The building backlash against God King Xi

Via the excellent Richard McGregor at CNN:

The backlash abroad against President Xi Jinping’s China, at least in developed nations, has spread rapidly in the last year.

Some countries, like Australia and Canada, feel patronized and bullied. Neighbors worry they are being marginalized. Advanced industrial nations, especially Germany and South Korea, see China coming at them like an unstoppable, oncoming train.

The US, for decades the world’s lone superpower, is confronted by a once-in-a-lifetime challenge from Beijing. All of these phenomena, previously bubbling under the surface, have burst into clear view during Xi’s time in office.

Beijing’s opaque internal political system means it is hard to make judgments about domestic Chinese politics, but there can be little doubt that a backlash is underway at home, too.

Good and bad enemies

As a leader, Xi is unique in post-revolutionary party politics in not having any identifiable domestic rival or successor, largely because he has ensured that none have been allowed to emerge. But Xi has earned himself an array of what we might called “bad enemies” and “good enemies” since taking office in late 2012.

They range from the once-rich and powerful families he destroyed in his anti-corruption campaign, all the way to the small-r reformers angered by his illiberal rollback of the incremental institutional advances of the reform period.

Forced to lay low initially because of the dangers of challenging him outright, Xi’s critics at home have begun to find their voice. They have been outspoken mainly on economic policy, but the deeper undercurrents of their criticisms are unmistakeable.

The sons of former top leaders, revered scholars who guided China’s economic miracle, frustrated private entrepreneurs and academics furious about Xi’s unrelenting hardline — all have complained in multiple public forums, in speeches, in online postings and in widely circulated essays at home and offshore, about Xi’s policies and style.

“Something strange is happening in Xi Jinping’s China,” wrote Ian Johnson in the New York Review of Books. In what was supposed to be the “perfect dictatorship”, the country was witnessing “the most serious critique of the system in more than a decade, led by people inside China who are choosing to speak out now, during the most sensitive season of the most sensitive year in decades.”

The exact number of “tigers” toppled by Xi’s anti-corruption campaign — in other words, officials who were once part of the designated elite whose jobs had to be cleared through the Party’s central personnel system — is not easy to calculate. The best estimates put it around 300 to 400, including scores of generals. The officials who have been prosecuted and jailed include members of the Politburo, ministers, vice-ministers, the heads of state-owned enterprises, provincial party leaders and governors, and mayors.

In each of those cases, the investigations don’t just hit the individual official who has been targeted and detained.

Literally, hundreds of thousands of people who are tied into and rely on that single person for their income are effectively swept up with them. Their livelihoods, and all that they have invested in clawing their way through the system, can evaporate with the stroke of a pen. Some members of the patronage networks are often arrested themselves.

Xi has made enemies of them all. “Xi has destroyed millions of people in the elite who now all hold a personal grudge against him,” said a China-based businessman, who asked not to be named, earlier in 2019. “These people are not a bunch of uneducated peasants from the sticks in Henan. They had skin in the game.”

Threshold for an uprising ‘is high’

Despite all this, Victor Shih, a US-China specialist, was doubtless right when he said that the threshold for some kind of “intra-party uprising” against Xi remains very high. “He would need to commit a catastrophic mistake that jeopardizes the continual rule of the Party for his potential enemies within the Party to rise up against him,” Shih said in the New Yorker.

But the idea that Xi is literally “president for life,” as he is often referred to in the wake of the 2018 abolition of term limits, will in all likelihood be proved wrong.

From mid-2018, Xi was already facing a public backlash on economic policy, the area where it has always been safest for Chinese to speak out. Xi has a legion of critics on foreign policy as well, who believe he has overreached and left the way open for the US and others to bind together on issues ranging from trade and technology to military and strategic influence in east Asia.

Most scholars have delivered their critiques in private, or in carefully coded language. However Deng Xiaoping’s son, Deng Pufang, was explicit in a speech late last year to a disabilities forum which was leaked to the Hong Kong media. He urged China’s leadership to “know its place” in the world, and concentrate on its problems at home.

Finally, the abolition of term limits summed up the rage that many influential officials and scholars felt about their country’s leader. In one decision, Xi confirmed his critics’ view that he was an unrepentant autocrat willing to take China backwards in the service of his agenda.

Just as it is difficult to anticipate where any challenge will come from, it is equally hard to see how Xi’s supremacy in domestic politics can be sustained. Factors which remain out of Xi’s control will weigh against him. China’s slowing economy and rapidly declining demographics can obviously be leveraged to argue in favor of maintaining tight authoritarian controls. But they are much more likely to work against Xi in future. The same goes for China’s tightening fiscal situation.

