China Belongs to Xi Jinping, His Vision Could Plunge World Into Chaos – Business Insider

Xi Jinping’s grip on China — and the world’s future — just got tighter

Earlier this month, at the annual meeting of the Chinese Communist Party’s top leaders, President Xi Jinping spearheaded the adoption of a new historical resolution. The resolution — just the third of its kind in China’s history — introduced sweeping changes to the way the country sees itself. It virtually erased two of Xi’s predecessors from the historical record and vaulted him to the top of the Communist Party’s pantheon — second only to Chairman Mao Zedong.

The resolution served as a capstone to a year of upheaval in China. Entire industries have been leveled overnight, and economic growth has hit the skids as the Communist Party has reasserted its control over private enterprise. The party tightened its grip on society in ways big and small — from canceling what was to be the world’s largest initial public offering to barring kids from playing video games on weekdays.

What Beijing is doing is chaotic, but it all flows from Xi’s ideology. To understand what is happening to China — and, ultimately, to the world — it helps to understand what Xi himself thinks and believes. As he signals his supremacy in Chinese history, he has adopted a more aggressive posture on the world stage, steeling China for conflict. At the same time, to ensure social cohesion during a time of economic stress, Xi is prepared to fan the flames of nationalism, reinvigorating the ideology that brought about China’s socialist revolution. 

And that should worry all of us.

A red prince in power

Like his predecessors, Xi believes the world is moving toward a preordained, China-centric future led by the Chinese Communist Party. But Xi has one-upped China’s earlier leaders by maneuvering himself into a position of power and individual exaltation within the party rivaled only by Mao. Even more striking, he has installed his own interpretation of “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” as the party’s new way of thinking.

In 2018, the party removed term limits so Xi, like Mao, could remain the country’s leader for life. And this summer, the Ministry of Education announced that “Xi Jinping Thought” — his compendium of beliefs on everything from education to economics — would be drilled into Chinese society and added to the national curriculum to help “establish Marxist belief” among China’s youth.

In Xi’s mind, China is under attack by Western capitalist ideas that have weakened China’s dedication to the party’s long-promised socialist utopia. Xi believes that unless these forces are combatted, China’s Communist Party will suffer the same fate as the Soviets. That’s the nightmare Xi is working fervently to prevent.

“If you’re going to change China, destroy wealth, and send a lot of people to jail, you better make sure you have a firm grip on power,” Lee Miller, the founder of the data-collection network China Beige Book, told me. “Xi sees China going to shit right now because of capitalist rot and inequality, and he thinks the party needs to steer it back to a just society or else China’s going to have a big problem.”

Until 2002, the Chinese Communist Party was led by men who had fought in the civil war that brought the party to power — the revolutionary generation. Then came 10 years of rule by Hu Jintao, a technocrat from humble origins who had worked his way up in the CCP hierarchy. And now we have Xi, whose commitment to reigniting revolutionary fervor in Chinese society stems, in large part, from his upbringing.

Xi is a type of person known in China as a red prince: the son of a powerful member of the revolutionary generation. His father, Xi Zhongxun, was brutally purged from the party, only to be brought back into the fold in a glorious return. In 1980, he presided over the creation of a special economic zone in Shenzhen, one of the designated areas where capitalist ventures were allowed, turning the formerly sleepy city into the booming technology hub it is today.

From the time Xi became president in 2013, there were signs he wanted to reinstate the party’s revolutionary ideology and history in much the same way his father had been brought back from political exile. Posters depicting Lei Feng — a quasi mythical, perfectly obedient foot soldier invented by the party in the 1960s — once again showed up across the country. At the time, as the forces of modernity were taking hold in China, idolizing Lei Feng for selfless acts like shining his comrades’ shoes seemed out of step with the country’s prevailing mood of go-go capitalism. But Xi encouraged the rediscovery of this folk hero in hopes it would cultivate the ideological fealty necessary for the party to thrive.

xi jinping school children
China’s Ministry of Education mandated that “Xi Thought,” a compendium of belief written by President Xi Jinping, be taught in all schools to “establish Marxist belief” and reignite the country’s revolutionary spirit.
Xinhua/Ju Peng/Getty Images

Xi views the fall of the USSR as a warning sign of what happens when dedication to the party wanes. He made as much clear while touring China’s southern regions in 2012, the year he became chair of the Communist Party. The trip mimicked a historic tour his predecessor Deng Xiaoping took in 1992. Back then, Deng was urging the Chinese people to stay the course on opening their economy to for-profit forces, arguing that the only reason China hadn’t collapsed like the USSR was its embrace of capitalism. But Xi communicated a very different message: He argued the USSR fell because its people were no longer loyal to the party. “Their ideals and convictions wavered,” he said. This was not going to happen to China on Xi’s watch.

