Chinese President Xi's disturbing desire for power : The Yomiuri Shimbun

General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Xi Jinping speaks as he meets with the press at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Xi Jinping speaks as he meets with the press at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. PHOTO: REUTERS

In its editorial on Oct 31, the paper says the Chinese leader could be worried about growing discontent over the slowing economy.

Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping's concentration of power in the party has become clear.

The party's Central Committee has wrapped up its plenary session, the sixth under Xi, who also serves as China's president, after adopting a communique that included the phrase, "the Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core" for the first time.

"Core" is a term applied to the Communist Party's leader when he is regarded as an "exceptional presence." The word was used for Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and former General Secretary Jiang Zemin, but not for former General Secretary Hu Jintao.

The Xi administration, which will enter its second term at the party congress next autumn, will see a major change in the party leadership line-up. Xi likely aims at positioning himself at the same level as Mao and other past leaders and grabbing the initiative in personnel affairs.

At the plenary session, the party also decided on rules to be used as guidelines for the political activities of party members, placing priority on tightening the discipline of elite senior executives, such as members of the party's Central Politburo, Politburo Standing Committee and the Central Committee.

It is clear that Xi will continue to use his anti-corruption campaign to maintain his administration's centripetal force.

With its single-party rule, China embraces "the rule of law" but does not allow an independent judiciary.

The crackdown on corrupt senior party members is carried out by the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, a supra-legal supervisory body. The "anti-corruption" concept is nothing but a tool used in a political fight.

Since becoming the party's general secretary, Xi has excluded political enemies, including former uniformed military executives who supported Jiang and former aides of Hu, to consolidate power. Xi has punished more than 1 million party members.

Just before the plenary session, Xi launched a special TV program in which ousted senior party members made such confessions as "I betrayed the party and the people."

As the crackdown on prominent figures, which drew considerable attention from the people, has slowed down, Xi probably decided to make his anti-corruption campaign a political show so he could use it to win the people's support for his administration.

Now that Xi has solidified his base within the party, what he probably is worried about is an increase in public discontent over the slowing economy.

In mid-October, several hundred veterans gathered from around the nation in a protest at the central Beijing building that houses the Central Military Commission, the organ that supervises the military, and the National Defense Ministry.

Veterans have staged demonstrations repeatedly at various locations in the country to seek better treatment, such as a pension allowance and reemployment. However, the protest in Beijing was of an unprecedented scale. Veterans are said to be increasingly concerned about Xi's plans to reduce military personnel by 300,000.

Hardships are becoming more serious for the poorest citizens, including migrant workers, who are in a weaker position than veterans.

Xi, who has acquired enormous power, has cracked down on human rights lawyers who support the socially weak and forcefully suppresses people who hold different opinions.

If he continues to govern in such an authoritarian manner, the unbecomingly deformed condition of the world's No. 2 economy will become conspicuous.

* The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia New Network, an alliance of 21 newspapers