Power Struggle Intensified Within the Chinese Communist Party

October 9, 2021 Updated: October 9, 2021


Xi Jinping is facing stiff opposition from within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in his bid to secure unlimited tenure for himself at the Party’s 20th Congress next year.

By 2022, Xi would have served 10 years as state president. According to the Chinese constitution—which restricted tenure of office to two terms, each lasting for five years—he should be stepping down by the end of next year. Yet, Xi amended the constitution to delete this stipulation. This caused widespread discontent within the CCP itself.

The strong opposition surfaced recently when the Party’s watchdog, the Central Disciplinary Commission (CDC), admitted publicly that there was a plot against Xi.

On Sept. 13, two major news portals in China published the same article that recapped a CDC “morning brief,” which disclosed that a “sinister gang” within the public security bureau tried to make an attempt on Xi’s life.

In the past, there was no lack of hearsay about plots to assassinate Xi, but none were verified. The CDC brief, for the first time, confirmed one such attempt. According to the report, the alleged culprit, Luo Wenjin, was head of the Criminal Police Brigade of the Public Security Bureau of Jiangsu Province. He tried to make the attempt when Xi officiated a commemorative function in Nanjing, the provincial capital. “His criminal activity was smashed by the National Security personnel,” the CDC brief said.

The CDC brief further disclosed that Lai Xiaomin, the former head of China Huarong Asset Management Co., was also behind the plot. This could be the reason why Lai got the death penalty in January for his alleged crimes, leaving many people bewildered at the time. Lai was the first big shot to be executed for corruption charges ever since Xi started his crackdown on the so-called “Big Tigers.”

What’s noteworthy is that Lai was known to have close ties to Zeng Qinghong, the former vice president of China. Zeng was a diehard loyalist of former CCP leader Jiang Zemin. Naturally, this leads to speculations that the Jiang-Zeng faction was indirectly involved in the plot to take down Xi.

Not long after the CDC briefing, another major shake-up took place in the Ministry of Public Security. On Sept. 30, the CDC announced that Sun Lijun, former vice minister of the ministry, was stripped of his posts in the Party and government. On Oct. 2, the CDC announced that Fu Zhenghua, also a former vice minister of the ministry, was held under custody for investigation into his alleged crimes.

When disgracing Sun, the CDC accused him of “unscrupulously criticizing the Party, creating and spreading political rumors, extracting political capital in order to achieve personal ambitions, fostering gangs and factions within the Party, thus seriously undermining the unity and solidarity of the Party and seriously endangering political security.” In a nutshell, Sun was accused of attempting to topple Xi.

While the reason for disgracing Fu has not been announced yet, his ouster followed closely Sun’s downfall. When Sun was disgraced by the CDC on April 19, 2020, Fu lost his job as minister of justice 10 days later. When Sun was formally charged last month, Fu followed suit two days later. This close association led people to speculate that the two men were involved in the same plot.

Both Sun and Fu owed their rise within the Ministry of Public Security to Zhou Yongkang, who in turn owed his position as secretary of the CCP’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission to Jiang Zemin. In China, this body controls the Public Security Ministry, the National Security Ministry, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, and the Supreme People’s Court. It also commands the country’s police force and is considered to be a second armed force next to the military. Zhou used to be member of the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee, the top decision-making body in China.

With the CDC’s rare admission that there was an attempt on Xi’s life, it follows that the harsh words used in accusing Sun could mean an attempt to get rid of Xi.

Another sign that Xi could be in deep trouble is that Caixin Media published a Weibo post on Oct. 2 that openly insinuated the CCP leader. The post had a picture of five pig heads hanging in front of a butcher’s shop, and the caption said that no one would want to establish a strategic partnership with stupid people. In the Chinese language, the pig is usually associated with stupidity. The Chinese people coined many derogative nicknames for Xi, one of which is “Pig’s Head.”

It is a well-known fact that Caixin’s chief editor, Hu Shuli, has close ties to Chinese Vice President, Wang Qishan. During Xi’s first term in office, Wang assisted him in taking down major political opponents one by one. Every time an official was targeted, Caixin would be the first to announce his downfall.

The picture that Caixin published openly mocks Xi. This causes speculation that Wang might be another source of opposition against Xi, after the Jiang-Zeng faction.

Hu is not the first pro-Wang person to openly ridicule Xi. Ren Zhiqiang, Wang’s mentee, openly called Xi “a clown wearing no clothes but insisted that he is the emperor,” borrowing from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Consequently, Ren was sentenced to 18 years in prison in September 2020. Many people interpreted the harsh punishment as Wang’s inability to challenge Xi and to reverse the verdict. Whether Hu would similarly be penalized for publishing the controversial picture is yet another test of Wang’s position vis-à-vis Xi.

All these developments show that Xi’s bid to gain unlimited tenure as the CCP leader is far from settled.

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

Ching Cheong
Ching Cheong is a graduate of the University of Hong Kong. In his decades-long journalism career, he has specialized in political, military, and diplomatic news in Hong Kong, Beijing, Taipei, and Singapore.