Xi Jinping

In November 2012, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, were anointed as the top leaders of the Communist Party, only the second time the party has managed a peaceful transition since it took power in 1949. Christopher Bodeen of AP wrote: "Xi Jinping has succeeded Hu Jintao as China's leader, assuming the top posts in the Communist Party and the powerful military in a once-a-decade political transition unbowed by scandals, a slower economy and public demands for reforms. Xi was formally appointed as general secretary after a morning meeting of senior communists that capped a week-long congress, events that underlined the party's determination to remain firmly in power. Xi also was appointed chairman of the military commission after Hu stepped down, breaking with the recent tradition in which departing party leaders hung onto the military post to exert influence over their successors." [Source: Christopher Bodeen, AP, November 15, 2012]

Ian Johnson wrote in the New York Times: “Mr. Xi takes office with more titular authority than any Chinese leader in history. He will now be the chief of the ruling Communist Party and will take over sooner than expected from Mr. Hu as the chairman of the Central Military Commission, the top overseer of China’s armed forces. Other leaders in the post-Mao era have had more staggered transitions into the top posts. [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Times, November 15, 2012]

Bodeen wrote: "The moves give Xi a freer hand to consolidate his authority as first among equals in the Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of power. Immediately after the announcements, Xi strode onto a stage in the Great Hall of the People, leading the six other newly appointed committee members, all conservative technocrats dressed in dark suits. "We shall do everything we can to live up to your trust and fulfill our mission," the 59-year-old pudgy Xi said in remarks that were broadcast on state television and worldwide. "China needs to learn more about the world and the world needs to learn more about China." Standing beside him were Li Keqiang, the presumptive premier and chief economic official; Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang; Shanghai party secretary Yu Zhengsheng; propaganda chief Liu Yunshan; Tianjin party secretary Zhang Gaoli; and Vice Premier Wang Qishan, once the leadership's top troubleshooter, who was named Thursday to head the party's internal watchdog panel.

The ascent of Xi and Li became all but inevitable when they were inducted into the leadership five years ago. Xi's promotion marked only the second smooth transition under communist rule, despite a turbulent political year in which politicking for leadership spots was buffeted by the messiest political scandal in decades. Bo Xilai, a member of the elite like Xi and a contender for the Standing Committee, was purged months after an aide disclosed that his wife murdered a British businessman.

Speaking to the media, Xi traced China's ancient civilisation and its struggles to regain its leading role in the world, culminating in a communist revolution that he promised to lead on to the benefit of the Chinese people. "Our responsibility now is to rally and lead the entire party and the people of all ethnic groups in China in taking up this historic baton and in making continued efforts to achieve the great renewal of the Chinese nation, make the Chinese nation stand rock-firm in the family of nations, and make even greater contribution to mankind," Xi said. [He then ran through a list of deliverables to the Chinese people: better education, higher incomes, a bigger social safety net, environmental protection. "To meet their desire for a happy life is our mission," Xi said in his pleasing baritone, in remarks that were relatively free of the jargon Chinese leaders usually employ. Xi faces significant obstacles in meeting those goals. Leadership decisions are made by consensus. His colleagues in the leadership owe their positions not to him, but to other political patrons.

‘We have every reason to be proud ‘ proud, but not complacent,’ Xi said. ‘Inside the party, there are many problems that need be addressed, especially the problems among party members and officials of corruption and taking bribes, being out of touch with the people, undue emphasis on formalities and bureaucracy, and other issues.’ He added, ‘To forge iron, one must be strong.’

Xi Jinping's First Speech

Xi and his predecessor Hu Jintao

The day after Xi was named leader of China, Ian Johnson wrote in the New York Times: he "impressed many people with a plain-spoken promise to address problems in the country's ruling party, but his new leadership team offered few clues as to a clear shift in direction. According to tradition, Mr. Xi appeared onstage the day after the congress ended with other members of the party's Politburo Standing Committee, the seven-member body that effectively runs China. Mr. Xi then gave a speech on live television that avoided most of the slogans that characterized Mr. Hu's recent addresses. In fact, he did not mention Mr. Hu or any of his predecessors, instead calling on the party to fight corruption and promising to continue China's 'rejuvenation.' [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Times, November 15, 2012 ++]

'Inside the party, there are many problems that need be addressed, especially the problems among party members and officials of corruption and taking bribes, being out of touch with the people, undue emphasis on formalities and bureaucracy and other issues,' Mr. Xi said. He also pledged to improve citizens' lives, including offering 'better schooling, more stable jobs, more satisfying incomes, more reliable social security, higher levels of health care, more comfortable housing conditions and a more beautiful environment,' so they can 'look forward to their children growing up in better circumstances, finding better work and living in better conditions.' 'People's striving for a better life is the goal we are struggling for,' he added. ++

Reflecting his upbringing as the son of a high-ranking official in Beijing, Mr. Xi spoke in clear Mandarin Chinese, making him one of the first modern Chinese leaders whose speech does not bear the heavy accents of an upbringing in one of China's provinces. Although Mr. Xi's appointment has been expected since 2007, when he was essentially named Mr. Hu's successor, it was the first chance for the Chinese to see him in action. Li Zhong, a retired county leader in Hebei Province who served there at the same time as Mr. Xi in the early 1980s, noted that Mr. Xi had not repeated many of Mr. Hu's slogans. 'Instead, he stressed the party's responsibilities to the masses and the heroism of the people, as well as the need to root out corruption in the party,' Mr. Li said. 'He was very frank and showed his consideration for the people.'

His speech was also widely discussed on China's social media sites, which largely reflect an educated urban population. He Bing of the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing wrote on the Weibo microblog, 'He speaks with a human touch.' Others were more critical. 'I read Xi's speech,' Jian Heng, a guest professor at Shantou University in Guangdong Province, wrote on Weibo. 'He mentioned the word 'party' 20 times; 'people' appeared 19 times; 'responsibility' was said 10 times and 'problems' 3 times. Didn't use anything related to law. No 'law,' no 'constitution,' no 'rule of law' nor 'democracy,' no 'freedom.' '

Xi Jinping Officially Becomes President

Xi Jinping officially assumed the presidency of China during a meeting of The National People’s Congress in March 2013 in Beijing, completing his formal transition to power. He was elected President of the People’s Republic of China at the Party Congress on March 14, 2013 with 2,952 for, one vote against, and three abstentions. Chris Buckley wrote in the New York Times, “The National People’s Congress anointed Mr. Xi as president four months after he was appointed as Communist Party general secretary and chairman of the Central Military Commission, putting him at the top of all three major power centers in China, the party, the army and the state. There was never any doubt that compliant delegates to the annual Parliament would overwhelmingly endorse Mr. Xi for president. They also named his ally Li Yuanchao as vice president. Only one of the 2,956 delegates who cast valid ballots in the Great Hall of the People voted against Mr. Xi; three abstained. [Source: Chris Buckley, New York Times, March 14, 2013]

“The new president faces conflicting expectations of how he will apply the power in his hands — expectations that he kindled himself. Since he succeeded Hu Jintao as party leader in November, he has used meetings, speeches and visits to a frenetic coastal city and a dirt-poor village to signal that he wants some economic liberalization, more room for citizens to criticize the government, and a crackdown on the official corruption that has infuriated Chinese citizens. Yet Mr. Xi has also rejected any turn to Western-inspired political liberalization, and has demanded utter loyalty from officials and the military.

