Xi Jinping Faces Growing Internal Dissent—But Does It Matter?

Party divisions, business distrust, and social turmoil rising under Xi’s leadership
October 26, 2021 Updated: October 27, 2021

Commentary

As the leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Xi Jinping bears full responsibility for the Party decisions and how they shape the nation. Today, Xi is facing a Party driven by disunity from a variety of external challenges, policy disputes, and economic crises within China. That explains the rumors of rebellion and distrust for Xi within the Party hierarchy.

The pushback is primarily due to the fact that Xi has had a direct hand in creating most of the problems that plague China of late. Moreover, it appears that his responses and policy decisions have only made things worse, as well as threaten the position of the top echelon of the Party leadership.

Stupidity Reigns and Rains

One recent and relevant example of poor policymaking is Beijing’s response to Australia’s call for an investigation into the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. Xi’s counter move to punish Canberra’s “unacceptable” but perfectly reasonable behavior was to put an embargo on Australian coal in November of 2020.

Sounds reasonable, right?

The problem? China is heavily dependent on Australian coal. In 2019-20, Australia accounted for 55 percent of China’s metallurgical coal imports and over a third of China’s premium metallurgical coal exports. Cutting that supply off without planning for the consequences didn’t make any sense then or now, but that’s exactly what happened.

The immediate outcome was predictable. The combination of higher prices and lower supplies created market distortions in the Chinese coal market. As a result, coal prices in China rose to $400 million per million tons, while the rest of the world paid only $250 million per million tons.

That in itself made life difficult for Chinese manufacturers, but the ripple effect went far beyond declining factory output. Rolling blackouts across China occurred, as did water shortages and other related power outage hardships. Full factory stoppages were rampant, which of course meant that workers didn’t get paid.

The People Suffer and Get Angry

Not surprisingly, the people, not the CCP, suffered from the consequences of Xi’s policy. Consumer sentiment turned negative and consumer spending dropped, putting social stability at risk. That resulted in a fall in year-over-year GDP and a loss of prestige for the Party.

To make matters worse, dozens of China’s coal factories and mines were shut down due to a string of fatalities at various mines. Furthermore, Mongolian supply routes were closed due to the pandemic.

Xi’s myopic response to Australia not only brought hardship to his people, but also pushed Australia directly into the AUKUS alliance. In short, one policy decision created losses for China in every conceivable way.

Wealth Redistribution–or Maoism Reborn?

But other policies are also proving problematic within the CCP. Xi’s wealth redistribution plan is another good example and one that is threatening the cohesion of the Party.

On the one hand, Xi has proclaimed to have solved the widespread poverty problem in China—it’s a much-needed feather in his national leader cap. On the other hand, Xi’s domestic policy of “common prosperity” demands that wealth from state-owned enterprises to be shared with more people in less fortunate areas of the economy as a way to close the income gap. The kicker is that the income gap has only widened under Xi’s leadership.

From the perspective of the rich CCP members and in the business world, the wealth distribution aspect of “common prosperity” smacks of a “wealth dilution” plan, targeting those in the Party and business leaders with substantial wealth, power, and influence.

Indeed, is there any other way to see it?

Xi has already imprisoned Party members and business moguls who critiqued his policies and threatened his status with public ridicule. Naturally, those targeted are strongly resisting the new social policy proposal.

On the social level, “common prosperity” appears to be a nod toward investment in neglected rural areas along with access to capital to the average person. It could be viewed as a way to garner more public support at the grassroots level, which it is.

But is it really a means of undercutting powerful Party rivals and rich, arrogant business people?

Both interpretations are likely correct.

There are even more implications to this policy that divide the Party. The notion that Xi himself is starting to dictate the terms on which wealth is made and distributed in China is a departure from the way the system has worked for decades. To some, it has the appearance of the resurrection of Maoism in China.

Epoch Times Photo
A decorative plate featuring an image of Chinese leader Xi Jinping is seen behind a statue of late communist leader Mao Zedong at a souvenir store next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Feb. 27, 2018. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

Many CPP members suspect that Xi seeks to stir up old class warfare ghosts that Mao used to justify the socially destructive Cultural Revolution and purges of “counter-revolutionary forces” in the society at large, and in particular, within the Party. Some have already noted that Xi’s new policy has the makings of a new cultural revolution and the purges that follow.

Purges, Personality, and Paranoia

Indeed, the purges have already begun among the wealthy business owners and within the police force, the military, and even in the Party itself. Disloyalty—not to the Party, nor to the country—but to Xi himself, is evidently a high crime that comes with stiff punishment.

This is neither a new phenomenon in communist regimes, nor among dictatorships of any and all stripes. Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Mao Zedong were all consumed with paranoia across every moment and instance of their being, as was Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and others.

That’s the nature of dictatorship. Why should Xi Jinping be any different?

Xi certainly believes that he is, but he isn’t. Rather, he’s just the latest in a long line of dreary potentates who imagine themselves to be different than those who came before them. Perhaps in small ways he is, but the template is fixed and he has bound himself—and seeks to bind China—within it.

So far, Xi is succeeding.

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

James Gorrie
James R. Gorrie is the author of “The China Crisis” (Wiley, 2013) and writes on his blog, TheBananaRepublican.com. He is based in Southern California.