09/29/2022, 00.00
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At 20th Communist Party Congress, the 'old guard' challenge Xi

105-year-old Song Ping calls for preserving the reform and greater liberalisation policy launched by Deng Xiaoping. Xi aims at a new centralisation of the economy. Most of the president's critics remain cautious. New purge among executors of Xi's anti-corruption campaign.  

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The "old guard" of the Communist Party of China is not going along with plans and is making its voice heard against Xi Jinping. In a video message circulated since mid-September, later censored, 105-year-old Song Ping says that the reform and opening-up policy inaugurated 40 years ago by Deng Xiaoping "is the only path that ensures development and prosperity for China, and guarantees the achievement of the Chinese dream".

As noted in Nikkei Asia, the former member of the Politburo Standing Committee in Deng's time shrewdly used the same words as Xi's in the past. But the Chinese supreme leader's orientation is to abandon Deng's economic openings and return to more economic centralism.

This is clearly revealed by his campaign for 'common prosperity': according to critics, the promises of redistribution of national wealth actually conceal a crackdown on private enterprises, especially large hi-tech groups that could become a domestic 'countervailing power'.

Song's is a call to keep Deng's political legacy alive on the eve of the 20th Party Congress, which opens on 16 October. In all likelihood Xi will get a third (and possibly fourth) term in power. Along the same lines as Song would be his political 'godchildren', former President Hu Jintao and former Premier Wen Jiabao, as well as current Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

In his 10 years at the helm of the country, Xi has managed to concentrate many powers in his own hands, placing his men in the strategic ganglia of the regime. He has created his own group within the CCP (the word faction in Communist China is associated with the disgraced): it includes comrades at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and those who collaborated with him in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, and in Shanghai.

On paper, Xi's group is opposed by Premier Li's (and former President Hu's) Communist Youth, Jiang Zemin's Shanghai 'clique', the Tsinghua clan, and the 'princelings', the sons of the early Party leaders (originally Xi's fringe group).

Bo Zhiyue, president and founder of the China Institute, points out in ThinkChina that in reality these 'factions' have united into a kind of single group with very tenuous ties, where most members remain guarded to avoid possible persecution, and to see if in the end Xi will be the real winner of the contest.

Song sent a message that smacks of defiance, given that months ago the Party's disciplinary bodies threatened severe punishments for retired leaders who criticise the general secretary's line. And this also applies to former Xi allies. Prosecutors have just called for the prosecution of Liu Yanping, who under Xi headed the anti-corruption bureau of the Ministry of State Security.

Last week, a court sentenced former Deputy Minister for Public Security Sun Lijun to life imprisonment 'for seriously damaging Party unity'. The most serious charge, however, is that of leading a circle of political leaders 'disloyal' to Xi, which includes former Justice Minister Fu Zhenghua, who was also sentenced to life imprisonment.



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