After the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, President Xi Jinping enjoys an unchecked, and monstruous, authority on all Chinese.
by Marco Respinti*
*A paper presented at the webinar “Fate of China’s Colonies Under New Xi Jinping,”
hosted by the Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement (CHASE) and the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) on November 27, 2022.
The Xi Jinping who came out of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), held on October 16–22, 2022, is Xi Jinping 2.0. He is Xi Jinping in his most recent and updated version, up to the highest level of technological modernity, and always a step ahead of others.
This is not just a rhetorical metaphor. The Chinese ruler can in fact count on the most sophisticated ways of surveilling, controlling, and directing all citizens in China, at a level that becomes every day more capillary and widespread. He has proved to be smarter, in fact much smarter, than most of the world leaders, probably all of them, in surfing the tides of current events and turning crises to its own advantage, from COVID-19 to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.
His strategy consists in blending half-truths and lies, always playing on the borders, constantly alternating intervention and neutrality. And, of course, increasing his personal and political power to an extent never seen before in China since decades, and surely not common in post-Cold War times.
At the 20th National Congress of the CCP, Xi Jinping trampled over every rule to make himself a total despot. Achieving a record third term as the absolute leader of China, Xi was confirmed as the General Secretary of the CCP. He is also the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and the President of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In one word, he is everything.
Xi’s real power is concentrated in the first of these capacities of his, as the top officer of the CCP with a third mandate. This result is certainly built on precedents, as in a version of the cursus honorum of the old Roman times especially tailored for tyrants.
All started at the 19th National Congress of the CCP, held on October 18–24, 2017, before the COVID pandemic. At that time “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” in 14 points, commonly abbreviated as “Xi Jinping Thought,” was incorporated into the Constitution of the CCP. It is Xi’ neo-post-national-communist ideology, combining Maoism and post-Maoism to craft a new aggressive policy, or ideocracy, aimed a ruling the world, or as much of it as possible.
Then, at the First Session of the 13th National People’s Congress (i.e., the parliament) of the PRC, on March 11, 2018, “Xi Thought” was included also in the Constitution of the PRC. It happened before only with the thought of the Great Helmsman and great butcher Mao Zedong (1893–1976) as well as to what has been bombastically called the “Deng Xiaoping Theory,” but this honor occurred to the CCP and PRC leader Deng Xiaoping (1904–1997) only after he was already dead.
What role does “Xi Thought” plays in the Chinese regime? As reported by Xinhua News Agency, which is the official state news agency of the PRC or the mouthpiece of regime’s propaganda, at its 20th national Congress the CCP officially described “Xi Thought” as the “Marxism of contemporary China and of the 21st century, [which] embodies the best Chinese culture and ethos of this era.”
After entering the Constitution, “Xi Thought” became a mandatory subject of study in schools (Mao’s and Deng’s thoughts were and are as well, but with less paroxysm) and was even transformed into a surreal frontier of techno-Communist social media, thanks to a smartphone app that monitors the citizens’ learning of it, under penalty of trouble in the workplace, health insurance, and retirement for those who are not effective enough in its study.
Another important development came with a decision of the 13th National People’s Congress of the PRC, on March 11, 2018. The two-terms limit to the presidential mandate was abolished with 2,958 favorable votes (only two “nay” and one abstention). It was a political blank check given to Xi.
But when, one month ago, the 20th National Congress of the CCP confirmed him again as the leader of the party, Xi broke the limit of 10 year’s rule that Deng Xiaoping had established in the 1980s to check and contain any drive to omnipotence after Maoism. So, if Xi broke the rule against omnipotence, Xi is reinstating it and is omnipotent again‒or this is how he perceives himself, how he wants to be perceived, and the image of himself he tries to impose on others, both domestically and internationally.
The centralistic pyramid of the Chinese power is based on the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee, or Politburo Standing Committee. Nowadays, it includes only seven members nominated by the twenty-five members of the Political Bureau of the Politburo and it is rigidly commanded by Xi Jinping. They rule over more than ninety-six million members of the CCP and more one billion and 443 million people living in China.
The bloody cult of personality that characterized the old Maoist regime as a lucid ideological folly seems then to rejuvenate with Xi’s drive to the Sinicization of as much of the world as he can, through terror domestically and money and corruption, called “Belt and Road Initiative,” internationally. He seems in fact to meet no opposition. Or, rather, he is able to crash all oppositions.
Everyone remembers the rumors of a coup d’état heard in September this year. They were strange rumors for an even stranger coup. No one knows what really happened. The news of a possible coup was launched on September 22 via Twitter. Xi, it was said, could have been overthrown because he had not been seen in public after the latest summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on September 15 and 16, 2022. But there was no confirmation, no details, and above all no aftermath, as it would be obvious for such a fundamental occasion. Then rapidly and quietly all came back to normality. Or almost.
