A decade ago, when the powerful secret factions of China’s ruling Communist Party chose Xi Jinping as the compromise candidate to lead the party by ending a bitter power struggle, few had any idea that the “princely suave and calm would mold himself into the mold of party founder Mao Zedong and bulldoze his way to becoming the lifelong leader.
At the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in November 2012 to choose a successor to then-President Hu Jintao, it was a toss-up between Xi, then Vice-President, and Vice-Premier Urban and intellectual Li Keqiang.
Xi won the race after which Hu, who pitched for Li, made a quiet outing abiding by the firmly held rule followed by all his predecessors handing over the reins to Xi, known as the prince for being the son of the influential former Mao-era Vice Premier Xi Zhongxun.
Li, once a rival of Xi, who became number two with the post of prime minister in the months that followed, aligned and endorsed Xi as the main leader, which made him the only leader in terms of government of the party and the country.
Ten years later, at the 20th Congress in Beijing which ended on Saturday, it was 69-year-old Xi’s turn to hand over the baton to a successor under the old norm, but the CCP turned the page on his transition to the lead to allow his continuation. for a record third term and beyond.
Xi’s rise to power and the rapid consolidation of his party leadership with a shock anti-corruption campaign securing the title of the party’s hard core bequeathed only to Mao has indeed forced his rivals within the party into submission and drawn the attention of the world.
From the first day after coming to power, Xi had launched a ruthless campaign against corruption, which, in addition to striking a chord with the people, helped him systematically eliminate political opponents, especially top generals. level that challenged him.
“If there was only one lens through which to interpret Xi Jinping’s remarkable rise over the past decade, it would be his anti-corruption signature,” said Wang Xiangwei, the newspaper’s former editor. based in Hong Kong. South China Morning Post.
Since coming to power in late 2012, Xi and his supporters have skillfully combined this ruthless effort with a relentless ideological campaign aimed at consolidating power by crushing political rivals and tightening control at all levels of society, Wang wrote in his recent column in the Post. .
“Over the past decade, Xi has investigated and punished nearly five million high-ranking and grassroots officials, or tigers and flies,” Wang said.
According to Xinhua, more than 400 officials at ministerial level or above have been disciplined or investigated in the past nine years, including a former member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and two former vice -Chairmen of the Military Commission.
“Facts prove that if corruption is allowed to spread, it will eventually lead to the destruction of a party and the downfall of a government,” Xi said in a stern warning.
Unlike many communist leaders, Xi, born in 1953, saw power up close as his father Xi Zhongxun, a revolutionary hero, was appointed minister of propaganda and education by Mao.
Early on, Xi and his family went through a painful period of suffering when his father was persecuted by Mao for his liberal views.
Xi spent his childhood close to Mao in Zhongnanhai, the official residential compound of the party leadership in Beijing, according to one account.
But at the same time, Xi saw his father lose all his privileges after falling into conflict with Mao and being exiled. At the age of 13, Xi had to leave school to go to the countryside during the period of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, enduring hardship.
After several attempts, Xi managed to join the CCP in 1974.
Years later, Xi reportedly said that attempts had been made to prevent him from admitting his father’s alleged wrongdoing to the CPC.
“When a fault is committed, there is a verdict. But where is the one against my father? Who do you take me for? to build a career. What’s wrong with that?, Xi asked.
He was only 15 when he arrived in Liangjiahe in Shaanxi in 1969 as an “educated youth”, according to a recent report by the official Xinhua news agency, highlighting his childhood.
“It would take 38 years and multiple postings at different levels of the party hierarchy for him to be elevated to the top job,” the Xinhua article said.
From 1975 to 1979, Xi studied chemical engineering at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Xi is married to famous Chinese folk singer Peng Liyuan. They have a daughter named Xi Mingze who studied psychology at Harvard and later returned to Beijing after Xi became the country’s greatest leader.
Observers say an analysis of Xi’s ten years in power, his systematic accumulation of power and the dismissive treatment of some senior officials, including military generals, grew out of the suffering he and his family, especially his father , had to endure.
“Xi Jinping, who grew up in the districts of Beijing populated by high officials, did not seek wealth. It was power that attracted”, writes François Bougon in his book Inside the Mind of Xi Jinping.
“According to statements from the former acquaintance, collected by the US Embassy (in Beijing) between 2007 and 2009, Xi was always extraordinarily ambitious and never lost sight of his goal of reaching the highest levels. “, writes Bougon.
During his decade in power, criticism of Xi within the CCP has grown. One such critic was Cai Xia, a professor at the Chinese Communist Party’s Central School from 1998 to 2012.
Xi was the director of the party’s prestigious ideological school when he was vice president.
If growing irritation among some party elites means his candidacy will not go entirely unchallenged, he is likely to succeed, Cai said.
“But this success will bring more turbulence down the road,” wrote Cai, who later became a scathing critic of Xi and managed to emigrate to the United States, in her recent Foreign Affairs magazine article on Xi’s stay in power. power beyond his 10-year term.
“Embolded by this unprecedented additional term, Xi will likely tighten his grip domestically even further and raise his ambitions internationally,” she wrote.
However, the Xi supporter argues that the party and the country need him.
Without a solid leading core, the CCP would struggle to unify the will of the whole party or build solidarity and unity among people of all ethnic groups, said Wang Junwei, a researcher at the Institute of history and literature of the Party of the CPC Central Committee, said.
He wouldn’t be able to achieve anything or fight any of his “great struggles with many new historical features”, he said.
For China and the Chinese people, Xi’s continued rule heralds a new era with trappings of the Mao era.
But to the world Xi is now a familiar figure, said a senior diplomat who preferred to remain anonymous.
“Xi is China’s new normal. The continuity is kind of good, because the world has seen his ten-year reign. We know each other,” he said.
But the zero-COVID policy could prove to be a major challenge for the Chinese leader as he settles in for his extended rule, the unnamed diplomat said.
Abandoning the zero COVID policy could prove to be a moral, ethical and political dilemma for Xi, as he blamed world leaders for neglecting their people while China cared for them.
Such policies could make or break any system, no matter how strong because, for people, livelihoods matter just like their lives, he said.
(Only the title and image of this report may have been edited by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)