Bronze-level article

Xi Jinping

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Winnie the Pooh. Like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.
Banned in China!
Chinese Politics
Icon politics china.svg
The Chinese people have no recourse to anything like an independent judiciary. The Communist Party decides if you’re guilty or innocent. The conviction rate stands in excess of 98 per cent. Torture and forced confessions are commonplace. Xi has lately embarked on a vicious campaign of harassment and intimidation of workers’ rights activists, ethnic and religious minorities, and feminists. Scores of human rights lawyers have been rounded up and jailed.
—Terry Glavin, MacLean's[1]

Xi Jinping (习近平) (1953–) has been the paramount leader of the Chinese Communist Party and the People's Republic of China since late 2012, replacing Hu Jintao. To give you an idea of the magnitude of his authority, Xi is the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — the head of the party and de facto leader, President of the People's Republic (de jure head of state) and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (commander-in-chief of armed forces), making him the most powerful man in China since Chairman Mao Zedong. He has also managed to abolish term limits, effectively making him paramount leader for life.[2] Xi has racked up a list of 12 separate leadership titles as of 2021.[3] All of this has given rise to a personality cult that could possibly rival the cult of Mao.[4][5]

Xi Jinping is sometimes nicknamed "Winnie the Pooh", after images comparing him to the oddly pantsless bear were censored on Chinese social media.[6]

Early career[edit]

Born the son of an important revolutionary leader, Xi is a "Princeling", an opportunistic Chinese politician who rose through the ranks by riding on the coattails of his father. He quickly became Vice President under his predecessor, touring the world to maintain the appearance of diplomacy. Though called a Princeling, both his father and he himself suffered during the Cultural Revolution.

Something of a recluse, Xi burst out into the Chinese public almost at random, largely preferring to work behind the scenes, apart from a few token speeches and overseas meetings. His ascension to paramount leader was based on a last-minute compromise between party factions, as he was thought to be the one most likely to uphold the interests of the party while calming inter-party tensions.

Upon assuming power, he's called for a renewed campaign against political corruption, continued assertion of Chinese hegemony and comprehensive national renewal at a time where Chinese society is unsure of its future despite being the most productive and successful in decades.

More like Mao?[edit]

Xi's priority is to guarantee the ruling position of the party, but unlike his predecessor, he is far more hands-on (and more clearly autocratic) in his attempt to unify the party and sustain support for the government.[7] His first initiative was to promote a "thorough cleanup" of the party (consolidation of power), cracking down on the noisier members who had undercut the party's popularity. To restore faith and trust in the government, he's spearheading a campaign meant to reconnect with the public via grassroots and the "Chinese Dream" (see below). He's called for the rest of the government to "purify" themselves of greed, extravagance, laziness and hedonism by… taking baths.

His hard-on for Mao manifests in how he's suppressing any overt criticism of the man, from turning once-activist schools into propaganda outlets to calling for the party to promote and adhere to Maoism.[8] National newspapers picture Xi as a "low-profile, amiable and practical" man who knows how the people act, and what they want and think, because he happened to eat steamed buns with ordinary folk when he worked as a local-level party secretary in Hebei province in the early 1980s. He also said that he used old clothes to patch his worn mattress. This casts Xi as both a follower and a successor to Mao, in the sense that he wants to be seen as a man connected with the public.[note 1]

The irony is that Jinping is the son of Xi Zhongxun, who was imprisoned under Mao. Rehabilitated under Deng Xiaoping, Zhongxun helped champion the economic liberalization that began in southern China in 1979, but he was sidelined again after he was thought to have opposed the use of force to break up the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.[9] Jinping himself also suffered directly during the Cultural Revolution: his education was summarily terminated at age 15, he was sent to the countryside during the Down to the Countryside Movement,Wikipedia he was arrested for desertion from his post, and then sentenced to dig ditches.[10] Rather than learn the lessons of the evils of totalitarianism like his father apparently did, Jinping apparently took notes on how to consolidate power and run an autocracy.

