanded his economic reach with his ‘belt and road initiative’, ensured energy security with billions of dollars deals with Russia, Central Asian Republic and Iran, established bases in Indian Ocean, marginalised India by subverting almost all the nations of South Asia and has split the ASEAN and rendered them incapable of taking a unified stand against it, on South China Sea.

China has also taken Russia in its bandwagon, though a superpower in its own right, is seeing bad days due to sanctions imposed by US and Eurozone.  With President Trump’s policy of ‘America First’ that has rendered US inward looking; China is fast filling the strategic space vacated by US. Its buoyant economy, billowing defence budget, surging science technology and its quest for strategic autonomy has enhanced its ‘Comprehensive National Power’ (CNP) that has made her see all international problems through the narrow prism of ‘National Interest’.

China also has the capacity to pursue her national interest quite unmindful of sensitivity of other contending nations, which has cost her friends.  To Chinese leadership, this point does not come into its strategic consideration.

However, there is a silver lining in Xi’s emperorship for life.  The regime is totalitarian and on the top of it, Xi is the President for life, General Secretary of CPC for life and also the Chairman of Central Military Commission for life.  A totalitarian regime with totalitarian powers in the hands of a single individual for life, is indeed a happy situation for all its adversaries.

History has proved such unchallenged powers corrupts individuals, and they begin to believe in their indispensability, invincibility, infallibility and self-righteousness.  They soon develop a megalomania, narcissism and brook no dissent and live in an ivory tower cocooned by sycophants, who would air the views, that he wishes to hear.   This takes them out of reality and they start living in the ‘make believe world’ of their own imagination and wishful thinking.  We all pray Emperor Xi to have a long life and he reigns till his end.  Long Live: Emperor Xi!

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen PG Kamath

a veteran of Indian army;  was the former Commandant of Army War College, Mhow.  Currently, he writes on Ethics,Leadership Strategy and Current International and National issues.

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