Xi Jinping Faces Crisis of CCP Internal Struggle During the Year of Power Transition

Although the CCP expects Xi to step down in 2022, he expects to stay and further upset members
February 18, 2022 Updated: February 20, 2022

Commentary

A controversial report released on Jan. 31 by China’s Beijing University suggests that continued confrontation between the United States and China will lead to total isolation for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and huge losses far beyond those suffered by the United States.

But these are not the biggest worries of CCP leader Xi Jinping—his greatest foes are within his own party.

Public access to the report was swiftly censored by CCP propaganda authorities. However, it can still be found on websites outside China, and is titled “U.S.-China Strategic Competition in the Technology Field: Analysis and Prospects.”

The report discusses how the external problems of the CCP could further exacerbate more serious internal crises, which are what Xi is more concerned about. The existing power struggles between the Party leaders have been a persistent and unresolvable threat to Xi during his entire 10 years in power.

The CCP is notorious for its internal power struggles and how previously failed chairmen have died tragically or alone in prison. These are outcomes that Xi is hoping to avoid.

The CCP often claims the regime was founded on and for the people of China. Yet many realize the CCP was founded on its machine of violence, including the military and police system.

Xi believes intently that the military is the foundation to his power. On the eve of the current Chinese New Year (Jan. 28), he appeared in camouflage as the military’s top commander at the CCP’s Central War Zone Command Center. That zone covers the capital city and stretches across seven provincial administrative regions. It occupies the main north-south and east-west transportation routes of China, and guards Beijing, the ruling hub of the CCP, as its main task.

In the CCP’s logic, control of the central war zone means control of the entire communist regime. And the person with this control, even if just an ordinary Party member, is perceived to have the undeniable strength and qualifications to lead. But despite this logic, elements within the CCP do not perceive Party chief Xi as either strong or qualified.

Xi’s appearance in military garb was politically timed to assert his authority and desire to remain a leader. But to the delight of Xi’s enemies, his official role as a leader (in the Party, government, and military) is set to expire by the end of this year. Contrary to this CCP tradition, Xi intends to oppose his enemies by seeking reelection.

As Xi was delivering his show of strength, Chinese authorities were releasing new developments in the “corruption” cases of 10 high-ranking officials who fell from power. The main charge against the officials was “disloyalty and dishonesty” to the Party Central Committee. In CCP parlance, this meant they were disloyal to Xi. These cases during the Chinese New Year period have exposed an inquisition-like atmosphere within the CCP.

After a decade in power that began in 2012, and relied on strong-arm tactics, Xi has been unable to squash the internal threat of a coup d’état.

At the start of Xi’s rule, before his administration’s plans had been solidified, Zhou Yongkang, a CCP official and member of the Politburo Standing Committee, was arrested for allegedly staging a coup to overthrow Xi. This began Xi’s 10-year “anti-corruption” campaign to punish his political enemies, remove the remnants of the coup, and bring a halt to any further coup attempts.

As a result, the number of fallen officials has multiplied and so has the number of his enemies. But Zhou was not the biggest government figure behind the first coup attempt.

Simone Gao, an investigative China reporter, suggests that Zhou was just the tip of the iceberg. While Xi’s anti-corruption efforts have been extensive, he has not yet reached the most powerful figures who pose the greatest threat to him. In the meantime, his victims and a growing list of new enemies have united to become the so-called anti-Xi forces.

In June 2015, just days after Zhou was sentenced to life in prison, China’s stock market crashed without warning. Within a month, the value of the stock market evaporated by nearly $3 trillion. During the remainder of that year, the market fluctuated wildly ending in a downward trend. The official Chinese media later referred to the events as a “financial crime.”

The relevance of this crash to the early Xi regime is that it may have been orchestrated as a veiled coup attempt by Zeng Qinghong, according to Shi Shan, a Chinese expert and senior writer for the Epoch Times.

Zeng is the former CCP leader who served as vice-premier of the State Council during Jiang Zemin’s reign. Zeng was instrumental in forming the powerful Jiang Faction and is the de facto controller of this political group. Zeng was also a behind-the-scenes leader of the CCP’s secret service system, a role comparable to that of former secret service chief, Premier Zhou Enlai. Zeng’s power and influence permeated all key departments of the Party and the military.

Prior to the 2015 crash, the Xi administration had suspicions about Zeng and began laying the groundwork for a public investigation. But due to the hysteria that arose from the crash and the resulting threat to China’s financial system, the investigation of Zeng was put on hold.

Instead, the Xi administration focused on salvaging the stock market by organizing large state-owned and central enterprises to inject capital. But in an effort to derail Xi’s efforts, Xinhua, the state media controlled by Zeng’s Jiang Faction, published an article declaring “the national team’s rescue was ineffective,” and the stock market continued to fall like a broken elevator.

Xi understood that Zeng had used the market crash and media to coerce him and jeopardize his administration. Likewise, Zeng knew that Xi was a formidable adversary.

“Xi Jinping was at a loss as to what to do, and then compromised with Zeng Qinghong on a large scale. Zeng Qinghong successfully used the stock market crash to coerce Xi Jinping,” Shi Shan said.

“Xi Jinping has gone through many unimaginable crises and even assassinations over the years.”

Last month, while Xi continued his efforts to halt further coup attempts, he focused on Sun Lijun, a former deputy minister of the CCP’s Ministry of Public Security. Sun had been arrested earlier as part of the initial coup attempt. His fate was sealed when the Xi administration leveled two additional charges of “securities manipulation and illegal gun possession.”

Sun’s fall from power was significant since he was charged with using police power to cooperate with Zeng in orchestrating the stock market crash. According to Shi Shan, the “securities manipulation” charge essentially tied Sun to the 2015 crash and exposed Zeng as a lead figure behind the coup group.

Sun had been a close associate of Zeng within the police system. In 2008, he was promoted from deputy director of Foreign Affairs for the Shanghai Health Bureau to deputy director of the General Office of the Ministry of Public Security. Then in March 2013, he was promoted again to director of the First Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security.

From December 2016 until his fall in April 2020, Sun served as director of the Ministry of Public Security for Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan Affairs. Starting in 2018, he was again promoted to concurrently serve as the vice minister of the Ministry of Public Security.

Except for Sun, the Xi administration has failed in prosecuting any additional senior government officials for their role in the 2015 crash. As such, the threat of a coup d’état has not been eliminated. The fear of additional coup attempts will continue to stalk Xi.

Gao believes Xi will have a difficult time attempting to retain his position within the CCP. His unpopular anti-corruption efforts combined with his refusal to comply with the CCP tradition of transitioning power has put him at odds with almost the entire Party bureaucracy.

“Creating one group of enemies after another. The ‘anti-corruption’ campaign will never be finished,” she said.

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

Justin Zhang
Justin Zhang has been analyzing and writing articles on China issues since 2012. He can be contacted at justinzhang1996@gmail.com