Op-Ed by Neenah Payne
Xi Jinping became president of China in 2013. Since the Chinese constitution was revised in 2018 to remove term limits for presidents, Xi may serve past his term ending in 2023 – perhaps for life! That has implications for the world. Most leaders have a vision for their nation. Trump’s vision is to “Make America Great Again”. President Xi has a vision for his country called the “China Dream”. However, Xi also has an expansive vision for the world. For that reason, he may be the world’s first global leader – the first CEO of the world. His dreams are revolutionizing not just China – but whole continents.
Xi’s vision for Africa includes massive investments in its infrastructure – building roads, highways, schools, universities, wells, airports, hospitals, and manufacturing centers. It’s a win-win proposition because China needs Africa’s mineral resources to industrialize – and buying them drives up the prices for Africa. China is part of the BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – a strong counter-weight to the Washington Consensus, IMF, World Bank, and European Union. Xi’s plan for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aka New Silk Road links 65 nations in Asia, Africa, and Europe in a reprisal of the old Silk Road for which China was famous for 1,000 years. China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is an alternative for developing nations to reliance on the International Monetary Fund or World Bank for loans which have imposed often punitive conditions.
The 2016 book Xi Jinping’s China Renaissance: Historical Mission and Great Power Strategy says that Xi is sounding the call for a Chinese Renaissance which is the most important issue in the 21st century as well as the most significant historical event in China’s 5,000 years. It points out:
Like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, Xi Jinping is influencing the course of Chinese history, and his renaissance strategy will have a vast and far-reaching impact on China and the world.
The 2018 book The World According to Xi: Everything You Need to Know About the New China says:
China is now the most powerful country on earth. Its manufacturing underpins the world’s economy; its military is growing at the fastest rate of any nation and its leader — Xi Jinping — is to set the pace and tone of world affairs for decades. In 2017, Xi Jinping became part of the constitution — an honour not seen since Chairman Mao. Here, China expert Kerry Brown guides us through the world according to Xi.
So, the world needs to take a close look at Xi now to understand where he’s headed.
China In the Era of Xi Jinping
The 2017 book CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping reveals:
China has become the powerhouse of the world economy….since the election of Xi Jinping…life at the top in China has changed. Under the guise of a corruption crackdown, which has seen his rivals imprisoned, Xi Jinping has been quietly building one of the most powerful leaderships modern China has ever seen. CEO China reveals the hidden story of the rise of the man dubbed the ‘Chinese Godfather’. Xi Jinping’s China is powerful, aggressive and single-minded and this book will become a must-read for the Western world.
The 2017 book China’s World: What Does China Want? warns:
In the next decade, China’s actions on the world stage will affect us all. A new superpower, with the largest population and GDP on the globe, there are now fears that China is becoming more assertive….Brown also assesses China’s extraordinary plan to create a `New Silk Road’ across Central Asia, one of the biggest infrastructure projects in modern history. In doing so he seeks to answer a simple question: what does China want? The answer lies in the unique way China thinks about the world….China’s World is an essential read for the Western world.
The 2015 book The Xi Jinping Era: His Comprehensive Strategy Toward the China Dream says:
China’s development has entered a new phase since the era of Mao and Deng Xiaoping. Its GDP has grown to more than 10 trillion US dollars, twice that of Japan’s and close to that of the United States; and Chinese diplomacy has taken on a more active profile as the nation moves towards superpower status on the world stage.… Xi Jinping …has developed a new philosophy of governance to confront these challenges. The result is a 30-year plan that is the roadmap to The China Dream, which has led to various programs such as…. the “Belt and Road Initiatives” meant to improve domestic infrastructure and broaden Chinese economic influence on the world stage….provides a preview of what we might expect from China in the Xi Jinping Era.
The 2016 book China in the Era of Xi Jinping: Domestic and Foreign Policy Challenges points out:
Since becoming president of China and general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping has emerged as China’s most powerful and popular leader since Deng Xiaoping. The breathtaking economic expansion and military modernization that Xi inherited has convinced him that China can transform into a twenty-first-century superpower.
Xi Jinping: Geo-Political Master or Strong Man?
The 2016 book Great Power Leader Xi Jinping: International Perspectives on China’s Leader highlights:
Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, is an historical figure who is taking China onto the world center stage.
