Xi Jinping Signals to Purge Jiang’s Faction: China Experts

By Haizhong Ning
Haizhong Ning
Haizhong Ning
Haizhong Ning was a state employee and worked for a real estate company in China, before moving abroad and working as a reporter with a focus on Chinese affairs and politics for more than seven years.
and Luo Ya
Luo Ya
Luo Ya
Luo Ya is a freelance contributor to The Epoch Times.
January 30, 2022Updated: February 2, 2022


A pro-Beijing Chinese language news portal recently published a series of articles, commemorating “the 30th Year of Deng Xiaoping’s South Tour.”

As of Jan. 27, at least nine articles have been published on Beijing-based DW News on Deng’s south tour, which Deng intentionally conducted to voice his policies of the socialist market economy amid intensifying infighting in 1992.

He Qinglian, a Chinese author and economist now living in the United States, noted in her Chinese-language commentary on Jan. 25 that these articles signal Xi Jinping’s plan to target the Jiang Zemin faction and his crony Zeng Qinghong, who were the last remaining force in the CCP that could challenge him.

In her article, He said that many of the DW News articles mentioned Jiang, pointing out that Jiang was not only corrupt but that he was also opposed to Deng’s reform.

“This was the first time Jiang Zemin was regarded as opposing and negating Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening-up line, meaning [Xi’s struggle with Jiang] is now a line struggle,” wrote He.

The CCP has historically used the term “line struggles,” or “two-line struggles,” to refer to infighting among CCP top leaders of different factions or with different views. Former CCP leader Mao Zedong got rid of his opponents during the Cultural Revolution, and before that, in Yan An, in the 1930s.

In these articles, Jiang’s political failures were no longer limited to corruption but elevated to a political height.

Deng’s South Tour and Jiang’s Different Choices

Deng Xiaoping, former top leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), was known for his opening up and reform policies in the late 1970s.

With opening up and reform came corruption and the rise of the CCP’s elite class, who are descendants and families of the CCP’s high-ranking officials. They used their privileged networking and power to make money, triggering grievances among the general public in China.

Student protests broke out in 1989, demanding democracy and the elimination of corruption. But the democratic movement of Chinese students ended in armed suppression by the CCP at the orders of Deng.

Epoch Times Photo
Former Chinese Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping (R) and his successor Jiang Zemin shake hands in October 1992. (AFP/Getty Images)

Amid dissatisfaction among Chinese people, some of the CCP’s top officials thought of turning back to planned economy, and Deng had internal fighting with his opposing colleagues.

In January 1992, he traveled to Shenzhen, a city in China’s southern Guangdong Province bordering Hong Kong.

There, Deng reiterated his socialist market economy policies during his tour. He intentionally released his message through CCP’s mouthpieces in Hong Kong, pressuring his opponents in Beijing to accept his policies.

Jiang Zemin replaced Zhao Ziyang, who was sympathetic with the protesting students, to become CCP’s General Secretary after the Tiananmen Square massacre. Though promoted by Deng, Jiang initially chose to follow the first-generation top echelon, Chen Yun, who was against Deng’s socialist market economy, as Chen’s thinking seemed to echo more support in the CCP at that time.

But the then-military chairman Yang Shangkun chose to support Deng.

According to the CCP’s ideology, the ruling power of the state comes from “the barrel of the gun,” that is, the military. Therefore, Deng, who was 88 years old in 1992 and had resigned from all positions in the CCP and the military, was still regarded as one of the few powerful top leaders with support from the CCP’s military.

He warned his opponents sternly during his tour: “Whoever is against reform must step down,” read an article on DW News on Jan. 26, 2022.

Jiang, seeing Deng’s strength, decided to abandon Chen to follow Deng after Deng’s south tour.

Three Major Forces Against Xi: China Law Scholar

There are currently three major forces that are opposing Xi, according to Yuan Hongbing, a China law scholar now living in Australia.

Yuan said that one force is the staunch supporters of Deng’s reform and opening up, which in fact centers around the economic interests of the CCP’s elite families. The most active representatives are Zhu Rongji and Wen Jiabao, two former Chinese premiers. This force is very influential and has many supporters.

Another force is the princeling faction, who are descendants of prominent or influential CCP echelons. They used to be supportive of Xi, hoping that Xi could save the CCP from the corruption crisis in Jiang’s era. But they want to share the supreme power with Xi, which Xi is reluctant to do. Hence they feel their interests are harmed and become an anti-Xi force.

The third force is Jiang’s clique—Jiang ruled the CCP for more than 20 years, even after Hu Jintao succeeded him as General Secretary. Jiang has formed his own very strong power through corruption, allowing officials and military officers to benefit from the state power and share some interests. Jiang has strong support from those corrupt officials and officers.

Xi’s Two Steps to Purge His Political Rivals

According to Yuan, before the CCP’s Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th National Congress, Xi planned to pass a resolution at the session to negate both Deng’s political line centered on the market economy of the powerful and wealthy elite families and Jiang’s political line centered on the corruption of state power. Xi had hoped to establish himself as a Mao-type “savior” of the CCP by negating his two predecessors who led the country and the party to corruption and brink of destruction.

However, Yuan said, Xi encountered a major setback at the Sixth Plenary Session—from the Sixth Plenary Session communique, Deng’s line was acknowledged instead of being denied, including his socialist market economy theory, anti-personality cult, and anti-life tenure. There was no public negation of Jiang’s line in the communique, either, revealing Xi’s failure to remove Jiang’s influence.

According to sources within the CCP, after the Sixth Plenary Session in November last year, Xi’s supporters concluded that their biggest mistake was that they were doing the denial of Deng’s line and the denial of Jiang’s line at the same time, resulting in the unification of the supporters of Deng Xiaoping’s line and the beneficiaries of Jiang Zemin’s line.

Therefore, Xi followed the advice of his think tank and adjusted his strategy, according to Yuan.

Xi has adopted a two-step strategy to achieve his goal to avoid his political opponents joining forces to fight against him, Yuan said.

The first step is to separate Deng from Jiang. Xi will first focus on defeating Jiang and his faction and gradually remove Jiang’s political influence.

Yuan said that the series of articles published on DW News manifest Xi’s first step. They intend to remind people that Jiang is an opportunist and is not a loyal supporter of Deng. He followed Deng only because he wanted to keep his position.

In addition to that, according to Yuan, Xi wants to send a message to his political peers that Jiang’s corruption practice has led the CCP and its army to the verge of collapse.

But will Xi make some concessions to the princeling families, that is, the second anti-Xi force, in terms of the distribution and sharing of specific benefits? Yuan said this is yet to be seen in Xi’s moves before the CCP’s 20th National Congress.

If Xi achieves his goal of getting rid of Jiang’s influence, he will then go on to remove Deng’s influence in his second step. By then, Xi hopes to establish himself a political status as that of Mao, Yuan has observed.

He Qinglian also commented in her opinion piece that Jiang was a symbol of the opposing forces.

“The various forces discontent with Xi are looking to Jiang’s faction to stand out and confront Xi,” wrote He.

“What Xi needs to do is to prevent the various forces joining strength to fight him. Once Xi gets rid of Jiang—the symbolic opposition, his rivals will have no one to make use of.”

Sophia Lam contributed to the report.

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