Xi Jinping became the leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP or CPC) in November 2012. He became Chinese president in March 2013 and over time claimed other titles to become China’s unquestioned leader to such a degree he has been called a new Mao and a new Emperor. Xi was officially anointed as the new leader of China, succeeding Hu Jintao as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), at its 18th Congress in November 2012. He officially took the position in early 2013.
Xi is a Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, and secretary of the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee. According to China.org, the Beijing government website: Xi Jinping is an ethnic Han and native of Fuping, Shaanxi Province, born in June 1953. He joined the CPC in January 1974 and began working in January 1969. He graduated from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences of Tsinghua University, majoring in Marxist theory and ideological education. With an on-the-job postgraduate education. [Source: China.org]
Regarded as a princeling, Xi is the son of a former reformist vice premier and husband of a famous singer. He attended elite Tsinghua University in Beijing and spent much of his career in Fujian Province. He was promoted to governor Fujian in 1999 after a number of provincial officials were implicated in a corruption scandal. In March 2008, Xi was appointed as Vice President at the National People’s Congress. [Source: Jonathan Fenby, The Guardian, November 7 2010; Michael Wines, New York Times, October 18, 2010; Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield, New York Times, January 23, 2011]
Xi Jinping ( pronounced Shee Jin-ping) was selected as one the 100 most influential people in the world by Time several times since 2009. In the magazine’s profile Joshua Ramo of Kissinger Associates wrote, “You can already feel the Chinese system starting to flex as it prepares to make way for him...Xi’s own experiences as a provincial leader and his firm politicians instinct suggest that he is trying to knot the interest groups of China’s ruling Communist Party into something capable of executing difficult political and economic reforms that have become essential. The running joke in Beijing is that anytime there is a potentially nasty task, Xi gets it: the Olympics...and now an urgent new working group on social stability.”
Xi was in charge of the preparations of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games and has praised the works of controversial filmmaker Jia Zhangke. Some political observers have called Xi “the most powerful Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping”. Former Australian P.M. Rudd called him the most powerful leader since Mao. New Statesman ranked Xi fourth on its list of “The World’s 50 Most Influential Figures”. [Source: Elizabeth Economy, Council on Foreign Relations’ Asia Unbound blog, Forbes, October ct 15, 2014]
Xi Jinping’s Appearance
Xi is tall and stockily built in the view of some and portly in the eyes of others. He turned 68 in 2021. Jiayang Fan wrote in The New Yorker: “Fleshy-faced and sleepy-eyed, with the wide nostrils and long earlobes that commonly presage good fortune in Chinese folklore, Xi has been called a country bumpkin by his wife, an over-privileged princeling by those familiar with his pedigree, and, most resoundingly, a cipher, by the Western media.
Xi Jinping is less of a dour mandarin than Hu Jintao, his predecessor. Jonathan Fenby wrote in The Guardian, “Xi has a reputation as a conciliator, a man who gets on with those around him. Chubby-faced, he smiles more often in public than the grave Hu and there are reports of a periodic twinkle of amusement in his eye. For the most part, photographs are confined to official appearances in a dark business suit with his thick, black hair perfectly parted, but one "man of the people" shot shows him in shirt sleeves kicking a football into the air.” Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield wrote in New York Times, “Unlike the robotic Hu, Xi has dropped memorable barbs against the West into a couple of recent speeches: he once warned critics of China’s rise to ‘stop pointing fingers at us.”... But like Mr. Hu before he became China’s top leader, Mr. Xi rarely speaks publicly and has not developed a reputation that transcends his role as a senior Communist Party official. [Source: Jonathan Fenby, The Guardian, November 7 2010; Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield, New York Times, January 23, 2011]