Xi and Li Keqiang

“I think that he’s attracted to the idea of a kind of enlightened dictatorship, or neo-authoritarianism,” said Li Weidong, a former magazine editor in Beijing who is a prominent commentator on politics. “He rejects fundamental political reform, but he wants a cleaner, more efficient government that is closer to the public.” “I think in the end it will be difficult for them to avoid issues of political reform because otherwise it will be impossible to eradicate corruption,” Mr. Li said. “Relying on personal authority and party indoctrination and traditions won’t solve the problems they face.”

“Meeting Parliament delegates, Mr. Xi repeated vows to counter slowing economic growth by encouraging consumer spending and pulling down barriers to farmers migrating to towns and cities. He told People’s Liberation Army delegates that a strong, loyal military was essential to his “China dream” of patriotic revival. He has also shown a lighter public touch than his predecessor, the stiffly disciplined Mr. Hu. After an uproar this week over thousands of pig carcasses in a river near Shanghai, state news media highlighted Mr. Xi’s earlier comments on water pollution. “The standard that Internet users apply for lake water quality is whether the mayor dares to jump in and swim,” Mr. Xi told officials from the area near the polluted Lake Tai in eastern China, according to a state media report.

“Outwardly, at least, Mr. Xi has accumulated the levers of power more smoothly than his recent predecessors. After becoming party leader in late 2002, Mr. Hu waited almost two years to take the Central Military Commission chairmanship from Jiang Zemin, who remained a constraint on Mr. Hu. Mr. Jiang was long overshadowed by Mr. Deng, the aged patriarch who installed him and once threatened to remove him. But analysts and former officials say Mr. Xi and his comrades face other, no less forbidding, obstacles to their vows of change: the array of powerful political families, state-owned conglomerates and ordinary urban residents who fear that change could threaten their interests.

China Leaders Pledge Clean Government, Less Waste

“Xi Jinping certainly won’t be a Gorbachev,” said Yao Jianfu, a former official and researcher who closely follows Chinese politics, told the New York Times. “Every aspect of reform has an important precondition—that the Communist Party remains in charge.” “He’s not going to do anything to weaken party control, but at the least you can say he’s concerned with the lives of farmers and ordinary people,” Li Baiguang, a human rights lawyer in Zhejiang when Xi was there, told AP.

Reporting from the National People’s Congress in Beijing in March 2013, Charles Hutzler of Associated Press wrote: “China's new leaders pledged to run a cleaner, more efficient government and slash spending on official perks as the ceremonial legislature wrapped up a pivotal session to install a new leadership in a once-a-decade transfer of power.The transition that began in November under strict orchestration by China's ruling Communist Party has taken place at time of lower estimates of future economic growth and rising public anger over massive corruption, waste, and extravagant spending that are exasperating a yawning wealth gap. President Xi Jinping told the nearly 3,000 delegates gathered at Beijing's hulking Great Hall of the People that his government would "resolutely reject formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance, and resolutely fight against corruption and other misconduct in all manifestations." [Source: Charles Hutzler, Associated Press, March 17, 2013 \\]

“Shortly afterward, freshly appointed Premier Li Keqiang said the central government would slash its payroll and freeze spending on overseas trips, guest houses, office buildings and new vehicles in response to falling revenues. "The central government will lead by example and all local governments must follow suit," Li said in his first major appearance before domestic and international media. Li said that the government would have to push hard to meet its economic growth target of 7.5 percent for the year. \\

“Niu Jun, a scholar at Peking University's School of International Relations, said Xi and Li hit on topics familiar to a Chinese public that has grown weary of promises to fight inefficiency, corruption and waste. "I don't have terribly high expectations for these new pledges," he said. However, Niu said Li struck a chord with by placing a new emphasis on handling matters strictly according to procedures rather in the form of some new campaign or crackdown. "I was especially impressed about Li's commitment to handle matters according to laws and rules. That really shows the government is paying heavy attention to building the legal system," Niu said. \\

“Xi, already the country's overall leader since being named Communist Party general secretary in November, was installed in the largely ceremonial post of president during the 13-day session of the rubberstamp National People's Congress. Li, the party's No. 2 leader, was named premier. Legislators endorsed the leadership's slate of veteran technocrats — many with strong international experience — to staff a Cabinet charged with ensuring continued growth through government streamlining, increased consumption and a movement toward higher technology and less labor intensive industries. In a sign of displeasure with severe pollution, the normally compliant National People's Congress deputies cast an unusually high number of "no" votes for members of its environmental protection committee: 1,969 in favor to 850 opposed, with another 140 abstaining. \\

Standing Committe of Politburo of the Chinese Community Party, the most powerful group in China

China Installs Cabinet of Party Vets, Technocrats

Joe McDonald of Associated Press wrote: China's new leaders to veteran techCnocrats, many with strong international experience, to staff a Cabinet charged with overhauling a slowing economy and pursuing a higher global profile for the country without triggering opposition. The ceremonial legislature approved nearly three dozen trusted politicians, experienced officials and career diplomats who make up the State Council under Premier Li Keqiang. Their appointment largely completes a once-a-decade transfer of power to a new generation of communist leaders. [Source: Joe McDonald, Associated Press, March 16, 2013 =^=]

"They will have a more rational and objective view of China and the relationship between China and the rest of the world," said Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Peking University. "It means they are more cognizant of how the world reacts to China and that they will be more active in seeking changes. That's a good thing." =^=

“Trade envoy Gao Hucheng, who has a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Paris and has worked in Europe and Africa, was named commerce minister. Appointed finance minister was Lou Jiwei, chairman of China's multibillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund and a fixture in international financial circles. Their appointment is likely to reassure trading partners and financial markets about policy continuity. Central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan, another prominent figure, was also kept on. =^=

