Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Akio Yaita

【#535】Changes Signaled in Xi Jinping Regime

Akio Yaita / 2018.08.13 (Mon)

August 13, 2018

     Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Communist Party top leaders started an important meeting with influential party elders including former Presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao in early August at the summer resort of Beidaihe, Hebei, northeastern China. The meeting was expected to last until around August 15.
     The meeting unleashed a torrent of criticism from elders against the Xi leadership’s foreign and economic policies, according to sources. Some argued that Xi’s aggressive expansionist foreign policy and the Xi regime’s political slogan of the “great revival of the Chinese nation” to fuel nationalism had generated strong backlash abroad and led to the U.S.-China trade war. Those elders then urged the Xi leadership to revive a low-profile foreign policy approach in the Deng Xiaoping era.
     Chinese state-run media’s excessive propaganda of Xi’s personal achievements in recent years also came under fire as possibly leading to the denial of collective leadership or to some personality cult.

Fifth-ranked Wang suspended?
     Criticisms target mostly Vice Premier Liu He, a Xi aide in charge of trade negotiations with the United States, and Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Huning, ranked fifth in the Xi leadership and in charge of theories and ideology. However, these criticisms clearly represent complaints against President Xi.
     At the Beidaihe meeting, the Xi leadership has reportedly been pressed to offer vindication. Liu and Wang have been forced to criticize themselves and Wang has been placed on virtual probation, according to some reports. In fact, the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s organ, has reported little about Wang’s activities since late June, while his duties have been covered by Chen Xi, head of the party’s Organization Department, and others.
     A plan to replace Wang in the leadership with Vice Premier Hu Chunhua toward an autumn meeting of its Central Committee is already being whispered, sources say. Given that Vice Premier Hu is a close aide to President Xi’s rival Premier Li Keqiang, the replacement could affect the balance of power in the leadership and sharply reduce President Xi’s power to close ranks within the party. The Xi faction has been desperately resisting such personnel change, with an intraparty feud expected to last until autumn.

Belt and Road Initiative could be revised
     The biggest reason for the elders’ complaints against President Xi is that he has failed to take any effective response to the U.S.-China trade war initiated by U.S. President Donald Trump. Since the trade dispute gathered momentum in March, the Shanghai stock market index has plunged some 20% from 3,300 to 2,800 while the Chinese Yuan has depreciated nearly 10%.
     Moreover, China’s imposition of a retaliatory tariff on American soybeans has seriously affected the Chinese pork industry using strained soybean lees for feeding pigs, leading pork prices to soar some 30% in Beijing and other urban areas to the disadvantage of city dwellers.
     The elders, who have long been dissatisfied with Xi’s aggressive political approach, might have taken the U.S.-China trade war as a chance to hit back against Xi. After the Beidaihe meeting, the Xi regime could revise its foreign and economic policies. “Made in China 2025,” a strategy to snatch foreign technologies and the Belt and Road Initiative, a modern Silk Road economic zone scheme as a part of China’s expansionist foreign policy, could virtually have a substantial revision to prevent these projects from irritating the United States.
     Given that these developments could have a great bearing on Japan’s national interests, we must closely watch changes in China’s politics and policies.

Akio Yaita is a deputy foreign news editor at The Sankei Shimbun.