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Xi Jinping’s Strategy of Conflict

Xi Jinping
President Kagame and President Xi Jinping of China Joint Press Conference | Kigali, 23 July 2018

As the People’s Republic of China marks its 20th party congress this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping is poised to shepherd both the Chinese Communist Party and the nation into a new and dangerous era. The foundations of China’s “harmonious rise” – public quiescence predicated on sky-high growth – have crumbled. Xi has responded by centralizing power, relying increasingly on the coercive tools of his internal security services to govern. But the Chinese leader’s effort to build a 21st-century police state promises growing internal risk, and this will likely translate into conflict-seeking abroad.

China's Xi Jinping at BRICS Summit

China’s Xi Jinping at BRICS Summit. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Xi Jinping’s Cycle of Purges

The trouble has been building for many years. Xi reached power in 2012 after decades of explosive growth and what the Party calls managed capitalism. Xi came into the office convinced of growing and dangerous challenges to the Chinese Communist Party. He fretted that, like the Soviet Communist Party before it, the CCP regime’s rule could be undone by lax party discipline, disintegrating ideological fervor, and too much openness to the rest of the world. The same year, he gave a speech decrying Soviet leaders’ “rejection” of Lenin and Stalin’s ideology.  

Not long after, Xi created a Central National Security Commission to address a broad and newly defined set of threats – political, cultural, and ideological. The Chinese leader called the approach “holistic security,” and its central pillars should surprise nobody: Xi must be at the core of all political and policy decision-making, and only constant political purges can maintain party purity and security. No one is immune, and a series of senior officials have been forced out (or driven to suicide, in cases such as Gen. Zhang Yang, a former head of the Central Military Commission’s Political Work Department). Even the purgers have been purged, including figures such as Fu Zhenghua, a former deputy minister of public security, and Sun Lijun, formerly vice minister of public security.

There is a grim, inexorable logic to this cycle. At some point, each official in charge of safeguarding the party from ideological and political threats will know too much and grow too powerful for Xi’s comfort, necessitating their removal. Such Stalin-style behavior rarely ends well. But Xi Jinping is doubling down, his thinking recorded faithfully in the party’s theoretical journal Quishi

“Of all the ruling parties of the world, how many have dared to fight corruption on such a large scale, and with such great intensity and tireless persistence, as our Party? Some people tout the West’s multi-party rotating rule, and tripartite ‘separation of powers’ and such, and do not believe that our Party can turn the blade inward and carve out its own decaying flesh. The Chinese Communist Party’s courage in the practice of self-revolution has given them a resounding and powerful answer.” 

The People’s Liberation Army has likewise seen the “blade:” In 2016, two vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission, Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong, were arrested and removed from office. Xi is apparently haunted by the Soviet military’s “professionalism” during the Soviet collapse, as he explained himself:

“Why must we stand firm on the Party’s leadership over the military? … Because that is the lesson from the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union, where the military was depoliticized, separated from the Party and nationalized, the Party was disarmed. A few people tried to save the Soviet Union. They seized Gorbachev, but within days it was turned around again, because they didn’t have the tools of dictatorship.” 

To avoid just that fate, Xi has taken concrete steps to ensure that the party commands the gun through unprecedented military reforms. He introduced new bodies to enforce political loyalty and strengthen his personal control over the military. He built a network of trusted allies to act as his eyes and ears within. He has also ensured that career advancement will depend more upon ideological purity and subservience to political leadership, leading military officials to spend precious hours studying “Xi Jinping thought” rather than training.

The Trouble Doesn’t Stay in China

The Chinese economy has also been a victim of Xi’s holistic security. Party cells now have a prominent place in corporate boardrooms, wielding considerable influence over decision-making. Xi Jinping thus crushed Jack Ma, former chairman and founder of the Alibaba conglomerate and China’s richest man, while seeking to break the central market positions of megaliths such as Alibaba, Tencent, and Didi through high-profile market interventions.   

Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The CCP’s campaigns to reinvigorate domestic ideological fervor will not deter the party from foreign adventures. Indeed, China was more bellicose during the Cultural Revolution under Mao, a likely inspiration for Xi’s current effort. A foreign enemy is vital to mobilize party cadres and justify the politics of purges. Just as Mao did, Xi Jinping will cement the CCP’s hold on power by vilifying foreign countries. (Japan and the United States are particular favorites.) But this strategy, while arguably sound at home, will generate ever greater tensions between China and the rest of the world, in turn generating even greater pushback against China’s global ambitions.]