“Similarly, Wang Yi, a career diplomat with experience working on some of China's knottiest diplomatic issues, was named foreign minister. A former ambassador to Japan, Wang worked with the United States in nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea and has charted Beijing's successful outreach to Taiwan, healing an estrangement from their separation in the Chinese civil war. For defense minister, leaders chose Gen. Chang Wanquan, a soldier from a poor farming family who has commanded the manned space program. =^=

“The transfer of power to new leaders has been in the works for years and saw divisive bargaining among party power brokers and their factions. The sudden cashiering of a powerful and popular politician, Bo Xilai, over a seamy scandal of corruption and murder last year exposed fault lines that the party leadership prefers to keep hidden behind a mask of unity. President Xi Jinping and the other party leaders installed in November must heal the rifts if they are to govern. The composition of the Cabinet is more inclusive, reaching beyond the party's inner circle, which is dominated by officials and politicians with ties to Xi and one of his political mentors. =^=

“Named vice premier in charge of economic affairs was Wang Yang, an ally of now-retired President Hu Jintao. Wang earned a reputation as a liberal reformer by encouraging compromises over workers' strikes and a revolt by a fishing village when he ran the wealthy coastal province of Guangdong. China has relied on technocratic managers also steeped in Communist Party politics to steer the country in recent decades, and many in the new Cabinet were in line for promotions and had strong political backing. Some are associated with support for state industry and extensive government involvement in the economy — elements that might complicate possible reforms. Miao Wei was reappointed to head the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which plays a key role in industrial planning that has frustrated foreign and private sector companies.” =^=

Chairman Xi Jinping and the Princelings

Chris Buckley wrote in the New York Times, “Mr. Xi, 59, is the son of a Communist Party official who served under Mao Zedong and became a supporter of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms to curtail party controls and nurture markets. Vice President Li Yuanchao is also the “princeling” son of a senior cadre. Many party insiders thought that Mr. Li was destined for a place on the elite, seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, but he was left out of the lineup announced in November. Mr. Li’s new post will keep him close to Mr. Xi, and he could still climb into the Standing Committee at a party congress in 2017. [Source: Chris Buckley, New York Times, March 14, 2013 ]

On the appointment of Li Keqiang as prime minister and the installment of new deputy prime ministers, ministers and other senior officials, Yao Jianfu, a retired party official and a researcher in Beijing, told the New York Times, “They are all the sons of the party.” “For them, there’s no conflict between defending their own power and developing a capitalist economy in China,” he said, adding that Mr. Xi “will have to lean more to the left in politics than he can lean to right in economic policy, otherwise he won’t be able to stabilize his place on the emperor’s throne.”

Willy Lam wrote in China Brief, “Xi first got to know the 62-year-old Li during the former’s stint as deputy party secretary and then party secretary of Zhengding County, Hebei Province, from 1982 to 1985. During much of this period, Li, who is a Hebei native, was party boss of neighboring Wuji County. After Xi left Hebei, however, the two have pursued careers in different professional and geographical settings. In fact, due to his having served as head of the Hebei branch of the CYL for four years in the late 1980s, Li sometimes is identified as an affiliate of the CYL Faction. Xi and Li were able to renew their old friendship when the latter served in Shaanxi from 1998 to 2003 in posts including party secretary of Xi’an, the provincial capital. Although Xi has never worked in his home province, he paid regular visits to Xi’an and other Shaanxi cities to keep up ties with his relatives. Much of Xi’s relationship with the 55-year-old Zhao is based on their being fellow natives of Shaanxi. Zhao, who spent the bulk of his career in the remote western Qinghai Province, was party boss of Shaanxi from 2007 to 2012. During these five years, Zhao apparently won Xi’s gratitude by taking very good care of members of the labyrinthine Xi Zhongxun clan. [Source: Willy Lam, China Brief, Jamestown Foundation 13, 4, February 15, 2013]

Standing Committee at the National People's Congress in 2012

Xi Jinping’s Inner Circle and the Military Princeling Faction

Willy Lam wrote in China Brief, “Barely three months after assuming the posts of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary and Central Military Commission (CMC) chairman, Xi Jinping has done well in buttressing his authority within the party’s upper echelons. Xi’s remarkable consolidation comes in spite of the fact that he is not associated with any comparably powerful clique within the party apparatus—unlike predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, who are heads of the Shanghai Faction and the Communist Youth League (CYL) Faction, respectively. Apart from being the premier arbiter of party affairs, Xi has secured control over foreign and national security policies by virtue of becoming the chair of the Foreign Affairs Leading Small Group. Equally significant, the 59-year-old supremo has seized hold of the country’s “political-legal” (zhengfa) machinery, which oversees the police, state intelligence, the procuratorate and the courts. Moreover, since both Hu and Jiang have made at least rhetorical pledges that they would not interfere with the new leadership that was confirmed at the 18th Party Congress last November, Xi could go about running the country without fear of party elders breathing down his neck. [Source: Willy Lam, China Brief, Jamestown Foundation 13, 4, February 15, 2013]

“While Xi is sometimes called a leader of the “Princelings Faction”—a reference to the offspring of party elders—it is noteworthy that particularly for those born in the 1950s and after, most gaogan zidi (sons of top cadres) have gone into business rather than politics. The exception is the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which boasts several dozen princeling officers with the rank of major general or above. It is not surprising, then, that the military has remained princeling Xi’s premier power base. After graduation from Tsinghua University in 1979, Xi worked for three years as the personal secretary of then-Minister of Defense Geng Biao. He got this plum job through the recommendation of his father, liberal party elder Xi Zhongxun (1913–2002). The PLA being a bastion of gaoganzidi, Xi has maintained good ties with an elite corps of princeling generals through his long career as a senior cadre in Fujian and Zhejiang Provinces.

At least three CMC members have revolutionary bloodlines. For example, Air Force Commander General Ma Xiaotian is the son of a former senior cadre in the PLA Political Academy, Senior Colonel Ma Zaiyao. Navy Commander Admiral Wu Shengli is the son of Wu Xian, a former vice governor of Zhejiang Province. Yet the princeling-general within the CMC that is closest to Xi is undoubtedly Director of the General Armaments Department General Zhang Youxia. Zhang is the son of former General Logistics Department (GLD) commander General Zhang Zongxun, who served with Xi Zhongxun in China’s northwestern region before 1949. It is not surprising that General Zhang was one of the first members of the top brass to profess allegiance to “Chairman Xi.” In his Chinese New Year message last week, General Zhang told staff in his department to “implement Chairman Xi’s important policy instruction” of “fulfilling the China dream and the dream of a strong army”.

