How Chinese Leader Xi, Insecure About His Rule, Tried to Resolve Beijing’s Diplomatic Crises

December 22, 2020 Updated: December 30, 2020

Commentary

With U.S. sanctions being announced against Chinese companies and officials one by one, Chinese regime leader Xi Jinping’s attempts to recover after such diplomatic disasters seemed to have failed. Xi did not appear in public for many days.

On Dec. 11, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Politburo, comprised of top officials, suddenly met up and discussed “security issues,” according to state media reports. This suggested that Xi had many things to worry about.

Just weeks ago, on Nov. 30, the Politburo had convened, while the Politburo Standing Committee—the Party’s top decision-making body—met on Dec. 3. Having two general meetings and one standing committee meeting within 12 days is rather unusual.

Was Xi trying to save himself from a bigger political crisis within the Party?

Self-Affirmation

According to state-run media Xinhua’s report, during the Dec. 11 Politburo meeting, officials discussed the Party’s anti-corruption investigations.

Xinhua’s report quoted Xi as saying: “Faced with a complex and volatile environment internationally and formidable tasks in promoting reform, development, and stability at home, especially the severe impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, China has achieved progress that is satisfactory to the people and has attracted global attention.”

Xi of course had to praise his own “high-quality work.” It’s meant to ease any internal complaints.

Interestingly, the biggest problems currently facing the CCP’s top leaders—undoubtedly U.S.-China relations and international relations—were not discussed at recent meetings, according to state media’s accounts. This abnormal phenomenon could be interpreted as either the Party could not come up with a solution, or the internal disputes were simply too big to be revealed.

Xi also hosted a forum on Dec. 8 for non-Party members. But his comments at the forum were not published by Xinhua until Dec. 11—when the Politburo meeting took place. His comments were along the same lines.

The timing suggests Xi had an ulterior motive for this aside from the self-praise.

Raise the Anti-Corruption Issue Again

Xi’s remarks at the Dec. 11 meeting must serve another important purpose: to shut everyone up. And it takes the “big stick” of the Party’s anti-corruption agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), to achieve this.

The interesting part about Xinhua’s report is that though a large portion of the remarks was about the economy, anti-corruption was outlined as the number one issue on the list.

The meeting emphasized “putting forward new requirements for the comprehensive and strict governance of the Party, [how to] construct a … clean government, and fight against corruption,” Xinhua reported.

Reading between the lines, officials at all levels will understand that this means anyone who dares to go against the Xi leadership will undoubtedly become a political target. The phrases to describe CCDI’s tasks have also changed from “anti-corruption” to “political inspection” and “investigating political issues.” With this great stick, no one would dare to doubt Xi.

Foreign Ministry Comes to the Rescue

On the diplomatic front, China’s foreign minister came to Xi’s aide.

On Dec. 13, Wang Yi delivered a keynote speech at a forum on China’s foreign relations in Beijing hosted by research institutes.

Wang praised Xi for “rising up to the challenges … become responsible to the country and do its part for the world,” according to Xinhua reports on the event.

Xi had to maintain the positive image both domestically and abroad. He, of course, could not admit to any missteps or misjudgments.

The series of Xinhua reports suggest that Xi has continued to gamble on maintaining power, but the piling sanctions imposed by the United States has left him at a loss.

The attempt at saving face did not actually help Xi to escape the crisis.

On Dec. 10, Wang Chen, vice chairman of the Standing Committee in charge of the CCP’s rubber-stamp legislature—who had just been sanctioned by the United States for his role in curtailing freedoms in Hong Kong—attended a dinner held by the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

Wang still had to put on a show despite the punishment by U.S. authorities.

The reality is, with limits on tech transfers, drastic changes to supply chains, and sanctions on Chinese companies, the country’s economic recovery is hopeless.

Lack of Security

State-run newspaper People’s Daily explained what top officials discussed during the Politburo’s study session on “security issues.”

It accurately reflects Xi’s concerns about his grasp of power at the time.

According to the report, Xi said that the Party was born at a time of “internal and external troubles,” and it has “an unforgettable understanding” of the importance of security during such times.

Xi said the Party must “persist in making political security a priority and maintain the regime’s security.”

Indeed, the CCP has always been concerned about internal and external crises throughout its history. To maintain its ruling is its priority. And today’s crisis is unprecedented.

Xi’s demands are to protect both the Party and his personal power. It seems that although he thought he had a way to save himself, he is still extremely worried. He refused to admit his mistakes, but he could not really resolve the internal and external conflicts. He could only use “security” as an excuse to suppress the internal conflicts further. Can he really survive this crisis?

Zhong Yuan is a researcher focused on China’s political system, the country’s democratization process, human rights situation, and Chinese citizens’ livelihood. He began writing commentaries for the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times in 2020.

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