Beijing’s ability to throw money at every problem, like bailing out cash-strapped local governments, will only get harder. In other words, by the time of the next party congress, due in late 2022, the issue of succession should return with a vengeance.

There is nothing “inevitable” about China’s rise.

Houses and Holes

David Llewellyn-Smith is Chief Strategist at the MB Fund and MB Super. David is the founding publisher and editor of MacroBusiness and was the founding publisher and global economy editor of The Diplomat, the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics and economics portal.

He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.

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    • Richard is good value. I’d also recommend checking out Bill Bishop at Sinocism. He does a low cost aggregator similar to MB and well worth it.

      I focus a lot on it but then I was a China economist in a past life…

  1. Well here the scorecard:

    1. The Chinese grand plan OBOR has completely failed
    Riven by corruption and antipathy from China’s neighbors.

    2. The 5 year plan to relocate the100 million Chinese Hukuo underclass (2nd generation peasant stock internal illegals) from the tier 1 cities to the ‘ghost cities’ out in western China in forced resettlement has failed.
    9 million instead have been exported overseas to AsiaC Africa, Australian, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands etc in exploiting their soft borders and visa systems.

    We have 1.3 million of this Hukuo underclass of peasant stock, misfits, old & sick Chinese mainland communists in Australia alone (228k as citizen grants, 426k as Chinese Nationals on PR, 320k as TR mostly fake students & partners and the rest as long stay & repeat stay illegally working tourist visitors).
    We need to repatriate at least 1 million of these Chinese Hukuo underclass back to China – they should never have been allowed in.

    3. The flood of dirty money out of China (over 0.9 trillion in the last decade) continues to accelerate, looted by the Chinese – who at every level the peasant, the worker, the business man, the army or the politicians are all shown to be congenitally corrupt.

    A repatriation and sharing of criminal proceeds of crime between China and Australia would soon see many Chinese here flee with their dirty money if they can, ($80 billion of Chinese dirty money washed into Australian established housing alone), otherwise tens of billions of those assets seized and shared between China & Australia.

    That’s the only way to stop the dirty criminal chinese money & influence in Australia is to have this repatriation treaty and sharing or proceeds of crime agreement in place – so Australia ‘is not’ a safe haven.

    That will see Australian low end city property prices collapse by 40% btw – long overdue.

    4. No invasion of Taiwan – no ‘One China’

    Donald Trump deftly & skilfully shutting that plan down as well as the little Chinese mad dog North Korea that China fed and nurtured to be a thermonuclear ICBM threat during the dark era of Obama duplicity & ineptitude in the Obama failed ‘Asian pivot’

    5. No ‘China South China Sea’
    China corralled and contained by Trump & the US with a regional alliance ring of instant death to China.
    The US navy & allies sail thru in their fleets as the Chinese stranded on their little man made islands forlornly shine laser lights on them.

    6. At least 3 major rebellions – Tibet, Manchuria and now the Uyghur, unrest in the cities, 1 million Hong Kong residents out in the streets -the equally if not more corrupt Hong Kong chimese terrified of any repatriation treaty (which as outlined we need with both Hong Kong & China – given the criminal flow of over $80 billion of dirty Chinese money into Australia).

    7. No winnable trade war outcome.

    Either it’s 128 million Chinese who depend on US exports (26% of their Exports) to be unemployed & blood on the streets of China or China folds.

    And with that we will see the total humiliation of Xu and China.

    🔻China sucking on Trump US gas, not Qatari or Australia gas.

    🔻China taking in Trump US or US aligned Saudi & Gulf states Oil & petrochemicals & not Iranian or Venezuela products.

    🔻China unloading Trump US ore, coal & minerals, not Indonesian, Brazil or Australia ore, coal or minerals.
    China buying US plant and industrial products and not Western Europe products.

    🔻China eating Trump US foodstuffs, not South Asia or Australia & NZ food products.

    -> And China relegated to being a 2nd rate power.

    China is now internally unstable.
    Aging population, debt ridden.
    Collapsing within. Social decay.
    The young alienated from the party and fetishimg western ‘democracy’ or religious cults as alternative moral and social authority.

    And all along China continues its evolution – just like all the other ‘communist collectivists’ into a left wing fascist and racist based ‘national socialist’ dictatorship.

    Until that’s overthrown.

    Then China fully implodes in civil war & breakup and so once again the ‘Chinese empire’ dream fades.

    The eons old China cycle of empire, boom, overeach, spectacular bust & collapse – repeats.