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: Xi is “five feet eleven, taller than any Chinese leader in nearly four decades, with a rich baritone and a confident heft. When he received a guest, he stood still, long arms slack, hair pomaded, a portrait of take-it-or-leave-it composure that induced his visitor to cross the room in pursuit of a handshake. In a leadership known for grooming colorless apparatchiks, Xi projects an image of manly vigor. He mocks “eggheads” and praises the “team spirit of a group of dogs eating a lion.” In a meeting in March, 2013, he told the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, “We are similar in character,” though Xi is less inclined toward bare-chested machismo. Xi admires Song Jiang, a fictional outlaw from “Water Margin,” a fourteenth-century Chinese classic, for his ability to “unite capable people.” Neither brilliant nor handsome, Song Jiang led a band of heroic rebels. In a famous passage, he speaks of the Xunyang River: “I shall have my revenge some day / And dye red with blood the Xunyang’s flow.” [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, April 6, 2015 ^^^]
“To outsiders, Xi has been a fitful subject. Bookstores in Hong Kong, which are insulated from mainland control, offer portraits of varying quality—the most reliable include “The New Biography of Xi Jinping,” by Liang Jian, and “China’s Future,” by Wu Ming—but most are written at a remove, under pseudonyms. The clearest account of Xi’s life and influences comes from his own words and decisions, scattered throughout a long climb to power. ^^^
Xi Jinping's Character
“In a The Washington Post article in 2012, Xi Jinping was described by those who know him as “pragmatic, serious, cautious, hard-working, down to earth and low-key.” He also has a reputation as Mr Clean. Although corruption and bribery has occurred around him in different local jobs he was never personally associated with it. Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Ye said, "I would put him in the Nelson Mandela class of persons. A person with enormous emotional stability who does not allow his personal misfortunes or sufferings to affect his judgment. In other words, he is impressive." After meeting Xi influential American consultant and China expert Sidney Rittenberg Jr. said, “I thought, This person is a brilliant politician.” When asked in 2002 if he was likely to become leader of China within the next decade, Xi said, "Are you trying to give me a fright?"
Jiayang Fan wrote in The New Yorker: “Even for a Chinese politician, Xi is unusually guarded about both his image and background. Since his political ascension, mentions of his personal life have been steadily stricken from public record. On Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, one Xi watcher mused: “At first I thought he looked like a barbaric capitalist but now I don’t think he’s half bad!! After all, he has lived abroad and his experience in the West will give him fresh ideas and attitudes about China!” What may baffle us about this message—capitalists are barbarians but Xi may learn something from them yet!—also reveals the conflicting feelings the Chinese have about their future leader.” [Source: Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker, February 23, 2012]
Kevin Rudd, the former Prime Minister of Australia, a Mandarin speaker who has talked with Xi at length over the years, told The New Yorker: “What he says is what he thinks. My experience of him is that there’s not a lot of artifice...The bottom line in any understanding of who Xi Jinping is must begin with his dedication to the Party as an institution—despite the fact that through his personal life, and his political life, he has experienced the best of the Party and the worst of the Party.”
Xi usually maintains a calm demeanor. But occasionally he loses it. In Mexico, February 2009, according to Ramo of Kissinger Associates, he lost his patience with anti-Chinese comments and said, ‘some foreigners can’t seem to mind their own business and sit around complaining about China .” Ramo wrote in Time. “But he carefully flavored the complaint as a joke, which let some of the pressure out. The politicians instinct, it seems, is always at the ready.” In a speech in Mexico in March 2008, shortly after he was elected as Vice-President of the People’s Republic, Xi said in a speech,“There are some bored foreigners, with full stomachs, who have nothing better to do than point fingers at us [China]. First, China doesn’t export revolution; second, China doesn’t export hunger and poverty; third, China doesn’t come and cause you headaches, what more is there to be said?” His non-diplomatic remarks led a series of discussion on internet forums. [Source: Elizabeth Economy, Council on Foreign Relations’ Asia Unbound blog, Forbes, October ct 15, 2014. “The Goverance of China” is a 500-page compilation of speeches, main points of speeches of interviews and biographical data on Xi Jinping produced by different parts of the Chinese government bureaucracy.]
