Political Instability Awaits the CCP – The Epoch Times

Xi Jinping

This year the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will be plagued with internal political instability as its leader Xi Jinping tries to secure a third, if not lifelong, term at the 20th Party Congress set for autumn 2022.

Such a move violates the CCP’s tradition of upholding the two-term limit (each lasting for five years) of the presidency, which was stipulated in Article 79 of the 1982 version of the Chinese constitution. In 2018, however, Xi amended the constitution to delete this clause, which removed the legal barrier to his bid for perpetual power. Naturally, Xi is sure to meet stiff resistance from various quarters within the Party.

Several events suggest that this year is likely to be a turbulent one for Xi and the CCP with its political instability.

The first is the mysterious absence of Xi’s right-hand man, Li Zhanshu, at a tea gathering on New Year’s Eve, a traditional occasion in which members of the top leadership showcase their solidarity. Although Li reappeared on Jan. 11, proving that he’s politically safe, his absence still caused speculation that Xi is facing strong opposition.

Li ranks third in the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, the supreme governing body in China. As chairman of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s rubber-stamp legislature, he was instrumental in amending the Chinese constitution to delete Article 79, the clause limiting the presidential term limit to two.

Li’s absence was not caused by illness. Under normal circumstances, when a senior official is unable to attend an important meeting due to an illness, the communique would say that he applied for sick leave so it wouldn’t cause speculation. However, there was no such announcement on Li’s absence.

Li’s absence could be the result of the anti-Xi faction trying to dislodge him, since he was the chief lawmaker who helped paved the way for Xi to retain power. Pressure against Li could have grown to the extent that Xi had to make some compromise, leading to Li’s temporary absence. This is a plausible explanation since during Li’s absence, there was an article from China’s top watchdog, the Central Disciplinary Commission (CDC), pointing obliquely at him when it mentioned that “a former leader of the Guizhou Province” helped his family member to subdue a business rival. Li’s reappearance on Jan. 11, sitting right next to Xi during a high-level meeting, suggests that the latter had somehow overcome pressure to unseat his protégé.

Another anomaly was the recall of Wang Shaojun from retirement to serve as chief of the Central Security Bureau (CSB), his previous post. The CSB is responsible for guarding all the senior members of the Party and, therefore, its head must be someone who Xi totally trusts. At the same time, anyone trying to stage a coup d’etat has to rely on the CSB, just like what happened in 1976 when the so-called Gang of Four was arrested. Wang had already retired in 2019, but on Jan. 11 he reappeared at a conference of senior leaders, which suggests that he was reinstalled as chief of the bureau.

When Wang retired in 2019, Zhou Hongxu, deputy chief of staff of the Northern Theater Army, took over as CSB director. By tradition this post was usually taken up by people from within the bureau. The only exception was in 1963 when CCP founder Mao Zedong ordered a field army general to head the CSB after he was forced to claim responsibility for his failed policy in 1962, the Great Leap Forward, leading to mass deaths from starvation. The move showed that Mao was afraid of being dethroned after he was forced to recede from the forefront of the political stage.

Thus, when Xi ordered a field army general to head the CSB, it showed that he did not trust the bureau. However, after a short while, the former CSB chief was recalled from retirement to head the same bureau again. Wang, 67, is obviously past the retirement age of 60. Xi’s decision puzzled everyone and indicated some sort of uncertainty at the core of the CCP.

Political Instability Awaits the CCP  The Epoch Times


Dean Nestor

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