Monday, 6 March 2023

Alive from Beijing: The Xi Dynasty has begun

by Berkeley Lovelace

Unless hit by a falling piece of one of Elon Musk’s unwelcome Starlink satellites, it’s probably going to be a good week and a bit for China’s soon to be more-powerful-than-you-can-possibly-imagine President Xi Jinping.

The party’s exquisitely named “Two Sessions” Party Congress is opening its heavenly doors right now at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where Xi  is a mere hundred or so interminably monotone parliamentary-esque sessions away from cementing total, possibly dyanstic control of all that is modern communist China.

Xi, who’s real strength has dervied from the way he’s wielded his influence as general-secretary of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), has just about taken full control of all the fun and important aspects of Chinese rule, which has been a – gotta hand it to him – fabulous consolidation of power.

The Two Sessions meanwhile are usually just a dull annual charade of party unity and democratic shadow play, but this one promises to be a real goodie.


Xi’s Two Sessions

The National People’s Congress (NPC) is China’s lickspittle-stacked legislature and political advisory body comprising of – I forget – but well into the thousands of government and Communist party reps from all the corners of the Middle Kingdom.

Potentially the top political body acting as a check on over-the-top presidential/party power, the NPC in reality is a theatrical device favoured by bureaucratic dictatorships which not only rubber-stamps the desires of the ruling communists, but does it with totalitarian gloss and panache, displaying the rulers’ prestige and plumage.

At the same time sits the wholly unimportant Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Chosen from across Chinese society for their slavish devotion, the CNPPCC engages in mock debates over pre-selected issues and wields no actual power, has no real influence absolutely no legislative independence and really has no purpose at all other than to annoy and frustrate legendary Aussie (now BBC) China correspondent Stephen McDonell and to serve as the necessary extras to the blockbuster scenes going on in the big kids room.

But this year’s sessions are particularly significant as Xi will be presented with laurel wreath and reveal his plans to reshape a lagging economy, a downbeat nation and rejig the party arty and state institutions that need a short sharp kick.


Now for the fun part(y)

With this congress comes the even funner bit, getting anointed with all the bells and whistles into his 3rd presidential term and finally surrounding his Xi-self with trusted allies, goons and henchmen.

It’s been a good decade of pretending to share and a decade before that of kow-towing to get, at last, the keys to the kingdom – total control of what’s left to have of party, government, private industry, technology, military, economy, and society as 10 days of telling lawmakers what will pass as law and whatever far-reaching, albeit near-sighted reforms Xi sees.

The National People’s Congress (NPC), the velvet-curtained, gold-inlay rubber-stamping shindig which masquerades as China’s parliament, is kicking off in Beijing and its set to rubber-stamp Xi’s pre-guaranteed and thusly not-so-historic 3rd term as president, military chief and party boss.


Xi’s power: the secret source

The secret sauce to the consolidation of that sweet, sweet total power, with the equally guaranteed ascension of his hand-picked executive.

The top of that list and emobodying All That is Xi about Term Number 3: the plucked out of third grade Li Qiang, his outrageous pick as new premier, economic tsar, head of government and Xi’s apparent 2ic.

At last, with the exit of the incumbent premier and the canny political operator, (former president Hu Jintao’s ally) Li Keqiang, the Premier-elect (hoho) Mr Qiang, will officially be confirmed.

But unlike former rival Li Keqiang whose effective sidelining for his entire 2nd 5 year term was actually an achievement (I mean, he wasn’t axed) Li Qiang will be more of a Mr Fixit for Xi. He got the gig by being China’s most stand out lickspittle, Xi’s most fervent loyalist, a hatchet-man far from the recent, almost admirable collective leadership ideaology honed and sharpened from consecutive administrations from Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji to Hu Jintao and (uncle) Premier Wen Jiabao.


I miss Uncle Wen

“The premier under Xi is not what it was before according to the respected China scholar Alfred Wu.

“In the past, the party chief took care of propaganda, security and personnel issues, while the government leader (premier) took care of financial and economic affairs — it was a parallel system, but now, by design, Xi takes care of everything and simply authorises the premier to take care of very specific areas,” Wu said from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at Singapore National University.

The purpose is to remove whatever lines remained between the seperaion of party and state. Xi has always sought to muddy the border between the CCP and the government. His aim, as seen in the strangulation of Big Tech, has been to wrest control of the fruits of China’s undoubted private sector genius and prowess.


What happens next: China will Xi

How that will take from the state and give to the party remains to be seen.

It will involve further control over society. The media. The truth.

As state media itself has gushed in recent days. There is much work to be done to achieve Xi’s dream. It reaches into the fragile bodies which run the nascent communist idea of a finance sector. The far ranging exploration and creation of science and technology. All the while “strengthening party-building work” as it reaches its tentacles deeper into private businesses.

The go to theatrical device for tis work is Xi’s decade long corruption crusade – now a top rating TV show – and it’s making headlines again.

Since October there’s been a fresh bout of strangely evaporating entrepreneurs. And while we did find the top tech dealmaker Bao Fan last week (admittedly in detention), the best measure of Xi’s new use of power will be who’s next, and possible how many.

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