Counting enemies outside the Great Wall of China, Beijing is now apprehensive of the foes lurking within. Having antagonized the world with alleged involvement in the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, and debt-trapping many poor countries, China is increasingly wary of a possible storm gathering within.
And the new threat is not just from within the Communist Party of China (CPC), or the demoralized People’s Liberation Army (PLA), mauled by India in East Ladakh last year, but also from the dispirited business leaders post-Jack Ma meltdown, and the influential middle class scouting for happiness beyond bread-and-butter, by seeking political liberties. Besides, the burning issues of Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan have never been on the backburner.
The Dragon is trying to fight forest fire with the fire it is spewing.
Currently, China is facing growing global hostility over the Covid-19 origins, and allegations of human rights violations in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet. Its mammoth projects under the USD 4 trillion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have rather turned into millstones around the Dragon’s neck. For the first time in history, Beijing has successfully united its former friends and new enemies.
These growing uncertainties without and within have even forced President-for-Life Xi Jinping on June 18 to extract oath of ‘personal’ loyalty from his hand-picked top brass of the Communist Party of China (CPC), whom he suspects of colluding with his enemies.
The unprecedented and publicly televised pledge of loyalty followed after reports of alleged ‘defection’ of Dong Jingwei, Vice Minister of State Security—top spy chief—along with his daughter Dong Yang, via Hong Kong in mid-February to the USA. There, it was claimed, he disclosed everything about the Wuhan Institute of Virology which is at the centre of the coronavirus-leak hypothesis.
The viral rumour was so embarrassing that Dong had to direct his spies to look for rebels within. But this incident itself showed the extent of mistrust in top echelons of China.
In the 1990s, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping had sown the wind with his four-pronged modernization; in the 2020s, Xi Jinping fears he will have to reap the whirlwind.
What happens when a vulnerable leader suspects those around, his own followers? Invariably, he extracts from them an oath of loyalty!
That is exactly what Xi did on Friday (June 18, 2021).
As China’s ruling CPC prepares to celebrate centenary celebrations on July 1, Xi publicly administered a loyalty pledge to senior Communist leaders, urging them to follow the “leadership core”—that is himself!—and strive for the country’s modernization and revival. This when Xi has supposedly emerged as the second strongest leader of the CPC in the last 100 years, next only to its founder, Chairman Mao Zedong.
The incident demonstrated his deep-seated fears of disloyalty within the CPC which has a membership of over 90 million across the land. The CPC, which had officially declared him as the “core leader” when he took power in December 2012, he thinks, is the first one to be won over to avert any possible rebellion against his leadership.
To reach the pinnacle of power and pelf, Xi has antagonised several CPC leaders and their families by targeting them under the alibi of rooting out corruption. Similarly, his regime has rubbed the country’s billionaires like Jack Ma, the PLA, and other sections of society by rubbing them the wrong way on different issues.
On Friday, therefore, he was forced to publicly extract an oath of loyalty from the CPC leaders during a visit to an exhibition at the newly-inaugurated museum of the CPC in Beijing.
Standing ahead of the 25-member Politburo of the CPC, which included his No 2 leader Premier Li Keqiang, Xi administered the pledge which was telecast by the pliant state-run television channels.
The CPC, founded by Mao Zedong in 1921, has been in power since the birth of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. The ruling party has, as part of the centenary celebrations on July 1, planned several events, including a military parade.
Xi, 67, who succeeded his predecessor Hu Jintao in December 2012, quickly consolidated his position and concentrated power by heading the party, the powerful military and the presidency. He was conferred title of the “core” leader, thus doing away with the collective leadership of his predecessors.
In his June 18 speech, Xi called on the members of the CPC to draw strength from the party’s history and strive for China’s modernisation and national rejuvenation.
He said, “It is necessary for you to strengthen your awareness of the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, follow the leadership core, and keep in alignment with the central party leadership,” state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Xi is originally set to retire like his predecessors after his second term in 2023, but is expected to continue for life as the top legislature National People’s Congress (NPC) amended the Constitution in 2018, removing two five-year term limits. It paved the way for his lifelong tenure in power, as President-for-Life.
In the pledge administered, the members also said, “It is my will to join the Communist Party of China, uphold the party programme, observe the party’s Constitution, fulfil my party member duties, carry out party decisions, strictly observe party discipline, guard party secrets, be loyal to the party, work hard, fight for Communism throughout my life and to be ready at all times to sacrifice my all for the party and people and never betray the party.”
The exhibition themed “staying true to the founding mission,” was opened on Friday at the newly-inaugurated Museum of the CPC in Beijing ahead of the CPC centenary.
In his speech, Xi said the party members should remain confident in the path, theory, system and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics, as well as always closely follow the CPC Central Committee in terms of their thinking, political orientation and actions.
“The party’s history is the most vivid and convincing textbook,” Xi stressed.
Efforts should be made to educate and guide Party members and officials to stay true to the original aspiration and founding mission of the party, Xi noted.
More than 2,600 pictures and 3,500 artifacts about the party’s history are on display at the exhibition.