“Several princeling generals who failed to be promoted in the run-up to the 18th Party Congress also are considered advisers to Xi on foreign and military affairs. Foremost among them is GLD Political Commissar Liu Yuan, the son of China’s first state president Liu Shaoqi. General Liu is a much-published theoretician on geopolitical issues, including how to tackle Washington’s alleged “anti-China containment policy.” Other members of Xi’s informal network of military strategists include General Liu Yazhou, who is Political Commissar of the National Defense University, and Chen Zhiya, a senior researcher in a PLA think tank on international strategy. Liu and Chen are the son-in-law of state president Li Xiannian and the son of former Deputy Defense Minister General Chen Geng, respectively. Xi is also on good terms with generals who had spent time in the Nanjing Military Region (MR), which covers Zhejiang and Fujian. Foremost among this group is GLD Commander General Zhao Keshi, who worked in this strategically important MR from 1988 to 2012. In addition, General Zhao, who was Nanjing MR commander from 2007 to 2012, is close to senior members of the Shanghai Faction, such as former Vice President Zeng Qinghong, who remains one of Xi’s high-level mentors.

“That Xi has taken over the political-legal apparatus was revealed indirectly during his high-profile inspection of a Beijing-based division of the People’s Armed Police (PAP) late last month. Xi indicated that the PAP must remain “an armed force that is under the absolute leadership of the party.” For the first time after he became general secretary, Xi raised the imperative of upholding political stability (weiwen). “The PAP must have a deep understanding of the complexity of the wei-wensituation—as well as the important role that the PAP plays in weiwen work,” he said, “The PAP must seize the initiative and remain on a high degree of alertness. It must be ready when called upon, be prepared to fight and to score victories.” Accompanying Xi on this pivotal trip were Politburo member and Secretary of the Central Political-Legal Commission (CPLC), Meng Jianzhu as well as the newly appointed Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun, who doubles as the First Political Commissar of the PAP. Under the Hu Jintao administration, when the PBSC consisted of nine members, the CPLC was headed by former PBSC members Luo Gan and later, Zhou Yongkang. Now that the PBSC has been reduced to seven cadres, CPLC Secretary Meng, who is an ordinary Politburo member, reports directly to Xi.

Politburo at the National People's Congress in 2012

Xi Jinping’s Effort to Consolidate His Power

Comparing Xi to his predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, William Wan wrote in the Washington Post, “Xi, though a princeling and someone Jiang supported, does not easily fit into any political camp. But many believe he will start his tenure with advantages that neither of his predecessors possessed — deep party connections nurtured through family and a growing sense that the country is in desperate need of reform. “You have so many situations that now require proactive decision-making, and you have all the recent scandals and crises making many in the party eager to turn the page,” said Robert Kuhn, a businessman with ties to senior Chinese leaders. Ironically, because of that, Xi may actually be able to consolidate authority to get things done much faster than either Hu or Jiang in their first days.” Others, however, say that if the past is any indication, Xi’s predecessors will not give up their influence easily. “It is a natural thing when you have been the one in charge all along,” one party intellectual said. “It’s a hard habit to give up, especially in Chinese politics.” [Source: William Wan, Washington Post, November 5, 2012 ]

Mr. Xi and his inner circle have about 18 months to consolidate power and begin any big initiatives before preparations for the next Communist Party Congress and leadership reshuffle in 2017 start to consume elite attention, Christopher Johnson, an analyst on China at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told the New York Times. “For now, he’s a guy who’s trying to be two things at once,” said Mr. Johnson, formerly a senior China analyst for the C.I.A. “The question is: How long will they be able to get by with gestures like four dishes and a soup before they have to make the hard choices?” [Source: Chris Buckley, New York Times, March 14, 2013 ]

Willy Lam wrote in China Brief, “Barely three months after assuming the posts of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary and Central Military Commission (CMC) chairman, Xi Jinping has done well in buttressing his authority within the party’s upper echelons. Xi’s remarkable consolidation comes in spite of the fact that he is not associated with any comparably powerful clique within the party apparatus—unlike predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, who are heads of the Shanghai Faction and the Communist Youth League (CYL) Faction, respectively. Apart from being the premier arbiter of party affairs, Xi has secured control over foreign and national security policies by virtue of becoming the chair of the Foreign Affairs Leading Small Group. Equally significant, the 59-year-old supremo has seized hold of the country’s “political-legal” (zhengfa) machinery, which oversees the police, state intelligence, the procuratorate and the courts. Moreover, since both Hu and Jiang have made at least rhetorical pledges that they would not interfere with the new leadership that was confirmed at the 18th Party Congress last November, Xi could go about running the country without fear of party elders breathing down his neck. [Source: Willy Lam, China Brief, Jamestown Foundation 13, 4, February 15, 2013]

“While Xi appears to have succeeded in bolstering his authority over the military and police forces, his networking skills seem surprisingly weak within the party and government apparatuses. Having spent the better half of his career in Fujian and Zhejiang Provinces, the princeling does not seem to have built up a large coterie of associates and followers in the party-state hierarchy. This is evidenced by the fact that Xi’s trusted aides in the party’s inner sanctum of power are cadres whoseguanxi or relationship with the general secretary cannot be said to be intimate. Take for example, Director of the General Office Li Zhanshu and Director of the Organization Department Zhao Leji, both of whom were inducted into the Politburo at the 18th Party Congress.

The relative paucity of Xi’s guanxi network also is evidenced by the fact that several of his policy advisers were introduced to him by trusted party elders such as Shanghai Faction stalwart Zeng Qinghong. Foremost among them are the two deputy directors of the Central Committee Policy Research Office, Shi Zhihong and He Yiting. Shi, whose specialty is drafting party documents, served as Zeng’s personal secretary when the latter was director of the Central Committee General Office from 1993 to 1999. Another key adviser and speechwriter is Li Shulei, who served as Xi’s deputy when the latter was president of the Central Party School from 2007 to 2012. Yet compared to his predecessors Jiang and Hu, Xi seems to lack close aides whose personal loyalty to the party boss has been anchored upon decades of service. A sizeable proportion of the members of ex-president Jiang and President Hu’s inner circles were made up of their colleagues and underlings. By contrast, surprisingly few of Xi’s former associates in Fujian and Zhejiang Provinces had made it into the senior ranks of the party or state. Take, for example, long-time Tianjin cadre He Lifeng, who was just named the Chairman of the municipal Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). He served together with Xi when the latter was vice mayor of Xiamen in the mid-1980s. At the 18th Party Congress, however, Mr. He merely retained his slot as an alternate member of the Central Committee—a sign that the 57-year-old’s upward trajectory may be dented. The newly-appointed Governor of Guizhou Chen Min’er, who headed Zhejiang’s Department of Propaganda when Xi was party boss there, may have more potential for promotion. Chen, age 58, was one of only nine Sixth Generation cadres to have been appointed full Central Committee members at the 18th Party Congress. Yet the chances are not high that Chen could snatch a Politburo-level post before Xi’s expected retirement at the 20th Party Congress in 2022.

