◎ How state media positions Xi is a key benchmark of his actual political strength.
Early in the morning on Nov. 17, state mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency published a 14,000-character article titled, “Xi Jinping: Guide of the New Era” which lauded and summarized Xi’s achievements in the past five years. Much ink was devoted to the results of the anti-corruption campaign and explaining the difficulty of implementing reform.
Xinhua used seven designations in describing Xi:
- “Innovative leader”
- “Party core formed through great struggle”
- “Servant who seeks happiness for the people”
- “A responsible strategist of the country’s reform and development”
- “Commander-in-chief in remodeling the armed forces and national defense”
- “Leader of a great power on the world stage”
- “Chief architect of China’s modernization”
The backdrop: The Xinhua article appears to be part of Xi’s post-19th Party Congress propaganda drive to publicize his elevated status in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Propaganda teams have spent the past three weeks touring government departments and military units to “implement the spirit of the 19th Congress” in study sessions. (See our Nov. 16 article.)
Why it matters: The inclusion of “Xi Jinping Thought” to the CCP constitution at the 19th Congress places Xi above Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao in political standing, and at least on equal terms with Deng Xiaoping. Xi, however, needs to make sure that Party cadres and the public are acutely aware of his absolute authority if he is to properly put it into effect, and hence the propaganda drive.
How state media positions Xi is a key benchmark of his actual political strength.
- In parsing the Xinhua report, Xi Jinping took over a regime that Jiang Zemin and his political faction left in a terrible shape (politically, economically, socially) after nearly 20 years of dominance.
- If Xi cannot thoroughly reform China’s politics and the economy in his second term in office, he risks being dethroned by the Jiang faction or a mass citizen uprising.
- Xi has offended nearly the entire Chinese officialdom over the past five years through his anti-corruption campaign, an effort which is part power consolidation and part self-preservation. So Xi’s most significant resistance in the coming years will come from the CCP system.