Chinese Leader Xi Jinping Faces Pressure From Within the Military 

December 28, 2020 Updated: December 30, 2020


Chinese leader Xi Jinping attended a military ceremony on Dec. 18 at the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s headquarters in Beijing. Four generals were newly appointed and honored at the event. But it appeared as if Xi lacked enthusiasm, judging from the news video footage of Beijing’s mouthpiece Xinhua. What was behind the grim expression on Xi’s face and why wasn’t he in a celebratory mood? Perhaps he is under a lot of pressure and is faced with obstacles at home and abroad.

Xi Asserts His Authority Through the Military

Amid the infighting among political factions within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Xi took the opportunity to show the Party that he commanded the military by appointing new generals. As the chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the move would secure Xi’s authority and serve as a warning to those who oppose him.

Xinhua reported that on Dec. 18, Xi presented the officers with certificates of order at a ceremony held by the CMC at the Defense Ministry’s Bayi building, located near Bayi lake in Beijing. Four senior officers were promoted to the rank of general, the highest rank for officers in active service in China. Around 30 people attended the ceremony which was held in a small conference room.

The four officers who were promoted were: Guo Puxiao, the political commissar of the Logistics Support Department of the CMC; Gen. Zhang Xudong, the commander of the Western Theater Command; Li Wei, the political commissar of the PLA Strategic Support Force; and Wang Chunning, the commander of the People’s Armed Police.

Guo Puxiao, a native of Yaoxian county, Shaanxi Province, was transferred and assigned as political commissar of the Logistics Support Department of the CMC in December 2019. He has been a political cadre of the Air Force for many years. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general in July 2018.

Zhang Xudong has just been transferred and assigned to the commander of the Western Theater Command, one of China’s five military area commands. Xudong was also the deputy commander of the Joint Command Headquarters of the 70th anniversary National Day Parade in October 2019. He was promoted to lieutenant general in July 2018.

Li Wei has just been transferred to the political commissar of the Strategic Support Force, one of the six major branches of the military. He has been a political cadre for many years. He was promoted to lieutenant general in July 2016.

Wang Chunning has just been promoted to the commander of the armed police force. His father Wang Yongming was a lieutenant general. After Xi came to power, Wang transferred the armed police force to the Military Commission. The move suggests that Xi has always been worried about a coup and wanted to surround himself with loyal officers.

International Pressure

At the press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Communist Party of China on Dec. 18, a reporter from Reuters asked: “The United States will add around 80 Chinese companies, including chipmaker SMIC to a trade blacklist. … Do you have any comment on this report?”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that if the report was true, then the U.S. move would be “detrimental to the interests of both Chinese and American companies, the normal technological exchanges and trade flows between the two countries and even on a global scale, and the stability of global industrial chains, supply chains, and value chains.”

SMIC office
A security officer stands outside a building of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation during its grand opening in Shanghai, China, on Nov. 22, 2001. (Reuters)

Wang’s response reveals that the latest round of U.S. sanctions is unprecedented in scale. On Dec. 18, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it had included dozens of Chinese companies on a trade blacklist, including China’s largest chip manufacturer SMIC, and restricted its access to key U.S. technologies. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross stated, “We will not allow advanced U.S. technology to help build the military of an increasingly belligerent adversary.”

“Entity List restrictions are a necessary measure to ensure that China, through its national champion SMIC, is not able to leverage U.S. technologies to enable indigenous advanced technology levels to support its destabilizing military activities,” Ross added.

The Trump administration’s consecutive sanctions against the CCP should be directly related to the regime’s interference in the U.S. presidential election. Xi has no countermeasures and can only try to conceal his missteps.

The CCP’s army refused to participate in a virtual meeting with the U.S. military that was scheduled for Dec. 14 to 16. The meeting was held regularly since 1998 to discuss maritime and aviation safety and reduce confrontation between the two militaries. Beijing’s refusal to attend the meeting is another misstep for Xi, which is tantamount to intensifying the military confrontation between the United States and China.

“The PRC’s refusal to show up to MMCA [Military Maritime Consultative Agreement] is another example that China does not honor its agreements, and this should serve as a reminder to all nations as they pursue agreements with China going forward,” said Adm. Phil Davidson, the Commander for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

The U.S. Navy recently announced that U.S. warships trained with French and Japanese navies in the Philippine sea. On Dec. 9, Xi had a telephone conversation with President Emmanuel Macron of France, but the Party media’s report was very low-key. Perhaps Beijing is starting to feel isolated.

China could be facing an energy crisis as coal imports from Australia have been banned due to trade disputes between both countries. The Chinese regime recently took away iron ore projects from three Australian mining firms. With a shortage in China’s coal supply, heating has become a problem, especially in the winter, and authorities have to limit power usage.

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc, Beijing is making headlines with its vaccines as experts question their effectiveness. But China continues to export vaccines to third world countries while they order vaccines from the United States. Is China truly helping the international community to fight the pandemic as Xi has claimed?

Under Xi’s leadership, China is becoming more isolated from the international community. The state-run media recently touted that the CCP has achieved its goal of poverty alleviation in 2020, but netizens are in disbelief. Under these circumstances, how can the Chinese people continue to believe the CCP? The pressure continues to build up for Xi.

Yang Wei has been closely following China affairs for many years. He has been contributing political commentary on China for the Chinese language Epoch Times since 2019.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.