Xi Jinping has reshaped China. On corruption, he is impartial and merciless, refusing to do anything with relatives and friends, so that the most daring forecasters were amazed; On economic reform, he is bold and resolute, and won praise as the chief architect of China’s economy; on military issues, he initiated the boldest reforms since the Chinese Communist Party has been in power and the Chinese military is rapidly becoming stronger.
He is also known as the new geo-political master. Since AIIB (Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank) was established, the United States and Japan have suffered the biggest diplomatic setbacks for decades, dramatically changed the international financial landscape. His “One Belt & One Road” initiative will profoundly change the international balance and will have a more far-reaching impact than the “Marshall Plan”. Calm, pragmatic, firm but gentle…. Xi Jinping is a great power leader who accepts the responsibility and has demonstrated the ability to make daring decisions. His books on governing China have sold in hundreds of countries all over the world. In his state visits to foreign countries, his casual speech and charm demonstrate soft power.
As Xi has become the world’s most powerful man, there are growing concerns about his abuse of that power at home and abroad in various ways. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Protests Against “Emperor Xi”
The 2018 Taiwan News article Chinese netizens compare Xi’s rule to Qing Dynasty included a cover from The Economist and said:
After lawmakers in China’s rubber stamp congress on Sunday (March 11) removed presidential term limits, thus enabling Xi Jinping to possibly serve for life, some Chinese netizens have decried the move as a return to the Qing Dynasty.
Yesterday, 2,958 out of 2,964 members of China’s National People’s Congress in Beijing voted in approval of a package of constitutional amendments that included the removal of a restriction limiting the president to two terms only, a system put in place by Deng Xiaoping in 1982 as an attempt to prevent a repeat of the brutal, lifelong dictatorship of Mao Zedong.
Independent Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said, “This marks the biggest regression in China’s legal system since the reform and opening-up era of the 1980s,” reported Associated Press.
Hu Jia, a Beijing-based activist, described the amendment as “illegal,” according to AFP. Hu called out Xi’s hypocrisy in calling for the people to obey the constitution, while he used it to make himself immune to it.
Though the top cadres in China claim that the removal of term limits for Xi was called for by the “the masses,” no such referendum by the ordinary citizens of China had been put forward. In fact, the amendment was kept a secret until state-run media revealed it on Feb. 25, one week before the congress was to convene.
Since the proposal of amendment was first made public, China’s censorship army has been working in overdrive to block terms such as “I disagree,” “emperor,” and even images of the cartoon character Winnie the Pooh, as his portly figure had humorously been compared to the chubby bear.
Chinese students studying abroad in the Unites States and other countries are speaking out against the power grab of President Xi Jinping with a campaign entitled #NotMyPresident and also using the slogans and hash tag #IDISAGREE (#我不同意). The campaign can be followed at the twitter account @STOPXIJINPING.”
Four Major Concerns About Xi
The following four issues in Xi’s presidency are raising major concerns in China and abroad:
- Revision of Constitution: Under Xi, the Chinese constitution was revised in 2018 to remove term limits for the presidency. Those limits were put in place by Deng Xiaoping to avoid the abuses that occurred under Mao Zedong.
- Genocide of Uighur: China is reportedly carrying out a genocide of the Uighur, a Muslim population in Western China. That huge territory is mineral rich and the Uighur stand in the way of Xi’s plan for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aka “The New Silk Road”.
- New Silk Road Abuses: There are multiple reported abuses by China of many nations all along the New Silk Road. China is forcing nations to pay for huge infrastructure they don’t need – and is then requiring that they pay 12% interest on the loans for those massive projects. See China’s New Silk Road: Abuses Abound.
- Social Credit Score: Starting this year, Chinese citizens are assigned a “Social Credit Score” based on their behavior. A poor credit score can bar people from using trains or planes for a year and from attending certain schools. See America Must Understand China’s Global Vision.
Time magazine’s article China’s Lurch Toward One-Man Rule Under Xi Jinping Should Worry Us All says:
China has ramped up censorship and clamped down on dissent since Xi, 64, took power in late 2012, coupled with incessant trolling of Western democracy as unstable, unpredictable and unable to deliver the goods…. The question remains whether China is set to repeat past mistakes where unquestioning observance to its leadership contributed to disasters like the Great Leap Forward of the 1950s and Cultural Revolution a decade later…. “It’s another piece of evidence that says be worried about a China led by Xi Jinping,” says Bisley. “Because if he’s happy to do this at home, then boy is he going to be happy to do it abroad.