Tania Branigan wrote in The Guardian: “While Hu is determinedly anonymous, Xi is "a big personality", according to those who have met him. Standing over 6ft tall, he is confident and affable. He boasts a ready smile and a glamorous second wife—the renowned People's Liberation Army singer Peng Liyuan. He has expressed his fondness for US war movies and, perhaps more surprisingly, praised the edgy independent film-maker Jia Zhangke... Xi describes his own thinking as pragmatic and throughout his rise he has cultivated a down-to-earth image; in the provinces he ate in government canteens and often dressed down.[Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, February 12, 2012]
Xi Jinping doesn’t speak English as is the case with Premier Li Keqiang. However, Xi said he likes the Hollywood films “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Godfather. On an official visit to the U.S. before he became president he took in a Los Angeles Lakers game and stopped in Iowa to visit families who hosted him during a study tour there in 1985. Asked by California schoolchildren about his hobbies, Xi ticked off reading, swimming, and watching sports, but said that finding the time to enjoy them was “mission impossible.”
Xi Jinping’s Beliefs and Personality According to “Governance of China”
“The Goverance of China” is a 500-page compilation of speeches, main points of speeches of interviews and biographical data on Xi Jinping produced by different parts of the Chinese government bureaucracy. Based on what she read in it Elizabeth Economy of the Council on Foreign Relations’ wrote: “Xi is a true believer—but only in the Communist Party. Indeed, the Chinese president has no kind words for officials who “worship Buddha”; seek “god’s advice for solving their problems”; “perform their duties in a muddle-headed manner”; “yearn for Western social systems and values”; “lose their confidence in the future of socialism”; or “adopt an equivocal attitude towards political provocations against the leadership of the CPC” (463-464). He may have a revelation later in life, but for now there is no room at the Inn. [Source: Elizabeth Economy, Council on Foreign Relations’ Asia Unbound blog, Forbes, October ct 15, 2014]
“Xi never lets you see him sweat. Xi does not whine. Although he states that he spends all his private time on his work, he doesn’t complain. Instead he simply says: “Since the people have put me in the position of head of state, I must put them above everything else, bear in mind my responsibilities that are as weighty as Mount Tai, always worry about the people’s security and well-being, and work conscientiously day and night; share the same feelings with the people, share both good and bad times with them, and work in concerted efforts with them” (114). Xi’s life in pictures similarly suggests someone who is calm, in control, and generally enjoying serving as president. Either he is constitutionally better suited to being president of a large power than most recent U.S. presidents or he just has a better public relations team.
“Xi plays to win. Xi has the soul of a competitor. In discussing his desire for China to become an innovation nation, Xi clearly is unhappy with China’s second-tier status, stating: “We cannot always decorate our tomorrow with others’ yesterdays. We cannot always rely on others’ scientific and technological achievements for our own progress.” The answer for him rests overwhelmingly in indigenous innovation: “Most importantly, we should unswervingly follow an independent innovation path featuring Chinese characteristics…. Only by holding key technology in our own hands can we really take the initiative in competition and development, and ensure our economic security, national security, and security in other areas.” He concludes: “Scientific and technological competition is like short-track speed skating. When we speed up, so will others. Those who can skate faster and maintain a high speed longer will win the title” (135-136).
“What you see is what you get. While it is possible that there is an alternative Xi Jinping lurking beyond these 500 pages, there is remarkable consistency in the ideas and values that he espouses through his speeches and his actions. Morality, virtue and responsibility to the people, for example, emerge as consistent themes in his discussions of the necessary qualities for Chinese officials. His efforts to streamline the bureaucracy, understand the needs of the people and ensure proper oversight of Party officials are also hallmarks of Xi’s long tenure as a Communist Party official.