“Xi’s connections with academics, public intellectuals and other professionals who might help the supremo think outside the box also seem scant relative to his peers and predecessors. Former Vice President Zeng often sought the advice of scholars from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences or editors from Beijing-based official newspapers. Former premier Zhu Rongji is known to have tapped the views of nationally-known economists such as Professor Wu Jinglian. Premier-in-waiting and CYL Faction stalwart Li Keqiang reportedly has put together a large personal think tank that consists of professors and former classmates from Peking University, his alma mater. A couple of months before the 18th CCP Party, Xi held a long session with the son of late party chief Hu Yaobang, Hu Deping, on ways and means to resuscitate economic and political reforms. A retired vice ministerial-level official, Hu is a public intellectual who is well-respected for his untiring advocacy of political reform. Apart from the 70-year-old Hu, whom he knew due to the closeness of their fathers, however, Xi does not seem to have an extensive circle of experts who are well-placed to offer him fresh or unorthodox ideas.

“It is probably too early to say in what ways the composition of Xi’s power base and support network may affect China’s policymaking. The preponderance of military figures within his inner circle, coupled with the country’s increasingly tense confrontation with Japan and the United States, could predispose the commander-in-chief toward pursuing more pugilistic foreign and military policies. The dearth of relatively liberal aides among his corps of advisers could affect the extent to which Xi might be pushing political liberalization. During his tour of Guangdong Province in December, Xi pointed out that he was looking for “high-caliber” cadres who “have confidence in the [socialist] road, as well as confidence in [the party’s] theories and systems”. The onus is on Xi to show Chinese as well as foreign observers that his team is capable of not only holding the fort of CCP supremacy but also hacking out new pathways for reform.

China’s Xi Jinping Charts a New PR Course

William Wan wrote in the Washington Post, “In his first few months as China’s leader, Xi Jinping has moved aggressively to dismantle the Chinese public’s long-standing image of officials as wooden robots full of empty speeches and corrupt motives. Instead, with a sophisticated public relations strategy, Xi and his top advisers have introduced something previously unseen among the higher echelons of Chinese government: a retail politician. They have employed modern tactics familiar to anyone who has endured a U.S. election — driving the narrative, attacking government waste and casting Xi as a plainspoken, unadorned man of the people. The approach reflects a new reality confronting China’s leaders in an age of social media and cellphones in which they no longer retain total control over the message. To adapt, experts say, they are trying to shape the news, in addition to often censoring it. [Source: William Wan, Washington Post, March 13, 2013 ]

“The PR campaign has largely succeeded in boosting Xi’s image as he prepares to take the ceremonial title of president Thursday. It has also helped the Communist Party, which has been struggling with public disillusionment and anger over its policies and authoritarian grip on power. Skeptics say they are still waiting for signs of substance behind the style, and some within the party worry that the PR effort has raised expectations too high and risks a backlash if Xi and his team can’t deliver on reforms. “The messaging has been very sophisticated and skillfully executed,” said one former official in the propaganda department, speaking on the condition of anonymity like most party members for fear of reprisal. “But they are still in that honeymoon phase all new leaders receive. It’s too soon to tell how this will end up.”

“From the moment Xi stepped onto the stage as the party’s new leader, the difference was clear. “I’ve kept you all waiting,” he said to a room full of reporters shocked to hear a party leader apologize for his behavior. Many online later praised his deep, mellifluous voice and folksy language — a stark contrast to past leaders’ speeches, which were chock full of jargon and Communist slogans. In the following weeks, Xi launched a highly publicized anti-corruption campaign and called on officials to reduce the daily reams of official documents and speeches they churned out. He banned all forms of ostentation surrounding leaders’ events — no more red carpets, welcome banners or traffic-inducing motorcades. Lavish government banquets were cut down to just four dishes and a soup. “He’s been targeting those things most visible to the public,” said one retired and reform-minded party official. “They are easier to change than abstract concepts like human rights or rule of law that underpin the system.”

“Along with this new image of openness and a grass-roots touch, however, have been dark counterpoints, suggesting that the old ways of hard-line message management will not change. While Xi’s administration has surprised many by embracing the Internet and social media tools, it has also tightened the state’s grip online, passing real-name registration laws, shutting down long-used methods of circumventing China’s firewall and cracking down on critics. Even the state historian entrusted with writing a biography of Xi’s father said he has been harassed by authorities, enduring hours of interrogation and threats to his job after speaking with foreign reporters last year. The biographer, Jia Juchuan, says he believes his cellphone and his home in Shanxi province are being monitored, and the publication of a second volume on Xi’s father has been held up by authorities for more than three years.

Xi Jinping’s Visits a Poor Village

Reporting from the village of Luotuowan, Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, “Never before has grinding poverty had such a shiny silver lining. At least that is how the 600 corn farmers who inhabit this remote mountain hamlet in north China are feeling in the weeks since Xi Jinping, China’s new leader, dropped by to showcase their deprivation. With a gaggle of local party chiefs and photographers in tow, Mr. Xi ducked into ramshackle farmhouses, patted dirt-smudged children on the head and, with little prompting, nibbled on a potato plucked from Tang Rongbin’s twig-fueled cooking fire. “It was as if we had met Mao,” said a still-incredulous Mr. Tang, 69, who shares a bed with five family members. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, January 26, 2013 **]

“The visit to this village in Hebei Province, broadcast, was meant to highlight Mr. Xi’s concern for China’s rural poor. But it was also an important propaganda flourish intended to burnish the new leader’s bona fides as an empathetic man of the people. “I want to know how rural life is here,” he said at one point as the camera lingered on the unvarnished details of the Tang family’s poverty: a single light bulb, a tattered straw ceiling, a huddle of grimy pots and mounds of detritus. “I want to see real life.” **

