Xi Jinping will present a historic resolution at this week’s sixth plenum of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 19th Central Committee.
To Xi or not to Xi; that is the question for China (and the world).
Apologies to William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” but that phrase fits the present times like a glove. Consider the first lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy in the context of Xi who is approaching the end of his second five-year term in office:
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.
Xi has supposedly read Goethe’s “Fauste” and other “world masterpieces,” according to China’s state-run media Xinhua. Has he read Shakespeare, too? If so, what must Xi be thinking about in terms of the “slings and arrows”—the unpleasant events—that have littered his path to glory over the past decade? Are they of his own making, or were such events as the COVID-19 outbreak, the apparent bursting of the domestic property bubble, and the increasing awareness worldwide of Chinese belligerence and bellicosity “inevitable”? And what to do? Continue the present course of action, double down, retrench, or “take arms against a sea of troubles”? Or does Xi’s megalomania prevent any rational examination of courses of action, other than domestic repression, in order to guarantee CCP control for the foreseeable future, with also an external focus on consolidation of overseas Chinese into mainland China (Taiwan being the next target)?
This is a big week for Xi, as he makes his case for an unprecedented third five-year term in power at the sixth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the CCP. The groundwork has been laid for a “historic resolution” that Xi intends will chart China’s future in continuing the supposed benefits of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Increasingly, Xi’s definition of those “Chinese characteristics” are coming into clear view, both domestically in China and also on the world scene.
The number three (and multiples thereof) retain important historical significance—and even superstition and luck—in Chinese culture. The number three represents Buddha and stands for Heaven, Earth, and human being. Confucius once said, “Three people are walking together; at least one of them is good enough to be my teacher.”
There are a lot of “threes” in Chinese culture and history, for example:
• The Three Sovereigns (and Five Emperors)
• The Three Kingdoms (Wu, Wei, and Shu Han)
• The Three Gorges of the Yangtze River
• The Three great sages (Lao Tzu, Confucius, and Mo-tsu)
• Mao Zedong’s Three Warfares
• The Three U.S.-China communiques
Xi seeks to capitalize on the luck and superstition surrounding the number three with a third five-year term in office and a third historical resolution, which would together elevate him as the “third paramount leader” along with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping—in effect a trifecta or triple threes! The confluence of luck and superstition among that triple three is certainly off the charts.
Mao’s resolution completed his purge of his political opponents as part of the “Rectification Movement.” Deng’s resolution rectified the chaos after the Cultural Revolution and set China on course to incorporate “market mechanisms” into the Chinese economy. Xi’s resolution is expected to lay the groundwork for his third five-year term by touting the progress that China has made during his first two terms, as well as providing clarity on what he means by the next stage of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” If his resolution is presented and accepted by the sixth plenum, that will signal that the CCP’s 20th National Party Congress (China’s rubber-stamp legislature) in 2022 will almost certainly endorse Xi’s third term.
But neither the Chinese people nor the rest of the world will be so lucky if the sixth plenum rubber stamps what state-run Chinese media are speculating about Xi’s resolution.
Some of those “Chinese characteristics” that Xi is so fond of include the following:
• Purification of the CCP and elimination of dissent within (with a distinct nod to Mao Zedong).
• The implementation of “whole democracy,” which translates into a reduction of freedoms for the average Chinese in order to “guarantee” perpetual CCP control of the country in all ways.
• Tightening of domestic surveillance through the implementation of a social controls system.
• Increased domestic censorship of journalists and citizens.
• Use of the new national security law as a legal framework to control overseas Chinese (and others).
• Continued repression of minority populations.
• Continued suppression of religious expression–except when made on the CCP’s terms, which includes virtual deification of Xi.
• Accelerated modernization and expansion of all elements of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and its use in intimidating neighboring nations.
• A doubling down on Xi’s strategic initiatives, including the Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Development Initiative, at the expense of the rest of the world.
• Efforts to corrupt and replace the existing international system with a new framework dominated and controlled by the CCP.
China’s internal problems are non-trivial and include the following:
- A real estate sector bubble.
- A demographic nightmare—thanks to arbitrary past forced limitations on the number of children per family by the CCP.
- Turmoil in the financial sector caused by CCP-directed opaqueness and the unraveling of the myth of “leveraged prosperity.”
- The tightening of rules and regulations on technology and other sectors.
- The unknown impact of the property tax pilot on the economy.
- Domestic concerns about long-term food security and energy supplies.
- The CCP’s increasing focus on “wealth redistribution” as opposed to economic growth.
- Companies relocating out of China, and more.
Furthermore, the Chinese regime’s rising military and economic power, as well as the increasing CCP propensity to leverage that power to achieve geopolitical and military goals, is expediting the creation of various coalitions of nations that intend to balance and counteract that power, including India, Australia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and the United States. PLA intimidation of India and Taiwan in particular is awakening world leaders to the long-term CCP threat.
Has Xi already chosen Hamlet’s option to “take arms against a sea of troubles” as summarized above? What could Xi’s definition of “take arms” possibly be? A cross-strait attack on Taiwan could be in the offing in order to achieve a long-held CCP goal to absorb the remnant into the mainland. Such an attack would certainly refocus Chinese citizens away from their domestic problems, as well as provide the CCP with some prestige at home. But that is unlikely to happen before Xi has cemented his three threes at next year’s CCP Party Congress. After that, all bets are off.
The world may very probably hope that the number three is not as lucky for Xi as he seems to think it is.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.