Xi Jinping’s Love of the Classic and Reading
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker, Xi "has the autodidact’s habit of announcing his literary credentials. He often quotes from Chinese classics, and in an interview with the Russian press in 2014 he volunteered that he had read Krylov, Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov, Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, Nekrasov, Chernyshevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Sholokhov. When he visited France, he mentioned that he had read Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Saint-Simon, Fourier, Sartre, and twelve others.” [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, April 6, 2015]
According to “The Goverance of China”, in the words of Elizabeth Economy of the Council on Foreign Relations:“Xi loves the classics. Although many of Xi’s speeches suffer from the same tedious socialist rhetoric that characterized those of his predecessors, Xi often enlivens his remarks with sayings from Chinese philosophers. When discussing the development of Chinese youth, for example, he reflects, “Learning is the bow, while competence is the arrow” and “Virtue uplifts, while vice debases” (55-57). Indeed, in a speech before professors and students at Peking University, Xi relates at least 40 different quotations from ancient Chinese thinkers (185-199). No one says it better than an ancient Chinese philosopher. [Source: Elizabeth Economy, Council on Foreign Relations’ Asia Unbound blog, Forbes, October ct 15, 2014]
“Almost there but not quite… Xi’s musings on soft power suggest some remaining confusion about how it all works. While he calls for bringing back to life “relics sleeping in closed palaces, legacies of the vast land of China and records in ancient books”—all of which would serve Chinese soft power desires—he nonetheless holds fast to the CCP's traditional—if misguided—approach to soft power: “To strengthen our cultural soft power, we should intensify our international right of speech, enhance our capability of international communication, and spare no efforts in establishing a system for international speech to tell, in the right way, the true story of our country…. we should also enhance education in patriotism, collectivism and socialism through school, film, and television to help our people build up and persist in a correct concept of history, national viewpoint, state outlook and cultural perspective, so as to fortify the will of the Chinese people, who should be prouder of being Chinese” (180).
“A man of letters. Xi talks about reading as one of his favorite pastimes—in fact the only one for which he still has time—and he is apparently a fan of Russian literature. Impressively, he can reel off more than ten different favorite Russian authors, including Gogol—whose writings must resonate with him as he tries to clean up corruption in the Chinese bureaucracy. Of course, he expressed his affection for Russian literature in an interview with a Russian television, so he may have been simply playing to the home crowd.
Xi Jinping’s Tears
In March 2016, Austin Ramzy wrote in the New York Times, “It’s all right to cry, even when you’re the leader of the world’s most populous nation. That was one message in an online report carried by several Communist Party and state media outlets that described a handful of known times when President Xi Jinping of China had shed tears. The story didn’t portray Mr. Xi as weepy — with just four documented cries since the 1960s, he’s no John Boehner, the former House speaker. Rather it sought to show him as someone who feels deeply about family, friends, average citizens and model officials. It appears to be part of a broad effort to humanize Mr. Xi and build a cult of personality around him, an endeavor that has gone beyond anything dedicated to recent Chinese leaders. State and Communist Party news outlets as well as Chinese social media have carried cartoons, songs and photos of the daily life of Xi Dada, a nickname for the Chinese leader that means Daddy or Uncle Xi.[Source: Austin Ramzy, Source: Sinosphere, New York Times, March 3, 2016 /~]
“A video of a new song that holds up Mr. Xi as the ideal sort of man a woman should marry has been widely viewed on Chinese websites in recent weeks. It is the sort of praise that would be unimaginable for his predecessor, Hu Jintao. The story about Mr. Xi’s crying was first carried by a public WeChat account dedicated to reporting on the president. According to state media reports, the WeChat account is run by a group of journalists from the overseas edition of People’s Daily, the party’s flagship newspaper. The article was picked up by the website of CCTV, the state broadcaster. Then it was widely republished by other Chinese news outlets including Xinhua, the state news agency, an indication that it has high-level approval from the propaganda authorities. /~\