In fact, with the excuse of rolling back a previous attempt of a coup and fighting bribery, the Chinese regime led by President Xi Jinping had arrested six out of seven members of a rival political group. Some were involved in a previous so-described coup supposedly attempted on September 20, 2021, some vaguely accused of bribes. On this background, three of them were sentenced to death for the new September 2022 supposed coup against Xi, their fate being quickly changed to life imprisonments.
They are Sun Lijun (former Vice Minister of Public Security), Fu Zhenghua (former Minister of Justice, who also oversaw the notorious 610 Office, the now transformed special law enforcement body created to investigate and repress the banned and forbidden religions that the regime labels xie jiao), and Wang Like (former Secretary of the Jiangsu Provincial Political and Legal Affairs Commission, a state agency under the Central Committee of the CCP, which in practice oversees all legal enforcement bodies, including the police).
The “alternative” political group the arrested belonged to seemed to gravitate in the orbit of former Chinese vice president Zeng Qinghong, who in turn is closely tied to former president Jiang Zemin, one of the staunchest political adversaries of Xi. This was noted by Jennifer Zeng, the Chinese activist and writer born in Sichuan in 1966 who escaped to Australia, in her much-followed “Inconvenient Truths” program on YouTube.
Other rumors said that former president Hu Jintao and former prime minister Wen Jiabao could have orchestrated the coup. It is most probably a fake news, fabricated by the propaganda of Xi’s regime, but everyone remembers the true violence of the only seemingly quiet removal of Hu Jintao from the National Congress of CCP on October 23, 2002. It was aired live to the entire world by the Chinese regime and of course not by mistake or chance. That display of power was gigantic, a powerful symbol for the entire world and a warning to all.
We now wonder which is or could be the fate of the people ruled by the Chinese regime of that colossal tyrant. Of course, it is just a rhetorical question. Why on earth should the situation change for the people living in occupied Tibet, for other Buddhists, for Daoists, for Uyghurs and other Turkic people in Xinjiang (which its non-Han inhabitants call East Turkistan), for many other Muslim minorities, for Mongols, for Christians belonging both to groups with a mainline theology and new religious movements, for Hongkongers, for practitioners of Falun Gong, even for independent Confucians and believers in the Chinese folk religions, as well as for the threatened citizens of nearby Taiwan?
All these peoples, millions of people, are persecuted for their religious belief, their cultural identity, their customs and traditions, for daring speaking their own language, for resisting in a peacefully way Sinicization and Communistization. There are concentration camps and labor camps in China for these peoples; there is deportation and there is systematic harassment; temples, mosques, churches are destroyed; control and surveillance are everywhere, and for everyone. Why should a more powerful-than-before Xi Jinping change his policy?
Xi managed to achieve a more perfect hold of power to rule what is left of globalization, starting domestically from the destruction and the submission of all people he perceives as enemies or obstacles. He will not step back. He will keep on, even more dramatically than before, because he is more powerful than before.
Internationally, no one seems able to challenge or limit him, or shows the will to do it. The democratic world has chosen to live alongside a staggering regime of violence and persecution, where the basic human rights are totally neglected, simply trading with it.
Deep unrest for all people living in China and outside China is to be expected. It is in fact quite evident that Xi Jinping just achieved a condition of power that allows him to finally implement his thought for the world. The “New Era” of Xi begins here, and it is no good news for anybody.
If I may, with all due respect that all human beings deserve because of their untouchable and unalienable intrinsic dignity, even if they are tyrants and despots, criminals, or slaughterers, the Xi Jinping 2.0 produced by the 20th National Congress of the PCC reminds me of the xenomorph invented by the brilliant creativity of English director Ridley Scott for his famous 1979 “Alien” movie.
I of course do not intend to be offensive or to exaggerate. But in that movie the alien was the quintessential, unmitigated, ultimate killing organism, the most deadly and flawless result of evolution, driven by the amoral instinct to breed in order to make its own species and power survive, no matter what. It used other life-forms to reproduce. Additionally, unbridled by any notions of morality, it was the perfect machine aimed at instinctively destroying everything to preserve its kind’s domination on all planets and galaxies it could reach.
I am not suggesting that Xi Jinping is a non-human amoral monster. But Xi has now reached the perfection of a cold, brutal, inexorable power machine, just like that fictional xenomorph. I am, in sum, only saying that the violent and murderous regime that neo-post-Maoist President Xi Jinping is leading, now with unmatched power, is an immoral and inhuman monstrosity.