    Xi exhibits all the traits of exactly the same cycle of failure.
    Overreach, repression, inability to adjust, increasing authoritarian, can’t withstand the loss of face and down he goes in flames – just like all his ‘empire builder’ predecessors.

    • ”And all along China continues its evolution – just like all the other ‘communist collectivists’ into a left wing fascist and racist based ‘national socialist’ dictatorship.”
      Facist, yes, left wing? looks like most socialism is gone. The closest we get to a real left wing government in the world now is in the Nordic states, ie governments who actually give a f*&k about their people. China is a dictatorship with a crony capitalist structure. Sort of what the LNP want.

      • Socialism / left wing is basically collectivism.
        ‘The group’ before ‘the individual’.

        Left wing?
        From the French Parlee (parliament)
        where the collectivists sat on the left of the king & the right wing (libertarian or individualists / capitalists, the freedom of the individual before the collective) sat on the right.

        Pan or globalist left wing socialism (Leninism or later communism)?
        That was always destined to break down into racial based left wing or ‘nationalist socialism’.
        The National Socialist German Workers Party weren’t the only left wing socialist Nazi.
        All across Europe & even in India (INA) a large part of the world willingly adopted their own left wing racially based Nazi party equivalents.
        The Nazis overthrew a democratically elected conservative libertarian govt to impose their dictatorship.
        The left wing National Socialist German Workers Party Nazi’s were defeated by a combination of hard right wing western conservative capitalists, but mostly the ‘pan socialist’ or multiracial communist Soviet Union – fighting the fear of the Soviet Union itself breaking up into racially aligned socialist blocks (which it did eventually anyway).
        And so one strain of the socialist virus (Leninism or by then Stalinism / Soviet, plus the western powers was used to temporarily suppress left wing racist socialism.

        Racial based social cohesion is always more powerful than any globalist religious or political ideology.

        The Soviet Union – not racially homogeneous & broken up into rascist based socialist collectivism.

        Vietnam – ex communist & also not homogenous (is now..) and now virulently racist national socialist.
        Yugoslavia & the eastern bloc – not homogeneous & all the splinters evolved into highly rascist ‘left wing’ nationalist socialism.
        Cuba, Venezuela, Angola, Egypt & others that tinkered with left wing socialism – same.

        China – very homogeneous – then expansion into Tibet, Mongolia & the Turkistani – where China now impose their left wing (collectivism) fascist (the word means totalitarian), and racist unilateralism.

        Socialism by imposing collectivism elevates the group & the ruling hierarchy – to create the framework for fascism or totalitarianism.

        A set of true statements are:

        There are no real ‘communist’ (multi-ethnic left wing socialist Leninist model’ nations of any note any more.

        All have evolved into left wing national socialist racially based regimes.

        Human tribalism, racial exclusion, and left wing collectivism will eventually evolve into national socialist highly racist autocratic corrupted regimes.

        As we see.
        China ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’

    • PlasterMEMBER

      without the industrial capacity bit, sounds like a correct description of the West

  2. reusachtigeMEMBER

    Xi must execute all known enemies and their families and connections in a show of strength before they destroy him.

    • Weekend Briefing … Interest Co NZ

      … extract …

      … In China, banks sold a net NZ$28 bln of foreign exchange in June, the biggest one-month net sale in two years, as pressure from the trade war builds, in turn adding to pressure on the Chinese currency.

      And yet another in a growing list of companies in the Middle Kingdom is having trouble meeting its debt obligations as they fall due.

      China is now actively working to keep foreign companies from leaving the country, dangling special benefits so that the advantages of staying outweigh the heavy tariffs imposed by the Americans. More than 50 global companies have announced or are considering plans to move production out of China. And not just foreign companies. Chinese manufacturers as well are part of the planned exodus.

      And to reinforce the point, it turns out that Vietnam’s port throughput now exceeds that for Hong Kong, a major China trade gateway. Vietnam is a major winner from the trade war.

  3. Wow! The western media can barely come up with anything of substance to spin about China.
    Is this seriously the worst spin they can achieve? I could write a piece on USA using only facts or the nearest thing to a fact as it is hard to get the exact number of children/ adults raped, maimed or tortured by US soldiers or operatives. 2% of US citizens are in jail for example.
    China is probably going to be the greatest civilization in history by the end of this century. I’m all for freedom but 1.3 billion people are hard to keep fed and to live in peace. Democracy is fake in USA/ Australia. USA buys the judges and pollies in at least a third of the world at present. This is why they want democracy so they can buy elections.