A Disaster Looms for Xi Jinping

Thus has Xi Jinping created for himself another cyclical problem. His legitimacy rests on the culmination of his grandiose global aims, whether reuniting Taiwan with the mainland or completing the colonization of the South China Sea. Failure to achieve them puts the Party leader at risk at home. This risk is then mitigated with ever more draconian purges. Indeed, Xi has mixed a recipe for disaster, both for himself and for the People’s Republic of China. Dangerous days are ahead.  

Expert Biography: Dan Blumenthal is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he focuses on East Asian security issues and Sino-American relations. Mr. Blumenthal has served in and advised the US government on China issues for more than a decade. Before joining AEI, Mr. Blumenthal served as senior director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia at the US Department of Defense. He served as a commissioner on the congressionally mandated US-China Economic and Security Review Commission from 2006 to 2012, and he was vice chairman of the commission in 2007. He also served on the Academic Advisory Board of the congressional US-China Working Group.

Cindy Chen is a Research Assistant at AEI. 

Dan Blumenthal is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he focuses on East Asian security issues and Sino-American relations. Mr. Blumenthal has served in and advised the US government on China issues for more than a decade. Before joining AEI, Mr. Blumenthal served as senior director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia at the US Department of Defense. He served as a commissioner on the congressionally mandated US-China Economic and Security Review Commission from 2006 to 2012, and he was vice chairman of the commission in 2007. He also served on the Academic Advisory Board of the congressional US-China Working Group. Cindy Chen is a Research Assistant at AEI. 

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. 403Forbidden

    October 18, 2022 at 12:40 pm

    View seen through much jaundiced glasses.Typical serving from armchair gurus.

    Xi Jinping is indeed a fool, a big massive fool at that, but western leaders, by comparison are real demons.

    1) Western leaders put up Abu ghraib (sexual torture at its finest best), bagram (hooded wall hanging in cold cells) and gitmo (waterboarding, etc).

    2) Western leaders fully responsible for building death squads all over world, from south America, Africa, middle east to Afghanistan.

    3) Western leaders responsible for putschs, coups and proxy wars in order to re-colonize the third world, like in libya, Ukraine, Iraq with constant outward flow of migrants plus opposite inflow of weapons, intelligence operatives, political advisers and security contractors.

    I started collecting snippets of information, news articles and relevant photos, all related to extremely dirty work of west after I came across an article about a man tricked into slave labor trade for dick Cheney’s haliburton company’s contract work constructing camps and bases in Iraq.Almost twenty years ago. Now, today, I have hundreds of folders full of those items.

    But back to xi. He’s a fool, full of foolishness that can’t be all stated here. Building nuclear power stations in UK, military base in Djibouti, huge infra projects abroad with massive kickbacks to local big shots, bidding all kinds of sporting events and massive inflows of tourists and ‘tutors’ and what-else and equally massive outflows of citizens involved in scams drugs, counterfeiting.Xi’s signature is in them all.

    While a massive or powerful foreign war machine prowls just outside front gate 24/7 and he wants to be seen as world’s father Christmas-type figure.

    Xi’s a fool, and he needs to be dragged down from his high horse asap. China needs to set up system where internal governance is completely separated from foreign relationships & dealings, unfortunately, xi acts as a one-stop center, foolishly putting his very own people in great danger, as seen in the covid pandemic blamegame and the huge wave of sanctions against domestic companies.

    Xi has even foolishly invested in places like ports in Australia, Israel, Portugal, Spain, Greece and companies in Ukraine and elsewhere which are now worthless.

    China needs to hold him accountable for his foolishness and most of all, ramp up its nuke arsenal as if all hell’s going to break lose tomorrow, which is exactly what the west is actually planning right now.

    All hell’s gonna break out tomorrow. It’s written right inside Revelation, no less.

  2. Dr. Scooter Van Neuter

    October 18, 2022 at 1:10 pm

    A godless, ruthless tyrant who will ultimately be responsible for the deaths of thousands, maybe millions.

