10/15/2021, 18.17
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Xi Jinping praises China’s ‘democracy’ but within the Party some are against him

by Li Qiang

For Xi, the country’s political system is a "great creation", the key to its global success. However, as the 20th Party congress approaches, tensions are developing with Vice President Wang Qishan and the Shanghai faction, led by Zeng Qinghong.


Beijing (AsiaNews) – According to Xi Jinping, China's political system is a "great creation" and the key to its global success. 

The president spoke yesterday at a meeting of the Chinese Communist Party dedicated to the country’s constitutional structures. In it he stressed that China is ruled by completely democratic processes.

In his address, Xi said that democracy is not reduced to promises made at elections, an ornament or a decoration; “Democracy is for solving the people’s real problems,” he emphasised.

Some analysts view the president's speech as a response to the United States and its allies, who have slammed China for its human rights violations and repression of dissent. 

Xi is also reportedly preparing the Communist Party’s 20th Congress, which will be held a year from now, in which he is likely to get a third term as Party general secretary and the country’s president.

For Willy Lam, Xi is facing internal troubles though. In a piece in China Brief, the well-known China expert points to the increasing signs of an ongoing power struggle within the Party.

At present, Xi appears to be targeting two heavyweights of the regime, current Vice President Wang Qishan and former Vice President Zeng Qinghong.

As evidence of internal tensions, some of China’s semi-official media spoke last month of an “sinister and treacherous” anti-Xi plot hatched by some officials within the political-legal apparatus. Later, the articles in question were deleted.

The clash between Xi and the factions opposed to him comes at a time of economic difficulty for China.

The country is grappling with a dangerous energy crisis and the possible bankruptcy of Evergrande. The big real estate company has accumulated an estimated debt of about US$ 300 billion dollars that it cannot repay. 

Debt is also problem that affects other Chinese groups and investment companies set up by provincial governments. 

The country’s economic recovery is equally threatened by repeated outbreaks of COVID-19 in many provinces.

Still, Prime Minister Li Keqiang, speaking yesterday at the Canton Fair in Guangzhou, said that China has the appropriate means to face the current economic challenges.

He explained that even though economic growth slowed in the third quarter, the economy can still exceed the targeted 6 per cent GDP growth by the end of the year.

Lam notes that Xi has not travelled abroad for more than 630 days, busy fending off internal challenges to his power, which at the moment are taking an indirect form.

A recent article in Caixin – a magazine whose editor is Hu Shuli, a protégé of Wang Qishan – appears to refer in its culinary section to a certain “pig head” who is unable to establish good relations with the West.

Until recently, Wang was considered a close ally of Xi. This changed with the arrest of some people from his inner circle.

Last year, tycoon Ren Zhiqiang was sentenced to 18 years for corruption. One of the Party’s "princelings", i.e., the descendants of the party's first revolutionaries, Ren referred to Xi, without naming him directly, as a “disrobed clown who insists on being the emperor”. 

In September, police arrested Chen Feng, president of the HNA Group, one of several companies that Lam says are linked to Wang and that the government has penalised in recent times.

The People's General Prosecutor's Office also indicted Dong Hong, a close associate of Wang, in April, on charges of pocketing bribes.

As Lam points out, like Wang, Zeng Qinghong has strong interests in the country's financial sector. A leader of the Shanghai faction, linked to former President Jiang Zemin, Zeng is seen as a protector of large groups such as Fantasia Holding and the China Huarong Asset Management Company. 

The former, which is led by his niece Zeng Baobao, is on the verge of bankruptcy, which she blames on the Party's policies.

Zeng's association with Huarong is even stronger. Lai Xiaomin, a former chairman of the state-owned company, was arrested late last year, convicted and executed in January. He was accused of disloyalty to the Party and pocketing 1.8 billion yuan (US$ 280 million) in bribes.

Xi faces another problem. The pro-market wing of the Communist Party is challenging Xi’s common prosperity doctrine, i.e., the attempt to force large (private) business groups to share their growing wealth with the less privileged strata of the population.

The possible public bailout of Evergrande is another factor in the Party's internal political battle. The proximity of Xu Jiayin, founder of the Guangdong-based real estate group, to the Communist Youth makes this less likely.

Ever since he became president in 2013, Xi has marginalised powerful factions within the Party, linked to his predecessor Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

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