Following his crackdown on corruption which strained his ties with senior officials, China’s
President Xi Jinping is on the road to rebuilding political bridges and gathering support ahead of the 19th Party Congress in 2017.
One of those stops included a visit earlier this year to the funeral of Deng Liqun, a one-time propaganda minister and fierce enemy of Xi’s father. Funerals have a distinct place in Chinese politics.
“Deng Liqun was a leftist and Xi Zhongxun a rightist” They were political enemies since … the 1950s,” said an inside source who spoke with Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Nonetheless, the president bowed three times before Liqun’s body.
In China, leftists tend to oppose market-oriented reforms while rightists are more liberal minded.
“Xi went because he needs leftists in his fight against corruption,” the source said.
That fight against corruption, as Reuters points out, drew Xi to walking a tight rope. Last June, he managed to jail security tsar Zhou Yongkang for corruption. The conservative heavyweight will be doing life in prison.
Xi is also taking time to reach out to the political right.
The party had banned a public service for Zeng Yanxiu, the first party member purged in the 1957 movement against liberal intellectuals.
Sources say the service was blocked because it coincided with the annual full session of parliament, but the president sent a wreath.
Xi also attended the funeral for Qiao Shi, a former chairman of parliament and former head of the party’s anti-corruption watchdog; and General Zhang Zhen, former vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission.
“Xi draws strength from convincing both sides of the ideological divide that he’s their guy,” said Christopher Johnson, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, referring to Xi’s focus on funerals..