  3. John

    October 18, 2022 at 2:36 pm

    Ok Pieter Bruegel’s ship of fools is alive and well with Xi Ping, Putin and Biden at its helm.
    All China has to do is make Corpus Habeas legislation a centerpiece of its governing in order to create a better society for its citizens Uighurs included, and it would win winning over Taiwan and Asia included
    Instead it appears to be choosing a world war with all the perils for its citizens including famine, financial collapse, nuclear fallout. Of course Biden who seems to think that declaration of intent for his security strategy is the same as implementing that strategy lures Xi Ping into a false sense of superiority.
    Homo sapiens seems to be failing.

  4. The Al U Know

    October 18, 2022 at 2:47 pm

    To say nothing of China-India tensions too…
    I hear about this re: positioning of new tanks. But why fight on 2 fronts?

    How about the South Asian countries located underneath them? Has China even touched them or are they in a cozy situation. Vassal state?

    I ask also because Australia is scrambling to get subs, advanced model Abrams and F-35s. I, right now, doubt China will try to extend that far like Japan.

    China should just wait, wait for Russia to exhaust itself and fragment. Play the long game and push for the North Arctic to both gain its resources and close on Alaska. This will come in handy as climate change intensifies and is predicted to kill more people than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But yeah, Western youth, trash Van Gogh paintings if you think that will help esp vs China.

    But still play the long game because the dynamic will shift considerably next century. Ai tech is still in its infancy but if you read Ian Easton’s article on here, ‘What if China Wins?’, internal resistance will be futile, especially as this tech develops. Why Xi, why not leave a lukewarm legacy instead of aiming to go all or nothing. Because if you know CoD, ‘in war, war never changes’ and you will find that out soon enough.

    No one is talking robots yet, save Elon Musk or Japan. The Ukraine War brings up flying drones. Russia tried automating a tank and there was too much delay to make it work. The US built one to help soldiers carry their gear around. A mule. I am anxious to see how these are weaponized and grow. Also, a solution to their coming population problem?

    Then there is space. All these capable nations want a more permanent footing and if so, take advantage of this realm as tech advances. Rods from God on platforms, coordination from stations and lunar bases.

    I think I know, but I am hoping for a surprise. No ‘end of history’ here. A good one, hopefully not like the nuclear wasteland from ‘Fallout’ or a rogue USA from ‘We Stand on Guard’

  5. Commentar

    October 18, 2022 at 3:33 pm

    The west, or US-NATO, clearly has boldly signalled a very strong intent on pursuing a one-world government or one-world order whatever the cost, it’s simply amazing many totally fail to recognize it or just completely ignore the proverbial ‘writing on the wall’.

    The evil and relentless dogbarking, the proxy war(s), the massive transfer of hi-tech weapons, all-out top flight toxic propaganda, sanctions that’re wholly effective or legit until arrival of judgement day, runaway inflation and worldwide monetary upheaval, plus endless war drills and military exercises and brazen one-finger provocations are all clear signs that west now proceeding to turn humanity on its head in order to own him and the world.

    Nothing less is acceptable.

    The ‘deep state’ a.k.a. shadow govt or shadow agency or simply the cabal, today controls all life in the north american landmass. You can’t make a phone call today or send an internet message/comment without its oversight or all-knowing presence and knowledge. It monitors all of them (not by hired human operators but by fully automated super ultra sophisticated digital systems and software).

    Thus all the boasts from US-NATO about democracy are a sham as shown by the shining november 2020 presidential contest which cost $14 billion but ultimately decided by postal vote stuffing at numerous counting centers.

    US-NATO want a single entity controlling world, in 21st century. One clue to this urgency or urge was unveiled by haim eshed who revealed deep state has had meetings with aliens and even signed an agreement.

    We know that aliens come in several ‘flavors’ and deep state knows it as well. Thus west or cabal wants only one and only Earth rep to deal with them, not a situation where multitudes of humans are dealing with multitudes of alien types.

    In such a chaotic scene or situation, US and NATO probably stand to lose the most. This is unacceptable. Be in the know.

  6. Aboli

    October 19, 2022 at 12:31 pm

    I find it interesting the Xi has been at war with Winnie the Pooh for years.

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