“But for all Mr. Xi’s celebrity wattage, the real manna began to rain down on Luotuowan after he and his entourage left. Money, quilts and pledges of government help have been pouring in from across the country. The government arranged for each household to receive $160 in cash, a bottle of cooking oil and a sack of rice, a precious commodity where corn gruel and corn cakes are often the main course. That was just the beginning. A businessman from China’s northeast was so moved by Luotuowan’s suffering that he drove 500 miles with more cash and a carload of flat-screen televisions. A government work crew whitewashed the village’s stone walls, adding a band of turquoise paint for good measure. Then came the government researchers, who were instructed to solve Luotuowan’s intractable poverty, perhaps by pursuing Mr. Xi’s suggestion that, with outside expertise, “the people can make yellow soil into gold.” **

“But whether the official visit by Mr. Xi will have a lasting impact on this isolated community — much less others like it — remains to be seen. The average per capita income here, about $160 a year, is less than half the official threshold for poverty, and it is a tiny fraction of the average urban income of slightly less than $4,000. Most young people have long since fled for jobs in distant cities. “The most arduous and heavy task facing China in completing the building of a moderately prosperous society is in rural areas, especially poverty-stricken regions,” Mr. Xi said during his visit to Luotuowan, which is 180 miles from Beijing. **

“Mr. Tang, at least, seemed convinced that Mr. Xi’s visit would somehow drastically improve their lives. “We have to believe something good will come of this,” Mr. Tang said. “Otherwise, why would the party secretary have come all the way here?” Asked what the government had done before Mr. Xi’s visit, he paused and shook his head. “Not much,” he said. Indeed, given China’s rampant corruption, another big question surrounding the antipoverty campaign, announced a few days after Mr. Xi’s visit, is how much of the additional $40 million that provincial authorities will funnel to Luotuowan and other villages in the surrounding county of Fuping next year will actually reach those in need. **

“Mr. Xi’s arrival here in late December appears to have been relatively impromptu. Mr. Tang said he got only a half-hour warning that China’s most powerful official was arriving, although the village party chief, Gu Rongjin, said he had a week’s notice. A jovial, gravel-voiced man, Mr. Gu, 60, says he lost count of the Chinese journalists, agricultural advisers and antipoverty specialists who have descended on the village in recent weeks. “In the beginning, I was getting calls at 2 in the morning,” he said over dinner at the large guesthouse he and his wife operate during the summer. Some of the experts have proposed turning Luotuowan’s stony fields into walnut groves or ginseng farms; one ominously suggested that residents clear out so the area, which is surrounded by breathtakingly craggy mountains, can be developed as an eco-tourist destination. “Once the weather warms up, the development will begin,” Mr. Gu said with gusto. **

“Down the road, Mr. Tang and his wife, Gu Baoqing, proudly re-enacted how Mr. Xi sat on their communal bed, legs crossed, and asked about their daily struggles, including details of Mr. Tang’s untreated ailments, including circulation problems and heart disease. “He had none of those officialdom airs,” his wife said. To their surprise, a doctor from Beijing arrived a few days later and drove Mr. Tang to a hospital in the capital. He returned home with a bottle of medication, which he boasted costs about as much as he makes in a year. But one detail tempered Mr. Tang’s elation: the complimentary pills would last only a month. Asked what he would do when they ran out, he seemed perplexed. “I guess I’ll just go without,” he said. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, January 26, 2013]

Xi Jinping’s Mystery Taxi Ride?

Xi with ordinary Chinese

In April 2013. Associated Press reported: “A Beijing-backed Hong Kong newspaper's report that Chinese President Xi Jinping took a mystery cab ride last month prompted an unusual denial from China's official Xinhua News Agency on Thursday, although the origins of the strange tale remain murky. The Ta Kung Pao newspaper reported Thursday that Xi took the 26-minute, 8.2-kilometer (5-mile) ride on the evening of March 1 as claimed by taxi driver Guo Lixin. The report said Xi was accompanied by another passenger who rode in the front passenger seat, but who wasn't further identified. [Source: AP, April 18, 2013 ]

“The report said that after talking about Beijing's pollution, Guo took a closer look at his back-seat passenger and said: "When you take cars, does anyone tell you you look like a certain person? Anyone ever say you look like General Secretary Xi?" Along with the story, the newspaper posted on its website a graphic of the route the cab supposedly took from Beijing's Drum Tower neighborhood, which is just north of the central leadership compound, to the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse Hotel. Photos showed Guo pointing to a framed handwritten note on a piece of white paper supposedly from Xi that read, "Safe and smooth journey," in Chinese.

“Later, a Xinhua reporter who covers transportation issues posted a statement on Weibo, China's popular Twitter-like website, saying Beijing transport authorities confirmed the trip, but it was swiftly deleted. Xinhua then issued a statement saying further checking showed the report was false. By 6 p.m., the newspaper had issued an apology and removed the content from its website. "After checking, this is false news. We are deeply disturbed and extremely regretful," the apology said.

“The report generated suspicions among some Chinese readers almost from the start, in part because Xi supposedly hailed and got a taxi at rush hour on a Friday in Beijing, a usually difficult time to find a cab. A call to the Shengdali taxi company, where Guo supposedly works, to ask about Xi's alleged ride was answered by a woman who said, "I don't know about this," and then hung up.

“It wasn't clear how a newspaper that has close links to China's ruling Communist Party and is usually considered authoritative on political matters would run a false report, especially one so apparently bizarre. While Xi has sought to portray himself as in-touch with regular people, Chinese leaders are surrounded by heavy security at all times, and it would be highly unusual for him to take public transport. China's former emperors were known for sometimes sneaking out of their palaces incognito to have fun or conduct secret inspections, but it is difficult to imagine the head of the party, military and world's second-largest economy taking such a risk.

Pingping and the Xi Jinping’s Fan Club

Keith B. Richburg wrote in the Washington Post: “When Communist Party leader Xi Jinping made his first official trip outside the capital this weekend, to the prosperous southern province of Guangdong, his every movement was fawningly chronicled by a mysterious new microblog that seemed always one step — and many days — ahead of the official media. The microblog, called the “Learning from Xi Fan Club,” accurately reported Xi’s travel plans, to Guangzhou, Shenzhen and other southern cities, well before the news was reported on state-run CCTV television, and days before the official news agency Xinhua, which waited to make any mention of the trip until this week, when the visit was complete. [Source: Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, December 12, 2012]

“The fan site posted rare early photographs of Xi and his family members — highly unusual in China, where the private lives of officials remain shrouded in secrecy. There are references to Xi’s mottoes and his favorite sports. And the site refers to the Communist Party’s top leader by an affectionate nickname, “Pingping.” The founder of the site, who declined to give his identity, said — in an online-only interview — that he is simply an ordinary “grass-roots person” and not a member of Xi’s publicity or media team. “I’m a fan of the party secretary,” he said. “I like him and support him.”

