Xi continues elimination of political opponents, with one eye on a third term in office
A former senior official linked to Bo Xilai, an enemy of the Chinese president sentenced to life in prison in 2013, has been charged. Xi lacks complete control of the regime's political and legal apparatus. Veiled attacks from the liberalist front and foreign policy experts.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - Xi Jinping has targeted another figure linked to one of his political opponents. The 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will be held next autumn and the Chinese president seems committed to clearing the field of all obstacles to his third term as supreme leader. The 2018 amendment to the Constitution removed the two-term limit, allowing him to continue to serve as president and general secretary of the Party.
On 23 January, the Central Disciplinary Commission, the anti-corruption body through which Xi has cemented his power, indicted Xu Ming, former deputy director of the National Food Administration, for corruption. The Party had already expelled Xu, who left office in 2018. He was a protégé of Bo Xilai, former minister of commerce and head of the Chongqing CCP.
In 2012, within months of Xi's first appointment to the country's leadership, the authorities had removed Bo, only to sentence him to life in prison in 2013 for corruption and political misconduct. At the time, Bo was a rising star in the Party and a possible competitor to Xi. For his detractors, Bo was planning a full-blown coup.
According to noted sinologist Willy Lam, Xi was not in full control of the regime's political and legal apparatus. This would be demonstrated by the continuous replacements of senior officials at the Ministry of Public Security. After the arrest in 2018 of Vice Minister - and Interpol chief - Meng Hongwei, April 2020 saw the arrest of Sun Lijun, who had been sent to Wuhan a few months earlier to coordinate the response to the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to economic crimes, Sun is also accused of setting up a conspiracy against Xi.
However, the most egregious arrest took place in October, involving another former deputy minister for public security, Fu Zhenghua. Fu Zhenghua was considered a close associate of Xi's, having played a key role in bringing down Zhou Yongkang, another bitter enemy of Xi's in the Party. A former Politburo Standing Committee member and internal security "czar", Zhou was sentenced to life in prison in 2015 for corruption, abuse of power and revealing state secrets. The next target, Lam argues, could be current Public Security Minister Zhao Kezhi, who is linked to Sun and Fu.
Analysts note that Xi's Maoist regurgitations have caused divisions within the CCP. The more "liberal" wing of the Party is said to be pushing to maintain the system of economic liberalisation launched by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s and strengthened since 1992. It is striking that an article published on 9 December in the People's Daily praised the reforms of Deng, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao as necessary correctives to the excesses of Mao's Cultural Revolution. All this without even mentioning Xi.
Another crack is visible within the national security apparatus. In a recent article, Jia Qingguo, former dean of Peking University's School of International Affairs and current member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, criticised extremist foreign policy stances - a veiled attack on Beijing's "wolf warrior" diplomacy. As the South China Morning Post reports, he warns that greater emphasis on defence spending will lead to greater insecurity. Jia recalls that the USSR's high military spending was a contributig factor to its disintegration.