“The piece includes an interview with Mr. Xi in 2004, when he was party secretary of Zhejiang Province, in which he lists two of the times he has cried. Once was after the death of an elder sister. He doesn’t detail the circumstances, but she is believed to have killed herself because of persecution by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. The other incident Mr. Xi relates was in 1975, during his time in rural Shaanxi Province. He had been sent there in 1969 as part of the “send down” movement, in which urban youth were ordered to go to the countryside to learn from farmers. Many presumably cried when they arrived. Mr. Xi himself has spoken of the difficulties he experienced adjusting to hard farm labor and incessant flea bites. /~\
“But the tears Mr. Xi describes were not attributed to hardship. Rather, he says they were the result of his sadness at leaving the people who had taken him in and welcomed him. At that time Mr. Xi’s father, Xi Zhongxun, had been purged of his leadership positions and his family was under attack. “I went away, but I left my heart there,” he said. An earlier incident, which Mr. Xi spoke of during an event two years ago, involved his time as a student in February 1966, months before the official start of the Cultural Revolution, when a teacher read an article from People’s Daily. The article described Jiao Yulu, a model official of that era, who tirelessly worked alongside the poor farmers in his county. The middle-school teacher began to cry as he read the article, as did the students in Mr. Xi’s class. In 1990, Mr. Xi wrote a poem in memory of Mr. Jiao that describes the struggle of being an upright official. /~\
“A final round of tears was shed over a close friend, Jia Dashan, a writer who was Mr. Xi’s friend when he was an official in Hebei Province in the early 1980s. The two men often had long talks, and both cried when Mr. Xi left to take up a position in Fujian Province in 1985. Mr. Xi stayed close with Mr. Jia and wrote a long eulogy after his death in 1997. Guangming Daily, a party-run national newspaper, reprinted the eulogy in 2014, with an accompanying article that said the tribute showed Mr. Xi’s “sincere friendship” and “personal charisma.”“ /~\
Why Xi Jinping Leads China the Way He Does
David Shambaugh of George Washington University said Deng Xiaoping and his successors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin favored a policy of cautious liberalizing reforms while Xi, according to Christopher Harding of The Telegraph, “marks a return to the absolutism and personality cult of the Mao era. Shambaugh finds relatively little in Xi’s early life – a privileged communist princeling forced to rebuild his Party prospects after his father’s fall from grace during the Cultural Revolution – to explain this. But the collapse of Soviet communism clearly played its part. Where some in the CCP concluded that Gorbachev’s reforms – overhauling the Party, depoliticising the army and opening up civil society – had simply arrived too late in the day, Xi was among those who thought they should never have been attempted. [Source :Christopher Harding, The Telegraph, June 25, 2021]
Alice Su wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “The seeds of Xi's resolve and ruling style are in his upbringing. When the Cultural Revolution began in 1966, his father, Xi Zhongxun, a founding revolutionary who joined the party while in jail at age 14 for trying to poison his "reactionary" schoolteacher, had already fallen into disgrace. Xi Zhongxun lived through hellish periods of internal party factionalism. He was purged multiple times — removed from power, incarcerated, even threatened with being buried alive — for his association with individuals and “gangs” who were deemed disloyal. Some of his mentors and associates committed suicide. Yet he remained devoted, even proud of his suffering at the party’s hands.[Source: Alice Su, Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2020]
“The family's humiliation and persecution led one of Xi’s stepsisters to commit suicide. Xi Jinping was locked up several times because of his father’s position and had to denounce him in public, he said in a 1992 interview with the Washington Post: “‘Even if you don’t understand, you are forced to understand,’ he said with a trace of bitterness. ‘It makes you mature earlier.’”