“But many here who study the media are unconvinced the site is the work of real “fans,” saying it appears more like part of a well-oiled propaganda effort. With its professional style and use of standard journalism techniques, “it is definitely not from some ordinary grass-roots-level netizen,” said Zhang Zhian, an expert on new media from Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-sen University. He guessed the fan club, if not really the work of an everyday follower, was either the work of the Party Central Committee’s General Office or Xinhua reporters.

Whatever its origin, the microblog seems the most obvious example yet of how Xi and his handlers, just one month into the top job, are deftly trying to cultivate an image of a new, more accessible leader — a Chinese Everyman who eschews unnecessary pomp, travels in a van without a huge entourage, crosses the street only at designated intersections and enjoys common pursuits, such as playing soccer.

The online Xi fan club also shows how Xi and the other top leaders, newly elevated at the party congress, which officially ended Nov. 14, seem more than their predecessors to understand the enormous power of the Internet, particularly the hugely popular microblogging sites collectively known as weibo, which in just three years have empowered ordinary Chinese with a voice and a new tool for holding corrupt local officials to account.

Team Behind Xi Jinping’s Image

Xi with young pioneers

William Wan wrote in the Washington Post, “Those within the party as well as outside analysts describe Xi’s PR push as the result of careful planning and execution. But as with most things related to China’s top leaders, the strategists behind it have been shrouded in secrecy. Communication experts who have advised party leaders in the past say there is no formal team, such as the White House’s communications office, devoted to this kind of work. And the overall decision to push this new down-to-earth image of China’s leaders — in speeches, online and at events such as Xi’s visits to poor, rural areas — almost certainly involved the other six members on the Politburo Standing Committee who rule China with Xi. [Source: William Wan, Washington Post, March 13, 2013 ]

“Many who have worked in or with the party on communications say the divisions most involved in the campaign are the propaganda department; the party secretariat, which manages the work of Xi and top leaders; and the Policy Research Office, the party’s highest think tank. “People think of it as this massive bureaucracy,” one former party spokesman said. “But at the highest levels, where you’re executing plans on behalf of the standing committee, everything else gets dropped and there is a powerful focus on results.”

“One man many believe has played a major role in crafting the strategy is Wang Huning, an official with a deep understanding of U.S.- and Western-style politics, according to several with ties to party leadership. A thin, bookish man who leads the Policy Research Office, he helped develop many of President Jiang Zemin’s most important policies. And when Jiang ceded leadership to China’s current president, Hu Jintao, Wang managed to become a driving force behind Hu’s policies as well — a miraculous political feat given the competition for power between the two leaders over the past decade.

“I would describe him as a Karl Rove or David Plouffe — an idea man and consigliere figure,” said Christopher Johnson, a former top CIA China analyst now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “This is a guy who thinks on a broad level, who managed to create a wide portfolio and proved himself to be not only damn smart but adaptable.” Wang, 57, traveled extensively with Jiang and in recent years was with Hu on nearly all his trips abroad. Since November, he has played a similar role for Xi, appearing at his side on almost all domestic trips.

“As an international politics scholar, Wang visited the United States in the 1980s, traveling to more than 30 cities and nearly 20 universities. He captured what he saw in a 1991 book, “America Against America,” describing the country’s competing visions of itself. As dean of the law school at Fudan University in Shanghai, he drilled into his students the importance of persuasion, driving them to win a Western-style debate competition in Singapore.

“Other officials surrounding Xi are also described as having a high level of fluency with modern political messaging. Wang Qishan, in charge of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, is known for his crisis management skills and deft touch with the press. He Yiting, who serves as Wang Huning’s deputy in the Policy Research Office, has traveled extensively with Xi during the past five years and spearheaded a 2009 series of party training books, bearing titles such as “The Art of Leaders’ Public Image,” “Service-Oriented Government” and “Leaders and the Public Media.”

“But the driving force behind the PR effort, many say, is Xi himself. Analysts say, Xi has shown an unmatched level of confidence and ease in wielding his public image. For a leader in China to differentiate himself so sharply from his predecessors is unheard of, even risky, said Robert Kuhn, author of a biography of Jiang. “If read incorrectly, it could be interpreted as slightly embarrassing or an implicit criticism of his predecessors,” he said. “In the past, leaders got ahead by keeping a low profile before elders and the public,” said one retired official from the powerful Organization Department, which controls promotions within the party. “To elevate yourself would be seen as proud, boastful, reaching above your place.” By contrast, a month after Xi took power, the state-run Xinhua News Agency published a massive profile of him. Titled “Man of the people, statesman of vision,” it included details about his wife and daughter — topics previously considered untouchable by state media. Equally unprecedented were photos from Xi’s early days that ran with the story. Many evoked a feeling of Camelot-like mythmaking, such as one of Xi pedaling a bicycle with his young daughter behind him, a grin on his face, her little hand clutching his waist.”

Xi Jinping Warns of the Costs of a Soviet-Style Break-Up

In February 2013, Chris Buckley wrote in the New York Times, “When China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, visited the country’s south to promote himself before the public as an audacious reformer following in the footsteps of Deng Xiaoping, he had another message to deliver to Communist Party officials behind closed doors. Despite decades of heady economic growth, Mr. Xi told party insiders during a visit to Guangdong Province in December, China must still heed the “deeply profound” lessons of the former Soviet Union, where political rot, ideological heresy and military disloyalty brought down the governing party. In a province famed for its frenetic capitalism, he demanded a return to traditional Leninist discipline. [Source: Chris Buckley, New York Times, February 14, 2013]

“Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse? An important reason was that their ideals and convictions wavered,” Mr. Xi said, according to a summary of his comments that has circulated among officials. "It's a profound lesson for us. To dismiss the history of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Communist Party, to dismiss Lenin and Stalin, and to dismiss everything else is to engage in historic nihilism, and it confuses our thoughts and undermines the party's organizations on all levels," he said in another unpublished speech from December that was widely leaked. Finally, all it took was one quiet word from Gorbachev to declare the dissolution of the Soviet Communist Party, and a great party was gone. In the end nobody was a real man, nobody came out to resist.”