Document Number 9[edit]

In the summer of 2013, a confidential internal document circulated throughout the CCP listed six "dangerous" Western values (although general coverage is not allowed): Western constitutional democracy, pro-market neoliberalism, universal values of human rights, media independence, civil society, and "nihilist" criticisms of past errors of the party. The document was leaked by the public newspaper of the Liaoyuan municipal government. Without doubt, this was meant to forestall opposition to needed economic reforms, so as to avoid the split which resulted in the Soviet Union during Gorbachev's reform efforts.[11]

The fact that this needed to be circulated should tell you something about the current state of China.[12]

Power is paramount[edit]

His anti-corruption campaign, if you hadn't already figured it out, targets primarily (if not exclusively) anyone he feels is a threat to his power. The reason he is the most powerful in China since Deng Xiaoping can be traced directly to his pseudo-Cultural Revolution (except in this case, it's directed within the party and no annihilation of culture).

As a brief summary of the power struggle, you have two major factions within the CCP, one led by Jiang Zemin (known as the Shanghai Clique) and the other led by Hu Jintao (known as the Beijing Clique). The differences come not from any substantial policy differences, mind you, but from those who are seen as relatively more populist (Hu Jintao) and considerably more elitist (Jiang Zemin). Jiang first rose to prominence by advocating for a crackdown on a student protest in Tianamen Square, and he gained considerable power through his persecution of Falun Gong; for the sake of so-called national defense, he consolidated his power within the party by stacking the Politburo Standing Committee with his men and creating the 610 Office (which directs the security forces). Even when Hu was officially the leader of China, Jiang and his clique retained more influence; Wen Jiabao and Hu Jintao had next to no power. Hu's clique disapproved of the idea of executing a very expensive crackdown on 100 million Chinese citizens who followed the Falun Gong exercises, let alone the teachings of the movement, which split the party between those two factions.

Xi Jinping was chosen as a compromise leader, as a way for the party to "clean" themselves of their differences. Xi responded by cracking down on all associates, corporate giants, government bureaucracies, and various other associates of Jiang Zemin, which consequently marginalized Hu Jintao's clique while empowering those who happen to grab Xi's coat tails. The most notable bureaucrats hit with anti-corruption charges are former Commerce Minister Bo Xilai, once a rising star in the party who got his start by shutting Falun Gong and other political prisoners into prison camps without due process. Falun Gong practitioners kept bringing lawsuits against Bo as a result of his mistreatment of them, leading to Hu and Wen finding Bo to be too much of a liability to become Vice Premier. His police chief was Wang Lijun, who allegedly took part in live organ harvesting of several thousand prisoners[13] and wiretapped Hu's phone calls. Wang, fearing for his life at the impending purge, fled to the United States.

The highest ranking official purged by Xi's crusade was Zhou Yongkang, the fourth most powerful man in China under Jiang and Hu. His security apparatus, which included paramilitary police and secret police, had a bigger budget and more manpower than the army. Just like Bo and Jiang, Zhou partly owes his success to persecuting Falun Gong, and he is rumored to have murdered his first wife in order to marry Jiang's niece.[14] He was hand-selected by Jiang to chair the Ministry of Public Security, joined the Politburo Standing Committee, and controlled the entire legal system plus the 610 Office. He was also seen as the man behind Kim Jong-un in North Korea; he was the only foreigner on the stadium behind Kim and the other North Korean generals in addition to being Kim's godfather.[citation needed]

Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang were the two most powerful and well-known associates of Jiang Zemin. Bo and Zhou heavily expanded the labor camp system, as well as the organ harvesting of live prisoners.[citation needed] Bo and Zhou are rumored to have planned two coup attempts on Xi Jinping. As you'd expect, both were purged, with Bo receiving a life sentence for corruption and abuse of power. Meanwhile, Xi reduced the power of Zhou's former position, ended the labor camp system expanded by Zhou, investigated Zhou's crooked cronies in the oil industry, evicted Zhou from the party, and set up an official trial for the former security czar. That went quite well, right? Well, not really, because the corruption charges do not mention how they came into power, because that would make the Party look bad, and both men serve as convenient scapegoats to placate the concerns of the Chinese public over the party while empowering Xi's own reputation. Don't hold your breath for allowing Falun Gong to practice their beliefs either, because the Party never makes mistakes.

Even the ever-opportunistic Western companies are being hit. Along others, Microsoft, JP Morgan Chase, GlaxoSmithKline, General Motors, Volkswagen Audi, and through subsidiaries, Mercedes-Benz, were hit with anti-monopoly charges including pricing violations and market dominance. This is particularly interesting, because it perfectly shows the mindset of Xi Jinping. These anti-monopoly charges help control prices in politically sensitive industries and empower domestic Chinese firms in order to use these regulatory tools that are common in other countries to control markets to their advantage in China.