“Mr. Xi did not invent this ideological project, but he has hugely reinvigorated it,” John Garnaut, an expert on the inner workings of the red princes, told an internal seminar of Australian government officials in 2017. “For the first time since Mao, we have a leader who talks and acts like he really means it. And he is pushing communist ideology at a time when the idea of ‘communism’ is as unattractive as it has been at any time in the past 100 years. All that remains is an ideology of power, dressed up as patriotism.” 

To Xi, history is moving on its dialectical course from capitalism to socialism, and keeping the people dedicated to that vision is paramount. In 2013, the world was warned of Xi’s hardline views with the leak of the party’s “Communiqué on the Current State of the Ideological Sphere.” It described China’s ideological situation as “a complicated, intense struggle” and pinpointed six threats to the party’s control over society, including Western constitutional democracy, the promotion of civil society, and Western ideas of journalism. In a speech in 2016, Xi declared that “instruction in revolutionary traditions should begin with toddlers.”

Xi fears that Chinese society will splinter, drifting away from the CCP’s core tenets. It’s why he initiated a mass detention of Muslims in northwestern China in 2014. It’s why he echoed Mao’s and Stalin’s ideas that art and music are “engineers of the human soul” that should serve the party. It’s why he cracked down on video games and “sissy” boy bands. Xi sees a pluralistic society as a threat. He does not want individualism. He wants Lei Feng.

Chinese socialism with Xi characteristics

In the years since he took power, Xi has purged his enemies and taken full control of the party. Now, in the CCP’s most recent resolution, he has made clear he’s going to throw his energy into recommitting China to its ideological mission. The resolution anointed Xi as a great leader prepared to guide China’s people into a new era and cemented “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era” as the dominant school in everything from diplomacy to economics. Xi is a man on a mission to own the past, present, and future of his country — no matter what it means for the rest of the world.

Xi’s devotion to the CCP’s ideology has widespread consequences. For starters, the high-flying capitalists who helped build China into the world’s second-largest economy have suddenly been thrown out in the cold. In “Red Roulette: An Insider’s Story of Wealth, Power, Corruption, and Vengeance in Today’s China,” the Chinese real-estate developer Desmond Shum explains that before Xi came to power, Shum and his fellow capitalists were given something of a voice in the party. But once Xi took over, their connection to the party started to dissolve. Now China’s billionaire capitalists are running for cover. Jack Ma — the Alibaba founder who was once ubiquitous in the media and on the world stage — is rarely seen in public. CEOs of powerful companies — like ByteDance, the parent of TikTok — are resigning to evade the wrath of the CCP.

“The guys who own Wanda, Ping An, Tomorrow Group … are they just going to fold now?” the China investor Anne Stevenson-Yang mused to me. “They were a strong contingent, but they have no political party.”

Xi is also changing the economy those capitalists built. The growth model China relied on — especially investment-driven property development — is stalling. Instead of retrenching on the old ways of debt-fueled private capitalism, Xi is using the slowdown to reshape the economy in his party-centric vision. He has cloaked the shift in the revolutionary language of economic equality and a commitment to grow the domestic Chinese market for the people. Xi presents himself as heroically responding to the demands of this “New Era” — standing strong in the face of “unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life.” A less charitable interpretation would be that Xi is seizing the opportunity to consolidate power for himself and generate revenue for the state. Xi’s entire approach, said Stevenson-Yang, is: “How do we scratch the ground for more money and get people to believe it’s for their own good?” 

xi jinping
Xi has also tightened the Chinese’s government control over the economy, moving the country away from its old investment-driven model and taking back power from China’s CEOs and mega-capitalists.
Mark Schiefelbein/Getty Images

So far, the approach appears to be working. Growth may have slowed, but so has the debt China has incurred to fuel that growth. Inflation — the boogeyman of economies the world over — has yet to rear its ugly head significantly in China. Tighter internet controls are coming. Hong Kong is coming to heel. In short, the CCP has managed to keep things from falling apart, all while reshaping the country’s economy and tightening its control on the levers of economic power.

“The Party is for now most concerned about instability from systemic problems, such as perceptions of wealth inequality, rather than growth-for-growth’s sake,” analysts for China Beige Book wrote in a recent note to clients. “Investors may be seeing red, and foreign analysts may assign poor marks. But CBB data say the Party is likely pleased with its results to date.”