“Mr. Xi’s remarks on the lessons of the Soviet Union, as well as warnings in the state news media, betray a fear that China’s strains could overwhelm the party, especially if vows of change founder because of political sclerosis and opposition from privileged interest groups like state-owned conglomerates. Already this year, public outcries over censorship at a popular newspaper and choking pollution in Beijing have given the new party leadership a taste of those pressures. Some progressive voices are urging China’s leaders to pay more than lip service to respecting rights and limits on party power promised by the Constitution. Meanwhile, some old-school leftists hail Mr. Xi as a muscular nationalist who will go further than his predecessors in asserting China’s territorial claims.

“Mr. Xi, 59, is the son of a revolutionary who worked alongside Mao until he was purged and jailed. A senior commentator for a major Chinese newspaper said that political patrimony had made Mr. Xi even more sensitive to showing that “while talking about reform, he also wants to tell the party that he won’t become a Gorbachev.”Unlike the former Soviet leader, Mr. Xi presides over an economy that, for all its hazards, has grown robustly over three decades, propelling China to greater international influence. But Chinese officials have warned that rising stature is also generating external rivalries and domestic demands that would magnify the damage from political missteps and schisms. “We’re a major power, and we absolutely cannot allow any subversive errors when it comes to the fundamental issues,” Mr. Xi told party officials in Guangdong. “If that happens, there’s no going back.”

Beijing-based writer Gao Yu wrote: “I believe Xi Jinping’s new south tour speech will shock many party members, let alone outside observers and the public in general. As the son of one of Communist China’s founding generals, Xi’s speech reflects a lot of his mindset and highlights his political ambition. On the one hand, he wants to maintain the life of the CCP regime; on the other, he wants to revamp the house in the hope of restoring the kind of authority and legitimacy Mao Zedong enjoyed at the beginning of the communist China. Such are the guiding principles, and the destination, of his “road to renewal.” [Source: John Kennedy, South China Morning Post, February 28, 2013]

Xi Jinping: a Pragmatist Rather Than a Reformer

Robert Lawrence Kuhn wrote in the Christian Science Monitor, “China's President Xi Jinping is neither a reformer nor a non-reformer. He is a pragmatist – a disciple of former Chinese Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping. Mr. Xi seeks to build the overall vitality of the Chinese nation, and to do this, he feels the Party must maintain absolute control. [Source: Robert Lawrence Kuhn, Christian Science Monitor, November 18, 2013. Kuhn has long-term relationships with China's leaders and the Chinese government. He is strategic adviser to multinational corporations and the author of "How China's Leaders Think." ||||]

“Early in his first year, Xi seemed to articulate a liberal agenda: curbing official extravagances, praising China's rights-protecting (but largely irrelevant) constitution, and suggesting some form of judicial independence. Intriguingly, Xi called for the party, which maintains atheism as an article of faith and requirement for membership, to be more tolerant of China's "traditional cultures" or religions. But initial hope and optimism among liberals gave way to growing dismay and pessimism as China tightened media controls, policed social media, detained liberal activists, and forbade discussion of "universal values" such as civil society, judicial independence, and press freedoms. In internal speeches, Xi used the collapse of the Soviet Union and the overthrow of the Soviet Communist Party as a case study of what the party must never permit. For sure, Xi will not be "China's Gorbachev." Most worrying, perhaps, Xi seemed to embrace Mao Zedong : visiting Mao's shrines, adapting Mao's party "rectification" and "mass line" campaigns, defending Mao's leadership ("not being negative about the 30 years before Deng Xiaoping's economic reform"), and resisting "historical nihilism" (restricting condemnation of Mao's egregious delusions, particularly the mass political campaigns that terrorized millions). ||||

“How then to harmonize this "reform-resisting Xi" with the "reformer Xi" we saw at the third plenum? I put this question to an intellectual minister who worked with Xi. Xi is neither a reformer nor a non-reformer, the minister told me. "Xi, like Deng Xiaoping, is a pragmatist," he said.This rings true. Xi's first trip outside Beijing as China's leader was to Shenzhen, where he seemed to track Deng's famous southern tour in 1992 that triggered the recrudescence of reform, following its stagnation in the wake of the Tiananmen tragedy in June 1989. For those disquieted by Xi's good words for Mao, recall that even here Xi follows Deng. According to Deng, Mao was "70 per cent right and 30 per cent wrong", and his "contributions are primary and his errors secondary". Even though Deng had been purged by Mao three times, he still opposed those who would have assessed Mao more harshly. Deng, who was a realist, preserved Mao not to uphold Mao, but to preserve the party, which, at the very beginning of reform, Deng believed deeply was essential for China's development. ||||

“In 1981, at the sixth plenary session of the 11th Central Committee, a "Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party" was passed as judgment of Mao's historical role and thought in light of the still-fresh Cultural Revolution. The resolution called Mao "a great Marxist and a great proletarian revolutionary, strategist and theorist". It admitted he "made gross mistakes during the 'cultural revolution', but, if we judge his activities as a whole, his contributions to the Chinese revolution far outweigh his mistakes." The resolution praised "Mao Zedong Thought" for socialist construction; ideological, political and cultural work; party building; seeking truth from facts; the "mass line;" national independence; and self-reliance. Sound familiar? Xi, vintage 2013? Remember this comes directly from the 1981 resolution on Mao, for which Deng was wholly responsible. That's why when Xi said, early this year, "to completely negate Mao Zedong would lead to the demise of the Chinese Communist Party and to great chaos in China," he was channelling Deng, not Mao. ||||

“Xi is convinced that continuity of party rule is essential for China to achieve its historic goals, and because he believes that if Mao is brought down, the foundations of the party would crack and perhaps crumble, that for the good of China, he must secure Mao's legacy. Society allows no perfect alignment between success and truth and Xi is choosing his priorities with vision and commitment. Xi is goal-oriented, not ideologically constrained. His seeks to enhance the overall well-being of the Chinese people and to build the overall vitality of the Chinese nation. To accomplish these grand and complex goals – delivering the greatest good to the greatest many – Xi believes, as do many, that the party must continue to be the ruling party and that no measures can be excluded in assuring its control. ||||

“So, is Xi a reformer? Here's what we know. Xi is "not a reformer" and "not a not-a-reformer." He is a pragmatist. His role model is Deng. He is progressive on economic and social issues and conservative on political and party matters. Here's what we do not know. If during Xi's decade of leadership, it becomes clear that tight political control is no longer optimal for China's development, what would Xi do? I return to my earlier forecast, though now for more nuanced reasons: To find out, we will have to wait, perhaps until the middle of Xi's second term, following the 19th party congress in 2017. ||||

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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