This is how it helps the Party, but how does it help Xi Jinping? Many of these foreign companies had close ties to — wait for it — Jiang Zemin, when he was himself the leader of China in the 1990s. Jiang himself first rose up the ladder in the state-owned First Auto Works Group; a grand total of fifty executives have been investigated under Xi. Jiang's son chaired the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, which has joint ventures with General Motors, Volkswagen Audi, and Mercedes-Benz. Zhou Yongkang, Jiang's top ally, chaired the state-run Petroleum Corporation which used Microsoft's email service exclusively before being switched to a more domestic (read: party-approved) one in 2014. Jiang's son even got into Microsoft, as the owner of 50% of MSM China's website through his Shanghai Alliance Investment company. Bill Gates' venture into China was largely due to Jiang Zemin wanting it, and currently, Xi wants none of that while he remains paramount leader.

Even the departments in charge of the anti-monopoly campaign are being targeted. The Ministry of Commerce, State Administration for Industry and Commerce, and National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) are the three agencies responsible for the investigations of foreign companies who made pals with Jiang. The Ministry of Commerce and NDRC were once the guardians of the wealth of Jiang's faction under so-called "financial gatekeeper" Liu Tienan (sentenced to life in prison for bribery);[15] both agencies were purged just before the anti-monopoly campaign began. The Party abolished presidential term limits, which effectively made Xi ruler for life.[16]

Authoritarian social policies[edit]

By late 2021, Xi Jinping decided to crack down on any scintilla of a percent of resistance to his rule. Touting his "national rejuvenation" policy, Xi's government took multiple new steps to crack down on cultural, business, and social mores, first by cracking down on video game usage. He restricted children (described as anyone under 18) from playing video games, except on Fridays, weekends, and holidays, and only for one hour, and only from 8pm to 9pm local time on those days. While the idea is to combat "youth video game addiction," this is a form of social engineering that removes even basic pleasures for younger Chinese, while completely disregarding streamers who play games for a career. This was done after reports showed children were using adult IDs to circumvent previous restrictions on video game usage. In truth, this is mainly a way for Xi to stop people from bypassing his government's overall internet and social media restrictions, to prevent them from being radicalized online as well as offline.[17]

On top of that, Xi's party sought to further crush online dissent by "bringing in tougher controls of social media and instant messaging tools," specifically saying the party wants to "regulate the orderly dissemination of information." At a time when Chinese youth and dissidents are using the internet to circumvent the so-called Great Firewall, people using such avenues as microblogs (namely Weibo) which bypass government censorship and government control has repeatedly and reportedly given Beijing a cold sweat. The party wants to promote values consistent with what the party holds dear, and in a way to promote further nationalism, the party sees anything originating from Western media (such as Hollywood movies) as "encouraging dissent and grassroots activism." Xi used the death of a toddler, who was struck by a vehicle and left for dead by passersby, as another excuse to reignite national "soul-searching." On Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, pictures of a high-speed train crash that killed 40 people were posted everywhere, an embarrassment for the party which prides itself on efficient governance. News of the new social crackdown prompted Weibo users to publicly criticize the party, saying “How can a government say it represents you if it wants to control how many times a day you watch entertainment on TV?”[18]

Xi's government also took aim at TV broadcasting, first by banning TV broadcasters from showing historical dramas deemed "too entertaining" and not patriotic enough, specifically citing period or idol dramas as "vulgar" entertainment. Programs dealing with "marital troubles and matchmaking, talent, game shows, talk shows and reality programming" are all seen as "vulgar TV" which the party "sees as unhealthy attention to celebrities and certain distracting activities." All those programs will be replaced by news channels and "cultural programming" that the party deems preferable to anything they find to be Western cultural influences. The order also "bans viewership surveys" and the use of ratings "as the sole criteria for whether to broadcast a particular show." Most bizarrely, the party decided to ban "effeminate men" from television broadcasting, as China TV regulators called for TV programs to "resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal esthetics," because they are part of a celebrity culture that promotes "admiration of wealth and celebrity" in the eyes of the party. Young men who "display gentle personalities" and "act in boys’ love dramas" have amassed large fan bases mostly comprising women, a Chinese parallel to K-Pop stars in Korea, and many of them, like Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo, are China’s top-earning celebrities. There is inside the Chinese government a large strain of politicians that disparages and ridicules nontraditional men, gender-neutral aesthetics, and see femininity as a weakness unbecoming of a "real" man. There is also a very eerie parallel to homophobic segments in Western society, as the Ministry of Education pledged to promote sports education in response to a Chinese party lawmaker wanting to "prevent men from becoming too feminine." Days before the order was issued, a commentary published by a Communist Party mouthpiece called the popularity of "sissy pants" a "social problem" that would "distort the taste of the Chinese youth."[19][20]

