In the last two years of his presidency, Xi Jinping has unleashed onto China the biggest anti-corruption campaign in Communist Party history and the most intense crackdown on free speech in decades.
Now, new disciplinary rules are aiming to crush internal dissent within the party.
These rules already have led to the firing of a party newspaper editor and a senior police officer on the grounds of “improper discussion” of government policy.
Many analysts believe Xi’s quest for complete control and centralization of power may backfire and bring about disaster for the country.
Today, hard-liners are openly praising Xi as moderates bite their tongues before voicing concerns.
Xi is surrounding himself with people who tell him what he wants to hear while ignoring everything else.
“Xi is conceited and refuses to listen to second opinions,” said Willy Wo-lap Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in an interview with the Washington Post. “He has chosen to live in an isolated space, surrounded by flatterers. He has no idea what is going on in the real world.”
Xi has vowed to pull 70 million people out of poverty by 2020. The plan isn’t really working, but officials in one district feared showing visiting superiors that they were not following the president’s instructions. So, they dressed children in white plastic fertilizer bags “to stand on a hill and appear like sheep,” to give the impression the area was prospering.
Xi is also undermining the benefits of collective government and weakening his own party in his quest for centralization of power.
The new disciplinary policies led to the arrest of prominent party leader Zhao Xinwei, editor of the Xinjaing Daily. His offense: the president didn’t like his commentary on China’s policies in the already troubled Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang.
The deputy police chief in Zhanjiang was dismissed after posting on social media comments critical of the “one party, two systems” rule.
Many also point to foreign-policy blunders that may have been prevented had opposition managed to reach Xi.
They point to such instances as China’s declaration of an air-defense identification zone in the East China Sea in 2012 to further legitimize its territorial claims. That move caused Japan to increase defense spending and update its constitution as to give the military more opportunity to support allies.
In 2014, China placed an oil rig in contested waters claimed by Vietnam. That move infuriated Hanoi and caused it to seek military support from an old foe: the United States.
Some analysts say Xi is ushering back in the dark days of the Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution.
Those times saw tens of millions die through famine or political purges.
Many senior party leaders were killed for simply telling Mao the truth.