Quoting a source identified as a top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official, Hong Kong’s Trendmagazine indicated[i] in September, 2014, that Xi Jinping has, to date survived six assassination attempts. These tries are said to have taken place in different locations while Xi was visiting those areas. The magazine went on to add that investigation into the incidents revealed that all six incidents were a result of internal conflict within the party. It appears that it was the CCP officials who had hired assassins to bump off Xi. The security organisation of the CCP is said to have issued 16 security warnings of which four pertained to his movements within Beijing including his visits to the Beijing Municipal government offices.
Consequently a major reshuffle within the ‘Central Security Bureau’, the organisation responsible for providing security to Xi Jinping and other leaders as well as to Beijing’s Zhongnanhai area housing these leaders got underway in early March 2015. Most of the personnel of the Bureau are military personnel and the organisation is controlled by the all-powerful Communist Party’s General Office and the People’s Liberation Army’s General Staff Department. The staffing of the Bureau is under the control of the Director of the General Office a post customarily held by a trusted aid of the Chinese President.
The personnel replaced in this reordering were appointed by the then Director CPC’s General Office Ling Jihua, a close aid of former Chinese President Hu Jintao. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) website on December 31, 2014 announced, Ling, one of Xi’s political adversaries, was placed under investigation for severe violation of discipline[ii]. Ling a part of the ‘new gang of four’ is believed to have plotted a coup along with the other three, namely, Bo Xilai, former party chief of Chongqing city, Zhou Yongkang (Jailed), the indicted former member of the Politburo Standing Committee and General Xu Caihou former General of the PLA and Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission (Died on March 15, 2015). Li Zhanshu, the current director of the General Office, is one of Xi’s confidants and Wang Shaojun has been appointed the director of the Central Security Bureau of the Communist Party of China after the reshuffle.
The Seminar and the Indicators
It is in this backdrop that the Blog published on July 29, 2017 in People’s Daily[iii], the official Newspaper of the CCP, was alarming and gave an indication of the concern and the extent of threat that was continuing to lurk over the Chinese President.
On July 26 and 27, 2017, Xi Jinping is said to have held an important seminar in Beijing in the run-up to the 19th National Congress of the CCP to be held in autumn of 2017. The implied purpose of the meeting was to “unify the understanding among party members”. The participants included seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee including Xi Jinping, key members from the provincial levels of the government, top leaders from central and government agencies, the military, the People’s Congress, and the judiciary.
Unlike the earlier seminars, the location of the seminar was changed from the Party School to the Jing Xi Hotel, run by the General Staff Department of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The Hotel besides being located near the Military Museum and Defense Ministry is heavily guarded and is closed to foreigners. No papers or pens were laid out implying that taking notes during the meeting was not permitted. Considering the earlier incidents targeting Xi Jinping, the Chairman, the selection of the venue and other restrictions point to serious security concerns.The move underscores Xi’s faith in PLA’s loyalty today.
Wang Lijun, the former vice-mayor and police chief of Southwestern city Chongqing, and till then right hand man of Bo Xilai the city’s Communist Party Chief, after being demoted and in fear of being eliminated went to the US Consulate in Chengdu on February 06, 2012 to seek asylum[iv]. To corroborate his statement Wang submitted photographs of his subordinates who had been secretly arrested and tortured to death besides a video expounding a plot by Bo to have him killed by presenting the incident to appear like a suicide, car accident, a disappearance or a shooting during an escape related to counterfeit crimes[v]. His revelations about a political plot to stage a coup by the Jiang Zemin’s faction a former Communist Party Chief resulted in the downfall of Bo Xilai and many others. The Chinese Government arrested six people and shut down sixteen websites for allegedly spreading rumours of the coup.
Defiance, Coup or Assassination Attempt?
On the night of March 19, 2012, four days after Bo was stripped of his power,
Gunshots were reported and soldiers were seen entering Beijing. One version of the story is that Zhou Yongkang ordered the armed police to surround Zhongnanhai to stage a coup which was crushed by employing 38th Army stationed in Baoding, Hebei Province, possibly ordered by Hu Jintao[vi]. Another version is that the shots were fired when both the CCDI and Zhou’s police were trying to take control of a key witness in Bo’s case[vii].
On October, 28, 2013, three days after the Shandong High Court rejected Bo Xilai’s appeal, a car, said to be a military vehicle exploded at Tiananmen Square. It is believed that the Police might have had prior knowledge about the impending[viii] attack.