China under the Xi Jinping administration has a cultural imperialist attitude toward Korea based on Chinese nationalism. China excessively censors Korean culture, but Chinese culture has been indiscriminately introduced into South Korea, sparking controversy over cultural invasion.[21][22] China has a colonialist attitude toward North Korea, with even its official ally North Korean leader Kim Jong-un fearing that their country might become like Tibet or Xinjiang.[23]

As explained by queer Chinese, masculinity is associated with nationalism and the party believes "the effeminate male image could mislead young people, hinder the nation’s rejuvenation, and weaken the country’s ability in fighting with others." By reinforcing gender norms, Xi and his party feel they are resisting Western gender values, which is why "sissy pants" and "sissy boys" are ridiculed by the party. Many feminist Chinese women balked at the implication that traits associated with women are inferior. Official rejection of "sissy men," Weibo users fear, will "encourage the kind of toxic masculinity that leads to violence against women, sexual minorities as well as men who do not fit into the traditional macho image." This is also in response to young Chinese embracing gender-neutral entertainment figures as a way to challenge the party's culture of toxic masculinity. Even explicitly homosexual characters are not allowed on Chinese television. Platforms have previously "blurred male stars’ earrings and ponytails" because of their "ostensible association with rebellion and counterculture."[24]

Ethnic cleansing[edit]

See the main articles on this topic: Uighur genocide and Ethnic cleansing

In response to the Urumqi Riots of 2009 and a series of terrorist attacks carried out by advocates for Xinjiang's independence against Han Chinese within the last decade,[25] Uyghurs (a predominantly Muslim ethnic group that mostly lives in Xinjiang Province) have been forced into reeducation camps to indoctrinate them with the CCP's party line.[26] In 2019, it was discovered that China has been systematically razing mosques, Islamic cemeteries and other religious sites from Xinjiang Province.[27][28] The forced Sinicization of Uyghurs, indoctrination, and razing of religious sites amounts to ethnic cleansing.[29]

The re-education camps, cooperative surveillance systems, and widespread policing and general profiling that is seen in Xinjiang were first developed and implemented in Tibet.[30] The current Party Secretary of Xinjiang, appointed by Xi Jinping himself, was formerly the Party Secretary of Tibet, Chen Quanguo (who headed the ethnic cleansing program and indoctrination in Tibet).

Chinese Dream[edit]

As a way to encapsulate his ideology (and corresponding administrative policy) to the public, Xi announced — and continues to promote — the so-called "Chinese Dream" (中国梦). While he did not create the term,[note 2] he popularized the phrase to such an extent that "Chinese Dream" has become an integral part of Chinese social lingo and common thought.

There's a lot of intrigue about the idea of what the Chinese Dream really is. Xi champions it as "rejuvenation, improvement of people’s livelihoods, prosperity, construction of a better society and military strengthening." Others say it's related to sustainable development (like tackling pollution or providing food safety). A more skeptical view is that Xi is using the Chinese Dream to reclaim public support for the party in a time where people are very much aware that it's not all sunshine and rainbows with the government, in order to drum up a sense of nationalism within the populace as the state of China attempts to compete with the US for influence.

While individualistic (Xi himself had "seen the American Dream up close" while touring New York), it's still about collectivism, as a successful individual is the first step towards a prosperous community (at least, in the eyes of the CCP). In particular, it emphasizes the Zhonghua minzu ("Chinese nation" or "Chinese ethnicity"), China's unique ethno-nationalist identity that unites various ethnic groups existing in Chinese territory. This is quite different from the "American Dream" for all immigrants across ethnic groups and races. In other words, the American dream is a [classical] liberal concept related to 'immigration', while the Chinese dream is a nationalist concept related to the 'native'.