Xi Jinping’s Opposition to Western, Democratic Values
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker, “Xi unambiguously opposes American democratic notions. In 2011 and 2012, he spent several days with Vice-President Joe Biden, his official counterpart at the time, in China and the United States. Biden told me that Xi asked him why the U.S. put “so much emphasis on human rights.” Biden replied to Xi, “No President of the United States could represent the United States were he not committed to human rights,” and went on, “If you don’t understand this, you can’t deal with us. President Barack Obama would not be able to stay in power if he did not speak of it. So look at it as a political imperative. It doesn’t make us better or worse. It’s who we are. You make your decisions. We’ll make ours.” [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, April 6, 2015 ^^^]
“Henry Paulson, the former Treasury Secretary, author of the book, “Dealing with China,” describes a decade of contact with Xi, told me, “He has been very forthright and candid—privately and publicly—about the fact that the Chinese are rejecting Western values and multiparty democracy.” He added, “To Westerners, it seems very incongruous to be, on the one hand, so committed to fostering more competition and market-driven flexibility in the economy and, on the other hand, to be seeking more control in the political sphere, the media, and the Internet. But that’s the key: he sees a strong Party as essential to stability, and the only institution that’s strong enough to help him accomplish his other goals.” ^^^
“For years, Chinese intellectuals distinguished between words and actions: Western political ideas could be discussed in China as long as nobody tried to enact them. In 2011, China’s education minister, Yuan Guiren, extolled the benefits of exchanges with foreign countries. “Whether they’re rich or poor, socialist or capitalist, as long as they’re beneficial to our development we can learn from all of them,” he told the Jinghua Times, a state newspaper. But in January Yuan told a conference, “Young teachers and students are key targets of infiltration by enemy forces.” He said, “We must, by no means, allow into our classrooms material that propagates Western values.” An article on the Web site of Seeking Truth, an official Party journal, warned against professors who “blacken China’s name,” and it singled out the law professor He Weifang by name. When I spoke to He, a few days later, he said, “I’ve always been unpopular with conservatives, but recently the situation has become more serious. The political standpoint of this new slate of leaders isn’t like that of the Hu or Jiang era. They’re more restraining. They’re not as willing to permit an active discussion.” ^^^
“Sealing China off from Western ideas poses some practical problems. The Party has announced “rule of law” reforms intended to strengthen top-down control over the legal system and shield courts from local interference. The professor said, “Many colleagues working on civil law and that sort of thing have a large portion of their lectures about German law or French law. So, if you want to stop Western values from spreading in Chinese universities, one thing you’d have to do is close down the law schools and make sure they never exist again.” Xi, for his part, sees no contradiction, because preservation of the Party comes before preservation of the law. In January, he said that China must “nurture a legal corps loyal to the Party, loyal to the country, loyal to the people, and loyal to the law.” Echoing Mao, he added, “Insure that the handle of the knife is firmly in the hand of the Party and the people.” ^^^
Xi Says Multi-Party Systems Didn't Work for China
In April 2014, during a visit to Europe, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China experimented in the past with various political systems, including multi-party democracy, but they did not work and warned that copying foreign political or development models could be catastrophic. "Constitutional monarchy, imperial restoration, parliamentarism, a multi-party system and a presidential system, we considered them, tried them, but none worked," Xi said in a speech at the College of Europe in the Belgian city of Bruges. [Source: Reuters, April 2, 2014]
Because of its unique historical and social conditions, China could not copy a political system or development model from other countries "because it would not fit us and it might even lead to catastrophic consequences", Xi added. "The fruit may look the same, but the taste is quite different," he said. A constitution that went into effect about two years before the 1949 Communist takeover allowed for multi-party democracy in China, but its implementation was hampered by deep-rooted enmity between the Nationalist Party and the Communist Party.
Reuters reported; “Xi's ascendancy had given many Chinese hope for political reform, mainly due to his folksy style and the legacy of his father, Xi Zhongxun, a former reformist vice-premier. But since he assumed office, the party has detained or jailed dozens of dissidents, including anti-corruption activist Xu Zhiyong and ethnic Uighur professor Ilham Tohti. Reinforcing the message that there will be no liberalization under Xi, the ruling Communist Party's influential weekly journal Qiushi (Seeking Truth) wrote in its latest issue that there was no such thing as "universal values", adding that China's political system should not be underestimated. The West has been harping on about freedom, democracy and human rights for some 200 years, and has nothing new to add, the magazine wrote in an editorial. "You know if the shoe fits only if you try it on for yourself. Only the Chinese people have the right to say whether China's development path is correct," it wrote.