After the arrest of Bo, leaders who were closely connected to Jiang Zemin when he was in power apprehending that they may be targeted next, planned to assassinate Xi Jinping under the directions of Jiang. Zeng Qinghong the former Vice – President and Zhou Yongkang, a member of the 17th Politburo Standing Committee were part of the Plot[ix].
Two assassination attempts were made. In the first, a time bomb was placed in the Conference Room after Zhou Yongkang was criticized by retired cadres at the ‘Beidaihe’ Summer Summit. Xi left the conference and moved out before the 18th National People’s Congress to West Hill Military Command Center. The second attempt was to inject poison into Xi during his physical checkup at 301 Military Hospital[x] also known as PLA Hospital.
Tan Hong, Zhou Yongkang’s assistant and guard, implemented these plans, and he was arrested by the Central Guard Bureau after the incidents were brought to light.
In yet another incident, Baxun, a Chinese-language citizen journalism website has reported that China’s Vice President, Xi Jinping, and He Guoqiang, a Politburo Standing Committee member and the Secretary of the Central Commission of Discipline Inspection (CCDI) were injured in two separate road accidents on the evening of September, 04, 2014 sparking rumors of an assassination attempt potentially linking the incidents to the disgraced politician Bo Xilai[xi]. Baxun’s story was removed from the website within two hours of posting. Coinciding with the news, Xi cancelled his meeting on September 05, 2014 with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Prime Minister of Singapore and a Russian official[xii]supposedly on account a of back injury.
Xi is said to have passed out following the collusion when his vehicle was sandwiched by two off road jeeps. The accident is said to have taken place in Beijing and Xi was rushed to 301 Military Hospital. An hour later, He Guoqiang was involved in a separate road accident when a truck travelling in high speed struck his car from behind. He was also taken to the 301 Military Hospital where his condition was reported to be critical. According to evidence collected, the culprit behind the plot is said to be a military officer and a supporter of former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai. Two military officers had been detained for questioning.
Hu Jintao who succeeded Jiang Zemin was not chosen by him but by Deng Xiaoping the most powerful leader after Mao and therefore Jiang could not defy or alter his decision. However when the transition took place, Jiang handed over the position of General Secretary to the CCP and the President of China to Hu but kept to himself the position of Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the all-powerful body that controlled the military. Hu also ensured that maximum number from his faction occupied the Politburo Standing Committee. Both these actions were meant to remotely control China over Hu’s head.
Consequently, Zhou Yongkang a member of the 17th Politburo Standing Committee and Secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission between 2007 and 2012 controlled China’s security apparatus and law enforcement agencies, with his power extending to the courts, prosecution agencies, police forces, paramilitary forces, and intelligence organs. Jiang as Chairman of the CMC made sure to position Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong two of his loyalists as Vice Chairman of the CMC and controlled the military, thus virtually sidelining Hu Jintao. At this point in time, Bo Xilai was a member of the CCP Politburo and Chongqing Party Secretary.
During this period, the plan was for Bo to continue building his reputation amongst public in Chongqing while accumulating wealth from a few selected businessmen. In 2012/2013 power transition, Bo would be brought to the Politburo Standing Committee and take over as the Party Secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission inheriting Zhou Yongkang’s enormous powers. By making use of his new found position Bo would increase his influence over the officials besides enhancing the strength of the Police Force. He also had plans to acquire overseas media houses so as to build a negative campaign against Xi Jinping. His larger plan was to carry out a political coup to force Xi to stepdown and seize power. Unfortunately for him, on March 15, 2012, Hu Jintao, with strong support from Wen Jiabao, a former Prime Minister, removed Bo Xilai from his official posts and started an investigation.
In a booktitled‘Edited Excerpts from Discussions by Xi Jinping on Tightening Party Discipline and Rules’, Xi is reported to have made the following statement about Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang, Xu Caihou, Ling Jihua, and Su Rong, the five top officials brought down under corruption charges:
“The greater these people’s power, the more important their position, the less seriously they took party discipline and political rules, to the point of recklessness and audaciousness! Some had inflated political ambitions and for their personal gain or the gain of their clique carried out political plot activities behind the party’s back, carried out politically shady business to wreck and split the party![xiii]”
A Message of Threat?
