China: Conservatives ideological attack to bring down President Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping

Ideology is always important in Chinese politics, especially in a power struggle. Now, Xi Jinping has offended many powerful officials with his anti-corruption and mass-line campaigns, and his mentor Jiang Zeming is 88 years old.

Conservatives believe that they now have the golden opportunity to disrupt once for all Xi’s thorough economic reform.

Like their predecessors, they started their campaign to bring down Xi with ideological debates on Mao’s theory of class struggle.

In 1966, Mao used his theory of class struggle and constant revolution to grab back power from his selected successor Chinese President and CCP (Chinese Communist Party) Vice Chairman Liu Shaoqi.

Later in the era of reform, conservatives used the ideological struggle against Western spiritual pollution to successfully force the then CCP reformist General Secretary Hu Yaobang to resign.

Carried away by their success in bringing down Hu, under powerful conservative elders’ leadership, Deng Liqun (nicknamed the Leftist King) and other conservative writers launched a fierce attack on the nature of reform capitalist in order to put an end to the reform.

Zhao Ziyang, another top reformist who had replaced Hu as the general secretary, silenced leftist writers by closing the leftist writers’ headquarters, the Research Office of CCP Secretariat, and the leftists’ mouthpiece the Red Flag magazine.

Zhao’s bold acts infuriated powerful conservative elders. They went to Deng Xiaoping to complain and asked Deng to remove Zhao from the post as CCP general secretary. However, Zhao won Deng’s firm support and was for a time able to carry on the reform.

Tiananmen Protests caused the downfall of Zhao who sympathised with the protesters. Reform suffered great setback until Deng used his Southern Tour to reinvigorate the reform.

The above is known to most people, not only China watchers.

The power struggle between the conservatives and reformists later is not so clear to them. That is a long story described in details in the expanded 2nd edition of my book Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements. Here I will give a short summary of it.

Jiang Zeming exploited the fear throughout the CCP caused by the Tiananmen protesters, who almost overthrew the CCP, to conduct a silent peaceful coup d’état to substitute intellectuals’ dominance of the CCP and state for uneducated workers and peasants.

As a result, he was able to use his Three Represents to justify China’s pursuit of capitalism and recruitment of capitalists into the CCP. Failure to understand the first of his Three Represents makes most China watchers unable to see that.

Jiang’s successor, Hu Jintao, knew that the conservatives might use Mao Zedong Thought to attack the reform again and disrupt the tremendous achievements of reform. He began his efforts to remove Mao Zedong Thought by omitting the Thought in his major speeches and major CCP documents.

He thus gave Bo Xilai the opportunity to rally all the conservatives around Bo. With strong support from the conservatives, Bo used his charisma and charm to become a rising political star and was able to challenge the reformists by his Maoist Chongqing model.

The democracy and legal faction, together with Wu Bangguo, a heavyweight of the Shanghai faction, used tricks to bring down Bo Xilai but no one is powerful enough to punish Bo. Finally, Jiang Zeming used his prerogative as the core of the CCP leadership to punish Bo harshly.

However, the conservatives, though having lost their leader, remained strong, and Jiang had not put an end to the power struggle between conservatives and reformists by punishing Bo harshly. It was Xi Jinping who finally used the Chinese dream to rally both conservatives and reformists around him and put an end to the power struggle.

For nearly two years, Xi has held Mao in high esteem and used Mao’s jargon to please the conservatives, but acted entirely as a reformist. Diehard conservatives have now realised that Xi is by no means a conservative. They have to use Maoism to bring down Xi and put an end to Xi’s further reform. They believe the timing is now right to do so, as Xi has offended many powerful officials and generals, and Jiang is too old to support Xi.

Jiang Zemin has to come out to support Xi when the Maoists attack the reformists again

China’s National Day celebration was an important political show that China watchers should have watched closely. As China is now at a critical moment of its mass line and anti-corruption campaigns and radical economic reform, we should be especially careful to find clues to the political situation and possible political struggle and changes.

I have made it very clear in my book Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements that in China, Xi’s top post does not give him the top power that the person holding the post should have. Zhao Ziyang pointed out in his memoir that he and the Politburo Standing Committee led by him had no power.

They were referred to by Deng Xiaoping as daughters-in-law while Deng was the mother-in-law in charge of them. Deng knew that the other two elders Chen Yun and Li Xiannian were also powerful enough to be their mothers-in-law. Deng told Bo Yibo to ask Chen and Li’s consent that they had to allow Deng to be the only mother-in-law.

From that we know that even when Deng died, if Zhao had still been the general secretary, he would not have had the supreme power that he should have had due to his post. He would still be the daughter-in-law of a mother-in-law other than Deng. Only when he had built the powerbase a top leader must have could he really have been the top leader. By that time, he would have been not only the general secretary but also the core of the Chinese Communist Party with the power of an emperor.

In 1992 long after Deng has retired from all his posts including the post of the chairman of the Central Military Commission, he was still able to reinvigorate the reform across the nation with his Southern Tour, during which he said those who failed to carry out the reform should be dismissed. What power did he have to dismiss officials? He had the absolute power as the core of the CCP Dynasty.

Jiang Zemin has the personal experience of the hard efforts he was to make in building his powerbase for years, and the challenge he encountered from conservative and other pretenders for his post. He knows very clearly that as Xi’s mentor, he has to display not only his firm support, but more importantly his supreme power and good health.

That is especially important because since May, there have been rumours about his death or serious illness.

He showed that he was in charge by walking abreast of Xi Jinping instead of behind Xi in many previous occasions when he and Xi enter the hall to attend the National Day concert. His message is very clear: I am still in charge and I am supporting Xi.

He showed on the TV screen at both the concert and the National Day reception his healthy gait and ability to attend the concert and National Day reception for quite a long time without the assistance of his bodyguard.

I do not know how he managed to do so at the age of 88. However according to what I saw on TV screen, he sat by the side of Xi with satisfaction in giving lie to the rumours of his death or poor health.

From what we saw on the TV screen at the reception, we know that Xi wanted to use the occasion to show his gratitude to all the powerful elders for their support in his mass line and anti-corruption campaigns.

All the powerful elders were sitting at the head table with Xi and other Politburo Standing Committee members while the Politburo members who appear before the elders in official media reports had to sit at a nearby table.

Among the powerful elders sitting on the head table, there are three conservatives, Li Peng, Song Ping and Luo Gan. Among them, Li must be the most powerful as he was the premier and national people’s congress (NPC) chairman for many years and must have groomed quite a few followers.

His opposition to Xi’s reform is obvious, as shortly before 18th CCP National Congress he published a book stressing the state’s leading role in the economy to oppose reformists’ reform, to give market the leading role. However, his son Li Xiaopeng got the least votes in being elected an alternate CCP Central Committee member, which showed his unpopularity within the CCP.

However, his ability to have his book published and promoted by the CCP’s mouthpiece the People’s Daily proved that he remained influential. It is most likely that he is behind the conservatives’ attack on the reformists with Mao’s theory of class struggle.

Anyway, we must be aware that until Xi has built a sound powerbase a few years later, and that Jiang Zemin’s good health is indispensable for China’s stability and prosperity.

Source: Chan Kai Yee Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements Expanded 2md Edition
Sources: CCTV “65th National Day concert ‘Beatutiful China: Glorious Dream’ was held in Beijing” and “State Council held National Day reception to solemnly celebrate the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the reports in Chinese)

Categories: Politics & Law

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