Geopolitics

Xi Jinping “the Core” of CPC
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By VBN Ram
Issue Net Edition | Date : 16 Nov , 2016

One of dictionary meanings of the word “core“- is the tough central part of a fruit. Ideally, this is exactly how China’s General Secretary of the Communist Party (CPC)- President Xi Jinping would like himself be defined, more particularly since his style of functioning, over the last couple of months has come under severe attack by his critics. As the “core” he would like the fruit to provide its nutritional value and sweetness to the entire People’s Republic of China.

Oct 27, 2016 heralded a new beginning for Xi Jinping –the momentous occasion being the sixth plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Congress-when Xi was declared to be a “core leader“

Xi’s real power flows from his position as Party’s General Secretary and Head of its Military Commission-which controls the People’s Liberation Army.

The term “ core leader “ was conceived a few decades back and has been given to four leaders i.e. Mao Zedong; Den Xiaoping; Jinag G Zemin- and just a few days back to Xi Jinping. Mao, never used the term to describe himself. The history following the Mao cult- including later the national uprising of 1989, when party elders made Jiang the Communist Party General Secretary, after Zhao Ziyang was purged politically, for policies such as showing sympathy for the 1989 street protesters- made Deng to strengthen Jiang by calling him the uncontested core leader.

Xi’s real power flows from his position as Party’s General Secretary and Head of its Military Commission-which controls the People’s Liberation Army. He assumed both posts in Nov 2012 –four months before he became President.

Mao’s Cultural Revolution and the decade, or so- which followed its aftermath, witnessed enormous social and political unrest besides the killings of thousands who were termed as anti-revolutionaries. The Communist top brass was gripped with a sense of insecurity due to the fear that the so called reactionaries might dislodge the prevailing political establishment.

“Uniting around the Central Committee with Xi as the Core is a touchstone that will guarantee the country will remain strong in the face of difficulties.” Says a Global Times editorial of Oct 30, 2016. Global Times is a prominent Chinese Daily.

A communique released at the end of the four day meeting of the 18th CPC Central Committee reinforced Xi’s position explaining that strong core leadership at the top was needed to unite the Party overcome challenges and continue forward on the “ great cause of socialism “

Premier Li Keqiang has been sidelined to the extent that he has been kept in office to be conveniently scapegoated…

The Central Committee has set in motion plans for a Congress in the second half of 2017. This session will confirm Mr. Xi as the national leader for five years and appoint important officials under him. In this session many leaders will retire-paving the way for re-shaping the party’s top echelon. Five of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee –the Party’s highest body, must step down-this would leave only Xi and Premier Li Keqiang. The most important implication of the much coveted “ core “ status would bestow on Xi a decision maker’s role in the ensuing leadership lineup.

The Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee held in 2013 had announced far reaching economic and social reforms, however this was under the leadership of Xi Jinping. Liu Yunshan (head of China’s propaganda department) and Zhang Gaoli (known for his pro market policy orientation and his leadership tenure in Shenzen- a predominant marketing and export hub) were excluded from drafting the document. This was a clear departure from convention (Wen Jiabao, for example, was the principal drafter of the document behind the reforms announced at the Third Plenum of 2003) This has led to speculation that Li has been marginalized in the new administration and that the much hyped Xi-Li administration, in fact, did not exist as power was being increasingly centralized under Xi. Premier Li Keqiang has been sidelined to the extent that he has been kept in office to be conveniently scapegoated -should attempts to rebalance the Chinese economy fail. The re-balance of the Chinese economy is absolutely essential since supply side reforms for a debt driven economy call for restructuring away from investment and heavy industry to consumption and services. The double digit growth rates are a thing of the past and the current growth rate has been lower than 7 percent.

Li Keqiang has had reservations regarding the manner in which Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has been implemented and has come down hard on shuffling seasoned bureaucrats. He has made several veiled attacks on Xi.

…about 1.01 million officials of the 88.75 million CPC were anti-graft victims-including some political bigwigs. In as much as this portrayed Xi as an anti-corruption champion, it boosted his image.

“Loyal Communist party members have lambasted China’s president for abandoning the principal of collective leadership, for concentrating power in his own hands and for indulging flatterers. Xi’s declaration that press should serve the party not the people has dismayed the whole nation “ says The Independent in an article by Emily Rauhala under the caption “ Chinese website publishes letter calling for Resignation of President Xi Jinping “ There has been a relentless adverse onslaught in the Chinese non mainstream media against Xi, even though it has been censored, no sooner the authorities got the scent of it. “

Despite the above, a strong contrarian view has also been seen. New protocols require an intra-party supervision says Xinhua, it quoted a communiqué which says “ the CPC also promised to address the election malpractice of putting an end to buying and selling of official posts and vote rigging. In this context it is pertinent to note that about 1.01 million officials of the 88.75 million CPC were anti-graft victims-including some political bigwigs. In as much as this portrayed Xi as an anti-corruption champion, it boosted his image.’’

Xi evades the Graft antenna:

Xi Jinping is lucky. In April 2016 there were allegations that some among China’s top Communist brass including President Xi (whose relatives were said to be involved ) used offshore tax havens to conceal their fortunes –which the Panama Papers revealed. Xi has been able to steer clear of the controversy, even though at least eight of the current or former members of the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) – the most powerful body-have been implicated. Some publications containing the above story were banned in China.

…there were allegations that some among China’s top Communist brass including President Xi used offshore tax havens to conceal their fortunes –which the Panama Papers revealed. Xi has been able to steer clear of the controversy…

China has successfully warded off any “image dent” by offering concessions to countries which have traditionally been insecure by its muscle flexing-the most visible example is Philippines –the latter has, for example, secured immense financial aid and fishing and exploration rights in sea zones under contest .

Taiwan and China have nurtured ill-will for many decades-this has come about because Beijing has never lost a single opportunity to threaten Taipei, that the latter “would be sternly dealt with –in case it fosters any anti-China sentiments detrimental to China’s “ One China policy “ There has been a 1992 “ one China consensus” between the two countries. Relations between the two countries suffered after the pro-independence DPP leader Tsai Ling Wen assumed the island’s leadership in May 2016 and displayed the audacity to call off the above referred 1992 consensus-Taiwan has made amends since.

Likewise, it has recently provided Bangladesh with a multibillion dollar aid intended to wean it away from Indian influence. China through its economic corridor covering Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan is adopting the same course with an identical objective.

China’s belt and road initiative (BRI) envisages roads, sea lanes and ports that will link China to Africa, Europe and across Asia. The idea of such schemes is to have China acknowledged as the only global “superpower”.

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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

VBN Ram

Postgraduate in business management from XLRI Jamshedpur, is widely travelled and immensely interested in and concerned about contemporary geostrategic developments. He has been a China watcher and has researched extensively on Asia-Pacific affairs. He has also written on developments in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Maldives.

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