Report: “Xi Jinping – The New Era, The power emerging from the 18th Congress”

Related entries: General, News, Research

China’s leadership transition has been completed, and a new team will lead China’s approach to a variety of pressing economic, social and political challenges.

We are pleased to present a recently published report from China Trade Winds: “Xi Jinping – The New Era, The power emerging from the 18th Congress”, detailing the background to the transition, and profiling the leaders (see more on Xi below) so that readers will have a better understanding of the personalities now in charge of policy developments…

The study is written in three parts:

• The first part aims to present a short overview of Hu Jintao’s era, his successes and failures, and an interpretation of his tenure – neither heroic nor daring, but producing some genuine results, even in terms of reform.

• The second part scrutinises the backgrounds of the 25 new leaders, first those of the Standing Committee, then the Politburo members. These detailed profiles highlight their specific career paths, affiliations, leanings and routes to power.

• The final section draws up a list of the policies that can be expected from this team today, evaluated in terms of what they have said or planned for and in light of the pressing issues of the day.

An update will soon be available, focusing on the composition of the ministries.

Below is an extract from the report, which can be ordered via China Business Services*.

N° 1 : XI JINPING (习近平) A SMILING SPHINX

“Xi Jinping, the new General Secretary of the Party and President of the Central Military Commission, who will become Leader of the Republic in March 2013, is a mysterious and complex character. Numerous cliches circulate about his personality, as if he had spent his entire life preparing them in order to protect himself from the many potential traps that lie in wait along a career in the Chinese Communist Party.

Born in 1953, Xi Jinping is first and foremost a child of the nomenklatura, the son of Xi Zhongxun (1913-2002), a general, vice Premier and one of the “Eight Immortals”, companions of Deng Xiaoping. In other words, he is a “red princeling” destined from birth to rise to the highest rank. His childhood comrades are today’s generals and provincial secretaries.

In 1968, the Cultural Revolution saw him sent aged 15 to Shaanxi’s yellow earth. Looking back, he remembers arriving there “anxious and perturbed” but leaving six years later “full of confidence and with a clear aim for his life”. The peasant class had lent him its solidity and enabled him to “get his bearings back”. He gets his legitimacy as a revolutionary leader from his contact with this China of loess soil, having calloused his hands by working the hoe and the plough.

At night in the village, he studied by the light of kerosene lamps. During the day, he gained the peasants’ respect by carrying 50kg of wheat on his yoke for kilometres without breaking down.

Once his father had been rehabilitated, his previous life of privilege resumed and he rose powerfully up through a brilliant career with the support of his clan.

Nevertheless, he learned some tough lessons in Shaanxi, discovering that having a father who ranked so high in the hierarchy was no foolproof guarantee. From then on, he pragmatically sought shelter under the protective wing of power. In 1974, aged 21, he joined the Party, “partly to protect himself by becoming redder than red” (according to a note from the US embassy, revealed in 2011 by Wikileaks). He was among the first rare and privileged students given permission to enter Tsinghua University (where the elites are cultivated, recently reopened), graduated in 1979 as a chemical engineer (and thus as a technocrat) and began working for Defence Minister General Geng Biao. These three years “under the banners” gave him another trump card for his career – making him a member of the military brotherhood, the most powerful in the regime. He would cultivate this fraternity of soldiers all his life.

Xi was ambitious and well advised. Once he had established his contacts in khaki there was little reason for him to stay in the Ministry of Defence, but he knew he would have to spend a long period working in the provinces, another essential element on the CV of a potential future leader.

For his first posting he chose the charming little town of Zhengding near Shijiazhuang (Hebei), one of whose advantages was its proximity to Beijing, where he returned regularly during his three years there in order to set up his next role, which was vice-mayor of Xiamen (Fujian) in 1985 at the age of 43. He was such a simple man (so portrays him the legend), so close to the people, that for several weeks after his arrival he slept in a dormitory, ate in the canteen and in the evening washed his socks in the communal sink.

A smart administrator, he did not baulk at disturbing powerful interests if he deemed it necessary for the public good. In 1987, under the pretext of “rendering the mountains and rivers to the people”, he ignored the protests of influential “long-armed” people and had hundreds of tombs removed from hillsides that had been depriving peasants of arable land. He also protected 60% of the province’s forested land from the appetites of commerce. He justified his decision when responding humorously to a journalist who asked him why Guangdong Province was so far ahead of Fujian: “When the starting gun was fired, Guangdong raced off in a flash while Fujian was still tying its shoelaces. That’s why I have to create a good foundation… to allow it to make its own flying start.”

It should be noted that he never became involved in any ideological debate whatsoever. This meant he avoided irritating anyone and was seen as acceptable by all sides.

In 1992, as the Mayor of Fuzhou, Xi Jinping had to go out in a typhoon to organise rescue efforts. By so doing, he missed the birth of Mingze, his only daughter, and so took on some of the aura of a Lei Feng, a propaganda figure who is said to have served the people indefatigably.

Xi didn’t forget Beijing. After 13 years, he arranged to begin studying for a part-time doctorate in 1998 at Tsinghua. His subject was law and Marxist theory. From 2002, he served as governor and subsequently Party Secretary of Zhejiang Province and a member of the Central Committee.

He had thus spent 20 years working in Zhejiang and Fujian, where he deployed his talent to speed up development and encourage private and foreign investment without fear of leftwing criticism.

