In the run-up to the Party Congress in 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping seems to be facing power struggle between him and powerful factions amid the ongoing economic breakdown, said media report. An exclusive white paper by the Jamestown Foundation claims that the powerful figures arraigned against the President include former Vice-President Zeng Qinghong and current Vice-President Wang Qishan, The Hong Kong Post reported. According to The HK Post, rumours of in-fighting were reported in semi-official NetEase and Sohu websites, adding that “several senior officials in the political-legal apparatus, which includes the police, the secret police and the courts, had plotted ‘sinister and treacherous’ actions against a top party leader, generally thought to be Xi”. However, the foundations claim that the reports have been deleted.
The factionalism at the top, which was reported to be impossible considering Jinping’s total control over the party, government, and the PLA, is said to have worsened lately. “In the wake of the near-bankruptcy of Evergrande Group, one of the largest real estate conglomerates in the world, more property and financial firms are reportedly unable to service their multi-billion yuan debt burdens. The total national debt reached 335 per cent of GDP at the end of last year, while external debt alone has breached the USD 2.68 trillion mark,” the newspaper quoted the Foundation report as saying. While the infrastructure sector is debilitated, the report said local government investment vehicles are steeped in debt. “On the foreign-policy front, trade talks with the U.S. have yet to be reopened, and the Biden administration is persevering with efforts to build a coalition of like-minded nations to counter China’s increasingly aggressive behaviour in areas including in the Taiwan Straits, the East China Sea and the South China Sea,” reported The Hong Kong Post.
According to the Foundation report, the punitive actions that followed against certain people are the result of the clam down by the government against the patrons of such people which refer to the Chinese journalist Hu Shuli, founder-editor of the liberal online magazine, Caixin.com who got away scot-free for her sarcastic comments against Jinping for his policy failures, according to the HK Post. “Over the past 20 years, Hu has written and edited many controversial stories exposing the wrongdoings of powerful officials and princelings (offspring of party elders). Her courageousness is attributed to the “protection” provided by Wang Qishan, who was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) and Secretary of the Central Commission for Disciple Inspection – the party’s highest anti-graft body – during Xi’s first term (2012-2017). Wang is considered by many to be one of Xi’s closest allies, he was given the highly respected title of Vice-President in 2013, and that he was once considered Xi’s main advisor on relations with the US. However, Wang has gradually fallen out of favour with the supreme leader since leaving the Politburo in 2017,” the newspaper quoted the report as saying. The other leader who is believed to be taking on Jinping is former Vice President Zeng Qinghong who is believed to be a close associate for former president Jiang Zemin and a major leader of the so-called “Shanghai Faction”. “Zeng is believed to be the ‘protection umbrella’ behind several multi-billion enterprises. One of these enterprises, Fantasia Holdings, which is headed by his niece Zeng Baobao, was recently downgraded to ‘default’ status by rating agencies due to failure to pay interests on bonds and promissory notes. As of the middle of this year, Fantasia had current liabilities – those that have to be repaid within a year – of nearly 50 billion yuan (USD 7.5 billion),” the newspaper reported.
Jinping’s supporters feel that he may “purge” his critics in the future. Former Executive Vice Minister of Public Security Fu Zhenhua was investigated as well. “Even though Fu played a key role in the investigation of Zhou Yongkang in 2013 and 2014, he is believed to have lost Xi’s trust due to his close association with other Zhou proteges such as Wang Like. Most of the disgraced former senior police cadres have been accused of “forming cliques and factions” within the internal security system,” the newspaper quoted the report.
The 20th Party Congress would clear the picture of the in-fightings. President Xi Jinping would hope that the Congress would “confirm his ability to retain his status as party General Secretary, State President and Chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission for a decade”, according to the HK Post.