The Tianjin Blasts which took place on August 12, 2015 killing 158 people with a missing list of 15 were in Xi’s views a “political conspiracy” aimed at dealing a body blow to the zhongyang(central party authorities) led by the President himself[xiv]. The explosions took place just three weeks before the September 03, 2015 military parade, the most important public ceremony of his presidency resulting in loss of face to Xi Jinping. Though the event was supposedly meant to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II, it was also viewed as the equivalent of a ‘coronation ceremony’ for the ambitious leader. In China a top leader does not gain the status of undisputed strongman until he has presided over a parade where he receives salutes from different divisions of the PLA.
A view seems to be emerging that munitions belonging to PLA which should not have been found in the vicinity of any hazardous material storage were at least partly responsible for the extraordinary strength of the detonations. Xi’s suspicion is said to have fallen on the dozens of senior PLA officers who were the protégés of the two purged former Politburo members and CMC vice-chairmen, the late General Xu Caihou and General Guo Boxiong.[xv] The fact that Jiang Zemin was the patron of these two generals cannot be lost sight of.
Though there may not be any links between the Tianjin explosions to the so-called ‘assassination attempts’ on Xi, it is a pointer to the fact that he could be targeted and harmed.
After the then Chongqing police Chief Wang Lijun, defected to the US in 2012, infighting within various groups intensified within the CCP into a political drama. It is a battle between China’s current top leader Xi Jinping and a former top leader, Jiang Zemin, with the full support of Jiang’s faction. President Xi Jinping in the then prevailing circumstances had no option but to launch an anti-corruption campaign to ward off the threat posed by the rival faction to carry out a political purge and consolidate his power. Also, it was perhaps the only way to break up privileged groups. In the bargain the CCP’s long standing tradition of confining their operations and in-fighting to a closed circle has been wound up.
Though Xi Jinping has been designated the ‘core leader’ during the 5th Plenary meeting of the 18th Central Committee of the CCP, the Jiang faction has the ability to target Xi and cause physical harm to the leader. However it remains to be seen if the faction still has any say in the affairs of the state politically. As of now all indications point to Xi Jinping emerging even more powerful after the 19th Congress. We will have to wait and watch.
[ii]Daniel Roules, ‘Monthly China Anti-Bribery Update Report — December 2014’, The Anti-Corruption Blog, available at http://www.anticorruptionblog.com/china/monthly-china-anti-bribery-update-report-december-2014/ accessed on August 5, 2017.
[iii]‘People’s Daily Blog: Xi Jinping Held Important High Level Seminar Ahead of 19th National Congress’ Chinascope, July 29, 2017, available at http://chinascope.org/archives/12826 accessed on August 5, 2017.
[iv]Political Rivalry in China Part 1 – Plots to Overthrow Xi Jinping, Chinascope, March 22, 2016, available at http://chinascope.org/archives/7861 accessed on August 8, 2017.
[v]Epoch Time Staff, ‘How Wang Lijun Fled to the US Consulate’, The Epoch Times, February 13, 2012, available at http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1488891-how-wang-lijun-fled-to-the-us-consulate/ accessed on August 6, 2017.
[vi]Political Rivalry in China Part 1 – Plots to Overthrow Xi Jinping, Chinascope, available at http://chinascope.org/archives/7861 accessed on August 8, 2017.
[vii]‘The Battle at Zhongnanhai’ Chinascope, October 2014, available at http://garyis.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/CSA20140811R.pdfaccessed on August 7, 2017.
[ix]‘2 Assassination Attempts on China’s President Xi Jinping’ Vision Times Chinese, April 06, 2014, available at http://www.visiontimes.com/2014/04/06/2-assassination-attempts-on-chinas-president-xi-jinping.html accessed on August 6, 2017.
[xi]‘China’s Putin” Xi JinPing has survived SIX assassination attempts’ Evilyoshida, October 27 2014, available at http://www.evilyoshida.com/thread-7822.html accessed on August 6, 2017.
[xii]China Uncensored Staff, ‘Speculation of Assassination Attempt on Xi Jinping’, available at http://www.chinauncensored.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=548:speculation-of-assassination-attempt-on-xi-jinping&catid=25:real-china&Itemid=57 accessed on August 6, 2017.
[xiii]Political Rivalry in China Part 1 – Plots to Overthrow Xi Jinping, Chinascope, March 22, 2016, available at http://chinascope.org/archives/7861 accessed on August 8, 2017.
[xiv]Willy Wo-Lap Lam, ‘President Xi Suspects Political Conspiracy Behind Tianjin Blasts’ The Jamestown, September 03, 2015, available at https://jamestown.org/program/president-xi-suspects-political-conspiracy-behind-tianjin-blasts/ accessed on August 6, 2017.