Will The Coronavirus Derail China?
The coronavirus is a potentially devastating health threat and an economic threat to China and the world. It also threatens to undermine the political efficacy of President Xi’s autocratic rule.
The Time magazine article Coronavirus Could Derail Xi’s Dreams For China warns:
The novel coronavirus known as 2019-nCoV threatens more than the 24,000 people known to be infected as of Feb. 4 or the 492 it has killed. It also looms over the national rejuvenation project of President Xi Jinping and the rigid, top-down rule being tested by all that the disease brings with it, including distrust in a population the government pledged to keep safe. Since China belatedly acknowledged the severity of the outbreak, every organ of the Chinese state has been harnessed to enforce an unprecedented quarantine on 50 million people across 15 cities. China’s government has unleashed a 1 billion yuan ($142 million) war chest to fight the outbreak amid a frenzy of construction work that, among other feats, erected a 1,000-bed hospital in just 10 days.
The article adds:
Transparency is essential to public health. But in China, doctors who reported the reality of the outbreak have been arrested for “spreading rumors.” Officials were pictured pocketing supplies meant for frontline medical staff, who were reduced to cutting up office supplies for makeshift surgical masks….In the fall of 2017, Xi took the podium at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People to claim that China’s version of one-party autocracy offered an option for “countries that want to speed up their development while preserving their independence.” Western democracy was messy and flawed, the argument went. In the years since that speech, China’s hubris has grown, nurtured by the tumultuous U.S. presidency of Donald Trump and the disintegration of the multilateral world order. But the coronavirus crisis threatens to rattle China’s authoritarian apparatus. “A major test of China’s system and capacity for governance” senior party chiefs called it on Feb. 3.
The article discusses the threat the virus poses beyond health:
The 2019-nCoV outbreak is infecting some 2,000 people daily in China and has spread to at least 25 countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a “global health emergency.” And the fear is not limited to health. Global commerce now hinges on China’s $14.55 trillion economy, which in turn is governed by an opaque, authoritarian regime tightly coalesced around one man. Xi, burnished by a resurgent cult of personality, has amassed more power than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. He has leveraged Beijing’s economic clout to forward ambitions at home and abroad but also has struggled as no previous leader. “Since Xi came to power, problem after problem have occurred on his watch that he seems unable to effectively manage,” says Jude Blanchette, a China analyst at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. These include popular unrest in semiautonomous Hong Kong, a disruptive trade war with the U.S. and now an unfolding health crisis.”
The article concludes:
For decades, the sales pitch for China’s single-party rule was the superior performance of its political system when faced with both short-term crises and long-term challenges.
It built thousands of miles of high-speed rail and helped drag hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. By 2022, McKinsey predicts 550 million Chinese will be able to call themselves middle class–about 1.5 times the current U.S. population. Still, that benevolent narrative has deteriorated under Xi. Now the coronavirus threatens to undermine further his mission to have China stake out the next century as America did the last.
How China Controls America Now
In The Daily Show video The NBA Takes Heat From China Over Tweet, host Trevor Noah reported that China lashed out at the National Basketball Association over a tweet by Daryl Morey, manager of the Houston Rockets, that supported Hong Kong pro-democracy protests. The video shows that fans were also ejected from a game for chanting support for Hong Kong.
When the NBA was criticized for caving into China, it tried to walk a very thin line. China responded by cancelling a Brooklyn Nets game at a Shanghai school and by pulling down huge Lakers and Nets posters. In addition, two major Chinese retailers pulled Houston Rockets merchandise from their websites. China’s state TV announced that it won’t broadcast or stream NBA pre-season games in China. In addition, China is cancelling NBA events. So, China has gone to war with the NBA over a single tweet!
The response by the NBA to threats by China was just the tip of the iceberg as one company after another has bowed to China. Businesses are willing to do so because they don’t want to lose access to over a billion Chinese customers!
Noah reported that the following companies issued apologies to China for various perceived offenses:
- Delta Airlines
- Mercedes Benz
- The Gap
In addition, Noah explained that China’s influence is now affecting how Americans can act on American soil! In a basketball match in Philadelphia between he 76ers and a Chinese team, an American man and his wife were evicted for displaying signs supporting the Hong Kong protests and chanting “Free Hong Kong!” However, NBA-China outrage reveals how free speech is being crushed by Washington’s new Cold War shows how complex this situation really is. There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye!
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