A large part of this is due to how the Chinese middle class, which barely existed a decade before Xi came to power, has grown exponentially over the past 30 years. On the flip side, this has led to rising wages, making it more difficult for China to carry on with its export-oriented economy and to continue its miraculous economic growth.


  1. He wrings his hands over the neck of opposition a bit differently, however. Investigations were opened into the state-owned PetroChina, meant to rein in a powerful interest group that's largely filled with proteges of former security chief Zhou Yongkang, who had crossed Xi during a factional power struggle in 2012. No points for guessing how many times corruption charges have been levied against Xi himself.
  2. It's another example of why Thomas Friedman needs to shut his piehole once in a while. [1]


  1. China is no friend to Canada by Terry Glavin (April 7, 2017) MacLean's
  3. China’s president Xi Jinping now has a dozen titles, and counting by Zheping Huang (January 22, 201) Quartz.
  4. See the Wikipedia article on Xi Jinping's cult of personality.
  5. The Rise of the Personality Cult of Chairman Xi Jinping by Barry Ellsworth (24 February 2020) Inside Over.
  6. Why China censors banned Winnie the Pooh by Stephen McDonell (July 17, 2017) BBC
  7. Just How Secure Is Xi Jinping, Really?, The Diplomat
  8. State media promoting China’s leader Xi with intensity unseen since Mao era, Washington Post
  9. See the Wikipedia article on Xi Zhongxun.
  10. China's political star Xi Jinping is a study in contrasts by Barbara Demick & David Pierson (Feb. 14, 2012) Los Angeles Times via Toronto Star.
  11. China Takes Aim at Western Ideas, The New York Times
  12. "Despite tremendous efforts by the Chinese authorities to control the media and the Internet, the commercialization of the media and the unprecedented telecommunications revolution are making the flow of information easier and faster, bringing new perspectives to the Chinese public." Eventually, something's gotta give.
  13. "Transplant Tourists": Unwitting Beneficiaries of Prisoner Organ Harvest by Maya Duani (October 15, 2013) Voices In Bioethics (archived from August 19, 2015).
  14. Did Zhou Yongkang murder his first wife? After one of China's most powerful men is put under investigation, the Chinese media begins to hint darkly at the fate of his first wife by Malcolm Moore (31 July 2014 • 08:30 am) The Telegraph.
  15. See the Wikipedia article on Liu Tienan.
  16. [ China Removes Presidential Term Limits, Enabling Xi Jinping To Rule Indefinitely (March 11, 20187:42 AM ET) NPR.
  17. "China cuts amount of time minors can spend playing online video games," Vincent Ni, The Guardian
  18. "China reins in social media and TV shows that are 'too entertaining'," Clifford Coonan, Irish Times
  19. "China Bans “Effeminate Men” From TV As Part Of Cultural Crackdown," Bruce Haring, Deadline
  20. "China bans TV shows that are too entertaining," Independent
  22. "The Korean Wave's Rocky Road in China". The Diplomat. Archived from the original on 2023-03-12. Retrieved 2023-03-12.
  24. "‘Sissy Pants’ Celebrities Banned in China," Viola Zhou, Vice
  25. How China's mass detention of Uyghur Muslims stemmed from the 2009 Urumqi riots by Eric Handley (July 4th, 2019) ABC News.
  26. A Summer Vacation in China’s Muslim Gulag: How one university student was almost buried by the "people's war on terror." (28, 2018, 1:35 PM) Foreign Policy.
  27. In China, every day is Kristallnacht by Fred Hiatt (November 3, 2019) The Washington Post.
  28. Demolishing Faith: The Destruction and Desecration of Uyghur Mosques and Shrines (10/28/2019 - 14:00) Uyghur Human Rights Project.
  29. What Congress can do now to combat China’s mass ethnic cleansing of Uighurs (May 23, 2019 at 4:06 p.m. PDT) The Washington Post.
  30. Chen Quanguo: The Strongman Behind Beijing’s Securitization Strategy in Tibet and Xinjiang. by Adrian Zenz & James Leibold (September 21st, 2017) The Jamestown Foundation.