Xi Jinping and Lessons Learned from the Soviet Union Collapse
China scholar Willy Wo-Lap Lam told the New York Times: One of Xi’s first major speeches after taking power was on the lessons from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Xi noted that the party collapsed because of de-Stalinization, because younger leaders began to denigrate the Stalinist tradition.” [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Times, June 2, 2015]
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker, “Shortly after taking over, Xi asked, “Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse?” and declared, “It’s a profound lesson for us.” Chinese scholars had studied that puzzle from dozens of angles, but Xi wanted more. “In 2009, he commissioned a long study of the Soviet Union from somebody who works in the policy-research office,” the diplomat in Beijing told me. “It concluded that the rot started under Brezhnev. In the paper, the guy cited a joke: Brezhnev brings his mother to Moscow. He proudly shows her the state apartments at the Kremlin, his Zil limousine, and the life of luxury he now lives. ‘Well, what do you think, Mama,’ says Brezhnev. ‘You’ll never have to worry about a thing, ever again.’ ‘I’m so proud of you, Leonid Ilyich,’ says Mama, ‘but what happens if the Communists find out?’ Xi loved the story.” Xi reserved special scorn for Gorbachev, for failing to defend the Party against its opponents, and told his colleagues, “Nobody was man enough to stand up and resist.” [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, April 6, 2015 ^^^]
“The year after Xi took office, cadres were required to watch a six-part documentary on the Soviet Union’s collapse, which showed violent scenes of unrest and described an American conspiracy to topple Communism through “peaceful evolution”: the steady infiltration of subversive Western political ideas. Ever since the early aughts, when “color revolutions” erupted in the former Soviet bloc, Chinese Communists have cited the risk of contagion as a reason to constrict political life. That fear was heightened by a surge of unrest in Tibet in 2008, in Xinjiang in 2009, and across the Arab world in 2011. Last September, when pro-democracy protests erupted in Hong Kong, an opinion piece in the Global Times, a state-run daily, accused the National Endowment for Democracy and the C.I.A. of being “black hands” behind the unrest, intent on “stimulating Taiwanese independence, Xinjiang independence, and Tibetan independence.” (The U.S. denied involvement.) ^^^
Criticism of Xi Jinping and His Popularity at Home
Alice Su wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Ironically, a popular nickname for Xi on the Chinese internet is the “accelerator in chief,” meaning that his aggressive approach to “stability” has caused more domestic and international conflict and is speeding his government toward self-demise. Criticism has risen even from fellow princelings: Cai Xia, the granddaughter of a revolutionary leader who taught at the central party school for four decades, was recorded calling Xi a "mafia boss" this year. “He has turned 90 million party members into slaves, tools to be used for his personal advantage," Cai said. [Source: Alice Su, Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2020]
“Ren Zhiqiang, a real estate tycoon who fell from the red elite, called Xi "a clown stripped naked" in a critique of Xi's COVID-19 response this year. "The reality shown by this epidemic is that the party defends its own interests, the government officials defend their own interests, and the monarch only defends the status and interests of the core," Ren said. Ren and Cai have been expelled from the party. Cai is now in the United States. Ren has been sentenced to prison for 18 years.
"The rising ire of elites and foreign powers is, in Xi's view, a necessary part of China’s struggle on its socialist path. The intellectuals may be alarmed, but not the masses. A recent Harvard Kennedy School study of Chinese public opinion from 2003 to 2016 found that satisfaction with the government had risen, especially among the rural poor in inland regions, who received more targeted social assistance during the survey years. “This fits exactly with his self-understanding: ‘I’m here for the people, and that’s why I’m against you capitalists, corrupt elites and intellectuals,’” the historian said. “He thinks he is saving this party." [Source: Alice Su, Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2020]
“Whether the people see Xi that way, however, is harder to tell. In Liangjiahe, two women carrying umbrellas followed a Times reporter everywhere she went. When two villagers, a man in his 60s and a woman surnamed Ma selling souvenirs and mooncakes, began telling the reporter that they were struggling economically, the two women approached and glared at the villagers, who stopped speaking. “Life is hard, but they won’t let us talk about it,” Ma said under her breath as the women, who said they were also locals, approached. Ma gave the reporter her phone number, but when the Times called later, she said only: “We don’t have any problems. We are very happy. We are thankful to the government.” “Don’t come to the village. We wouldn’t dare speak to you even if you did,” she added, and hung up.
Image Sources: Chinese government (China.org), Wikicommons; Everyday Life in Maoist China,
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated September 2021