Xi Jinping, the President of China, is a princeling which means that he is the de scendant of a senior and high-ranking Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official. It is true. His father was not only a senior CCP official during the time of Mao Ze Dong but a former Vice Premier of the country too, although the man had ultimately fallen from grace, was once arrested and his family had to suffer grave miseries. Still Xi Jinping's pedigree is undeniable. If that is the case, then why have some other princelings opposed his intention to secure a third term as the President of China?
Add to this the ongoing rumour in the social media about a coup in China and probable incarceration of Xi at the hands of his detractors. It is very difficult to comment given the opacity of the Chinese system of administration. But if we believe in the saying that if there is smoke there has to be a fire, then Xi Jinping's listless presence in the recently-concluded Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit provides food for thought
The reason is apparent. A faction of the CCP thinks that Xi is trying to step into the shoes of Mao Zedong who had led China from 1949 till his death in 1976. Apart from the difference in stature between the two there are legal hurdles also. In 2018 Xi had taken the first step for achieving his ambition when in the Sixth Plenum of the CCP he successfully pushed through a resolution that upended the existing limit on Chinese leaders for holding offices for two terms at the most. But Cai Xia, a retired Professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CCP, who is self-exiled in Canada, has been referring to a regulation named 'Interim Provisions on the Term of Office of Leading Party and Government Cadres'. According to it cadres at the party as well as at the government level can hold the same office for two consecutive terms or a total of 15 years at the most. According to Cai Xia, this provision is still in force. Interestingly the academic has posted his views in social media so that it gets maximum exposure.
Cal Xia may be optimistic about blocking Xi Jinping's likely effort to extend his term for another five years. In reality, however, the Chinese President should not have much difficulty in getting his way through because a resolution adopted in a party plenum carries much more weight than any regulation which has so far received scant attention. Besides, the CCP politburo has already dropped hints that the party may sing in the same tune as that of Xi Jinping.But there are indications that the Xi Jinping faction recognizes that there may be opposition to the General Secretary of the CCP in the coming party Congress and therefore it is preparing itself to face the situation. China is now witnessing drumming up of hero worship in favour of Xi. Already the national media, a large part of them being state-controlled, has eulogized Xi with the title lingxiu meaning 'leader'. Interestingly, this is the title which people could so long associate with the name of Mao alone.
In the al-lpowerful CCP Politburo Standing Committee, Xi Jinping has two powerful rivals - Li Keqiang, the Premier of the country, and Wang Yang. Hierarchically they occupy number 2 and 4 positions respectively in the Standing Committee. Li Zhansu, occupying number 3 position, is now in the Xi camp. For any watcher of Marxist-Leninist organizations, factional activities are too common and the CCP is no exception. It is now common knowledge that the CCP is now burdened with three factions - the Shanghai faction, the Communist Youth League to which Li Keqiang and Wang Yang belong, and the third faction led by Xi Jinping himself.
But Xi Jinping might be arraigned before the party Congress to answer for his botched-up domestic and foreign policies. He has been widely criticized for his long-time disappearance from public view when the Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak. His last visit to Hong Kong is being described as an attempt to refurbish his image. It is yet to be seen as to what extent the Chinese war drills around Taiwan gives him any political mileage. But the reported shooting down of Chinese drone by Taiwan will give embarrassment to Xi Jinping. Moreover, how would he really account for the huge unemployment in China which must have crossed 80 million mark? China's misfortune lies in the fact that almost all the successive heads of the state after Deng Xiao Ping have tried to experiment with a peculiar mélange of socialism and capitalism which have generated social and political tensions.
Xi Jinping is no exception. His misplaced attempt towards economic sustenance through the real estate sector has boomeranged. Real estate behemoths are floundering and many of them are unable to service debts. China's external debt has reached a gigantic proportion. Trade talks with the US are stalled and there is very little possibility that, given China's stand on the Ukraine war and Taiwan, it will start in the near future.
Perhaps internally Xi Jinping is not as powerful as he looks to be to the outside world. An example of it is the exposes that Hu Shuli, the editor-in-chief of the Caixin Media, is doing on alleged corrupt activities of many important functionaries of the CCP. She has not spared even Xi Jinping and has criticized many of his policies. Hu is directly connected with many media organizations in the western world. There is wide speculation that she is being backed by Wang Qishan, the current Vice President of China. Although not a member of the all-powerful PSC, grapevine has it that as Hu Shuli enjoys his blessings and the Xi Jinping group has not been able to move against her.
In 2020 also a group of intellectuals had demanded Xi Jinping's removal. Of the seven members in the present PSC, Xi enjoys the clear allegiance of three apart from himself. But a lot will depend on China's evolving relations with the western world in the wake of the Ukraine war and developments over Taiwan. The 20th party congress is close at hand. If in the meantime Xi Jinping can show some dramatic achievements then his continuation for the third term will be doubly assured.