2007 was the year things hotted up. The 17th Congress was due to name the successor to Hu Jintao in 2012 and Hu wanted his protégé Li Keqiang to get the job. But this manoeuvre, which Jiang Zemin had already tried before Hu, ran contrary to Deng Xiaoping’s rule, according to which the man in power selects the next-but-one generation but not the next generation itself. Discreetly and with finesse, Xi, who knew all this, was able to gain acceptance by the entourage of Jiang Zemin. Because the latter had majority support in decision-making bodies, Xi could thereby be anointed Hu’s successor. He was named Secretary in Shanghai and then member of the Standing Committee and President of the Central Party School – a post that allowed him to gain numerous allies among students who he would appoint once they graduated. In 2008 he became Vice President of the Republic and in 2010 he was made No.2 at the Central Military Commission. From that point on, he could not be dislodged.

Even with Jiang’s support, Xi’s success in imposing himself against President Hu speaks volumes for his genius for manipulation, his charisma and his gift of the gab. Xi Jinping is also a man of unpredictable manoeuvres. According to a short-lived rumour in 2010, Xi wanted to step down from his position as future leader. In our view, this action was a way of forcing leading political lights to accept him in his future role. The rumour stopped from the moment Xi was put in charge of drafting the 7th Plan (2012-2017), which included the likely project of completely overhauling the State Council (see Chapter 3).

Even so, in September 2012 Xi Jinping disappeared from public view for 15 days, cancelling all his appointments. Various explanations were given, ranging from lumbago (the result of a football or swimming pool-related accident) to a stroke. And then he reappeared as fresh as a daisy, thus refuting all the speculation about his health. Here again, this disappearance could be interpreted as a way of bringing about political pressure designed to wrest concessions from his adversaries and give him the space to choose his own policy. Xi Jinping reemerged the moment that Jiang Zemin abandoned Bo Xilai, setting the stage for his trial.

Another hidden side of this most discreet of men is his enthusiasm for the US. Like any good Chinese citizen of his time, Xi admired美国 “Meiguo”, or the “beautiful country”. He discovered the US in 1985 as a member of an obscure agricultural delegation visiting Muscatine (Iowa, twinned with Zhengding’s Hebei). Then aged 32, he visited farms and livestock and lived with a family who would introduce him to the pleasures of life in deepest America: basketball, John Wayne, barbecues, dogs… This made a lasting impression on him. In February 2012 during his visit to the US, Xi revisited Muscatine and, above all, extended his hand to Obama for a new deal – opening the possibility for important diplomatic breakthroughs between the two countries, to be gained through mutual concessions.

In a potentially embarrassing revelation, at the end of June the news agency Bloomberg accused Xi Jinping’s grand family of having amassed a fortune suspected to be more than EUR 290 million in real estate, shares in mobile phone, mineral and rare earth companies. However, subject to the appearance of an exhaustive list of the holdings, the accusation has not been fatal to the new leader because neither he himself nor his close family (his wife Peng Liyuan, a military singing star, and his daughter Mingze, a Harvard student) are among those said to have enriched themselves. On the contrary, at various moments in his career Xi Jinping warned his brothers and sisters against profiting from his name and told them that they alone would face the consequences should they do so. The most disturbing thing is that such details, until now strict State secrets, were here for the first time made public by sources likely to have been within the Party… Who was responsible for this leak?

Another puzzle on Xi’s CV – from March to June 2012, while the Bo Xilai affair dominated the headlines, the incoming leader adopted the lowest profile possible, took no trips to the provinces or abroad and said nothing in public. This was in contrast to Li Keqiang, who seemed to be “running the show” while Xi stepped back. Why? Was he too close to Bo, his childhood companion in Zhongnanhai and separated from him in age by just three years? Was he being constrained by the “Shanghai Club” to demonstrate class solidarity with Bo as “princelings”(高干子弟), the sons of high-ranking cadres? No one knows. So far, Xi has not suffered any repercussions. Whether that changes will become clear over time…” (further details in the full report).

———————–

Table of contents
INTRODUCTION
CHAPTER 1 EVALUATING THE HU JINTAO/WEN JIABAO ADMINISTRATION (2003-2012)
I. EVALUATION
A) THE SUCCESSES
B) THE FAILURES
CHAPTER 2 DETAILED PORTRAITS OF THE NEW TEAM
I. THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY (CPC) ‘S ORGANS
II. THE SEVEN STANDING COMMITTEE MEMBERS
III. THE PORTRAITS OF THE 18 POLITBURO MEMBERS
IV. THE NEW CENTRAL MILITARY COMMISSION (CMC)
CHAPTER 3 « THE NEW REALITY »
I. CONSERVATIVES VICTORIOUS, REFORMISTS AWAKENING
II. XI JINPING AND LI KEQIANG HAVE THEIR WORK CUT OUT FOR THEM
A) XI JINPING
B) LI KEQIANG
III. THE DRIVING FORCE OF THE NEW LEADERSHIP GROUP
IV. THE NEW LOOK CHINESE DIPLOMACY
CONCLUSION
NOTES & REFERENCES

* The report is available for 500 Euros. Please contact us on info@chinabusinessservices.com to reserve a copy. The report is a publication of China Trade Winds, who are responsible for all content.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.