Remaking the Wall
Listen to Today's Edition
Chinese Communist Party Congresses are usually scripted affairs that befit totalitarian states. Delegates are expected to reach decisions that leaders have already prescribed. Surprises are discouraged.
So the bizarre episode where a functionary escorted the 79-year-old former president of China, Hu Jintao, out of the 20th Congress last month as everyone watched in silence has raised many questions. This Channel News Asia video shows how Hu appeared to engage in a dispute with another attendee over some official papers in a red folder. Then, current President Xi Jinping said something to an aide who then appeared to insist that the frail Hu – sitting next to Xi – needed to exit the proceedings.
The video never went public in China, which employs a great wall to suppress freedom of speech and foreign influence via the Internet in the country. Hu’s name was also “scrubbed” from the Internet in China, reported the Guardian.
Chinese state media later said that Hu was “not feeling well,” wrote Al Jazeera. Given the choreographed nature of the congresses, however, many observers are understandably wondering whether escorting Hu out was a signal to other party apparatchiks that dissent against Xi’s regime has consequences.
The Congress ended last month after Xi secured an unprecedented third term in office as leader and solidified his position as general-secretary of the party and his status as ultimate chief of the People’s Liberation Army, explained the United States Institute of Peace, a public, nonpartisan think tank.
It’s not an exaggeration to say Xi has built a cult of personality as he has become his country’s supreme leader, China-watchers say. As the New York Times noted, at the end of every Congress for the past 20 years, the state-run People’s Daily has featured a group photo of the top leaders. This time, only Xi’s face was splashed across the page.
Xi is changing many things, not just the leadership transition. For decades, China has developed its industrial capacity to become the workshop of the world. Now, Xi wants the “great rejuvenation.” This follows the centralizing of his authority on the advice of intellectuals like Wang Huning, who has formulated a raft of suggestions on how the country could avoid the mistakes he thinks the US has made, as the New Yorker wrote.
Specifically, Xi wants to import high-quality goods rather than basic manufactured items and reform its domestic market to attract better investment, to develop an economy replete with more varied jobs and opportunities, Bloomberg reported. Those goals reflect how much China needs to change. Between a collapsing real estate market, indebted citizens, ongoing coronavirus lockdowns, and recessions that are expected to hit the American and European customers of Chinese companies, the economy is facing a contraction, CNBC added.
Those problems have many worrying that Xi will use a war with Taiwan to distract his people from any problems they might face under his leadership, Fortune warned.
After all, he’s responsible for everything, including everyone’s problems.