Investors should understand that this is not the China of 10 years ago. The government has made clear that if companies like the real-estate giant Evergrande, burdened by $300 billion in debt, wind up collapsing, foreign investors will be the last of its concerns. In a recent position paper on investing in China, the European Union Chamber of Commerce warned that China’s return to ideologically led economic planning would result in slower growth. And some smaller European Union companies — unable to withstand enhanced government scrutiny and regulation — may have to leave China.

“You have to have enormous risk tolerance to go into China now,” Miller told me. “It’s much harder to know what’s going on now.”

Change China, change the world

Xi’s consolidation of power doesn’t just pose a threat to economic stability — it also threatens to fuel international tensions and upend global security. Xi’s more aggressive approach to the rest of the world is called wolf-warrior diplomacy. It’s not the style of someone who feels he needs to make friends and influence people. It’s the style of someone who believes that the destiny of his country — of the East rising and the West falling — is a historical fact.

“Xi Jinping sees himself as being at the helm of a more confident China,” Ali Wyne, a senior analyst with Eurasia Group, told me. “He sees himself as the avatar of a resurgent China that is ready to reclaim its space in world affairs, and that has overcome a lot of trauma.” 

Xi’s vision of a resurgent China includes unification with Taiwan, which the CCP views as a breakaway province. Taiwan also happens to be a critical manufacturer of semiconductor chips, making it an economic prize coveted by Beijing. Since the US normalized relations with China in the 1970s, the two nations agreed to the “One China ‘ policy — which prohibits the US from having a formal relationship with Taiwan but retains the island’s independent, democratic government. Now, Xi is testing the policy with belligerent rhetoric and action: Last month, for instance, the Chinese military flew a record number of jets into Taiwan’s airspace.

Such moves haven’t sat well with China’s neighbors. The Japanese Defense Ministry asked for a record budget increase this year, and Taiwan, worried by China’s moves in Hong Kong, has become more resistant to Beijing than ever. Over the past year, the US has increased its naval activity in the South China Sea, prompting the Chinese Defense Ministry to voice its displeasure. Now that trade is picking up from its coronavirus-fueled slowdown, experts are warning of more flare-ups with Beijing: Twice this year, President Joe Biden has said the US would defend Taiwan in the event of an attack.

Xi has “placed himself in a dilemma,” Wyne told me. “He wants to take steps that will secure him a third term,” he said. “He wants to harness nationalistic sentiment. The problem is that the kind of steps that will endear him and the CCP at home will alienate him abroad.”

biden xi jinping
Xi Jinping and then-Vice President Joe Biden during a visit to Beijing in 2011. This time, Biden faces a more aggressive China and a more militaristic world.
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

A more militaristic China is a more militaristic world. And in a more militaristic world, everyday conflicts — whether over trade, or foreign debt, or national borders — are more likely to lead to violence. Misunderstandings can turn into calamities. Wyne worries that China may be placing too much faith in the dual narratives of its ordained rise and the West’s inevitable decline — that it might overestimate itself while underestimating the strength of the US and its allies.

The rise-and-fall storyline also presents a peril for Washington. “If the US buys too much into these twin narratives, there’s a risk it could proceed not from a position of quiet confidence but from a position of alarmed defensiveness,” Wyne said. “It’s never prudent to base your foreign policy on anxiety.”

Xi’s grandiosity about China and its future is part mythmaking, part mind-molding. On the world stage it’s a way to intimidate adversaries and project confidence to friends. At home it is a form of control — a way to tamp down dissent and paper over economic inequality by creating a society that sees itself as engaged in a struggle against outside forces. Like so many dictators before him, he’s using a foreign boogeyman to create national cohesion. Whether China’s chronicle of hostility winds up fueling global strife is not his concern. Xi isn’t thinking of us. He’s thinking only of his own greatness, which, now, for better or worse, he has made inextricable from that of China itself.

Sorgente articolo:
China Belongs to Xi Jinping, His Vision Could Plunge World Into Chaos – Business Insider

User ID Campaign ID Link
d9a95efa0a2845057476957a427b0499 l-99999994 Email Campaign
d9a95efa0a2845057476957a427b0499 l-99999993 B2B Keyword tool
d9a95efa0a2845057476957a427b0499 l-99999979 Fiasconaro
d9a95efa0a2845057476957a427b0499 l-99999996 Webinar Software