Xi Jinping: the second most powerful man after Mao Zedong

Source article in Chinese: 习近平:权位之重仅次于毛泽东的独裁者
By He Qinglian on November 13, 2013

For the Communist Party of China (CPC), the biggest political achievement of the Third Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee is that a National Security Committee would be created to improve the national security system and strategy. According to the political logic of the CPC, “l'Etat est le Parti”, the so-called national security means nothing other than the security of the red regime. Whatever reform policies the so-called “reform group” may put forward in future serve only to safeguard that regime.

Xi Jinping Learns form Yuri Andropov

In fact, the “reform project” to set up the National Security Committee was already disclosed on May 22 by Ta Kung Pao, a Hong Kong-based mouthpiece of the CPC. Entitled “Xi Jinping plans to set up a National Security Committee”, citing information from insiders, the Ta Kung Pao article claimed that among the core content of the reform package Xi Jinping sought to launch this year is to create a National Security Committee to bring together internal and external state security apparatuses, consolidating under one umbrella the formerly existed public security bureau, the armed police force, the judiciary, the state security ministry, the Intelligence Department of the PLA General Staff Department, the Technical Reconnaissance Department of the PLA General Staff Department, the International Liaison Department of the PLA General Political Department, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the External Propaganda Office and so on. That Committee would be the fifth largest state organ after the CPC Central Committee, the State Council, the NPC, and the CPPCC National Committee.

This “reform” measure is tantamount to declaring that China would follow the lead of the former Soviet Union to exert control inside the country using secret police organs, shrouding red terror over all sectors of society and give its spy agency a higher profile in international community, with an aim to make it on par with CIA, MI6 and Russia’s FSB (Federal Security Service, successor of KGB).

The inception of this institution set in stone Xi Jinping’s strong position within the CPC. From this point onward, as the General Secretary of the CPC, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the head of the National Security Committee, Xi Jinping would have in his grip the power over the Party, the military, the police and secret agent forces. With the exception of Mao Zedong, no other former Chairmen or General Secretaries of the CPC had managed to lay claim to all this power like Xi Jinping does. When Jiang Zemin visited the US in 1997, he was very interested in America’s National Security Council and intended to create an institution like that after he returned to China. However, at that time there were worries within the Party that if a General Secretary of the Party and the Chairman of the CMC also become the head of a national security committee, he would command too power and that would be bad for collective leadership. As a result, Jiang’s plan was ultimately shelved.

Today, as Xi Jinping succeeded in what Jiang Zemin had failed, my analysis published in February this year is vindicated. I pointed out in that article that after Yuri Andropov became KGB chairman in May 1967 and started his 15-year leadership of the organ, the KGB saw an exponential growth in its staff and size and transformed from an organization that merely gave out punishment domestically to the largest intelligence organ of the world, and thus the iconic representative of the USSR. I also made the prediction that, for all the differences in the situation faced by Xi Jinping and Andropov respectively when they took charge of a regime, the “new policy” of Xi Jinping would serve the same purpose as Andropov’s “reform”; Xi Jinping would follow Andropov’s example and establish a model to rule with police.

The reason I concluded Xi Jinping would learn from Andropov is that, back in 2008 when he, as China's vice-president who was responsible for the security affairs of the Beijing Olympics, he showed strong preference for “spy politics”. And it was at that time that China's Public Security Bureau knitted six webs to “cover the dynamic society with all-round, all-weather, seamless and three-dimensional monitoring”. Those six webs were: the web of street monitoring; the web of community monitoring; the web of monitoring within units; the web of video monitoring; the web of regional police cooperation; and the web of virtual society monitoring. Xi's experience of knitting together with Zhou Yongkang and Meng Jianshu is vital for nurturing a dictator. On one hand, through his preparation for the Beijing Olympics, Xi came to understand acutely that the red regime of the CPC is faced with challenges on all sides; on another, in addition to enabling Xi Jinping to get a glimpse of “spy politics” of China, this experience gave him faith in this kind of politics.

China to turn into a mega prison

It should be said that in the one year since Xi Jinping took over the country, he has made great achievements in learning from Andropov’s reform. When cracking down on dissidents, Xi Jinping uses iron fist like Andropov did. And, as a man who believes in the wisdom of “defeating the enemies by capturing their chief”, Xi has the influential dissidents untouched during the Hu Jintao era arrested and sentenced; those apolitical internet celebrities have also been harassed and humiliated so that other influential figures would toe the line and discipline themselves. Whatever methods Yuri Andropov used to deal with dissidents—buying them off, banishing them, sending them to psychiatric hospitals, the current CPC government does the same. As I was writing this article, Sina did away with 100,000 weibo users who breached the “seven bottom lines” (of law and regulation, the socialist system, national interests, the legal rights of citizens, the public order of society, morality and custom, and authenticity of information).

Officials of the CPC executive branch should, however, think twice before they cheer this KGB-like system, which would pose serious threat to their safety. The “police revolution” instigated by Andropov was to seize power from corrupt bureaucrats and confer it to the secret police force which was good at machinations. The jails that used to hold political prisoners and class enemies were filled up by corrupt officials. The following was what Andropov achieved: over 90 high-ranking cadres of the CPSU Central Committee, ministers and first secretaries of obkoms were dismissed and replaced between November 1982 and the end of December 1983, many of them cronies of Brezhnev. Of the 150 leaders at state level, 47 were sacked. During Andropov's reign, the political system of the CPSU was quickly dominated by KGB personnel; of the thirteen Politburo members, three were KGB generals, a ratio higher than even during Stalin’s reign of terror.

Those citizens who celebrated Andropov’s anti-corruption campaign and saw him as a good leader soon found their comfortable days during the Brezhnev era had come to an end. To redress the soviet workers’ problems of lax discipline and alcohol abuse at work, Andropov began to correct the work force with means he knew best, the KGB approach. Both the size of police patrol teams and the number of civilian picket groups were increased, and a blanket inspection campaign launched in the streets and alleyways of Moscow as well as the city’s parks, bathhouses, beauty salons, hair salons and queues outside shops with goods in short supply. Extensive searches, arrests, and identity check were conducted in train compartments and cinemas in the suburb. Citizens who did not have their ID proof with them were taken to police branches nearby to have their identity verified. Those identified as workers would be penalized for loitering around when they should be at work.

The secret police reign of Andropov was like an invisible wall for the Soviet people, much more brutal than the concrete Berlin Wall with barbed wire and look-out posts. Lenin once said that the Tsarist Russia was like a giant prison that trapped inside it the different races under its rule. During Andropov’s reign, the country became even more truly a giant prison: the people’s desire for freedom dissolved, their right to survival was overshadowed by that invisible wall, all they thought of was to stay alive. It was rather fortunate that Andropov’s rule lasted no longer than two years and the terror ended after his death. In the late 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev advocated reform policies characterized by glasnost and set in motion the breakdown of that wall. It was precisely because Gorbachev understood the limits and the serious consequences of Andropov’s reform that he promoted political reform measures that were more thorough. Those measures gave the former Soviet Union a new life.

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After a year of preparation, Xi Jinping has indeed consolidated his position inside the CPC. The Third Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee has affirmed that Xi Jinping commands greater power and authority than all preceding CPC leaders except Mao Zedong. This does not mean Xi Jinping has the ability to steer China onto a bright and smooth path, though. Judging from the situation inside China, Xi Jinping is less fortunate than Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. The regime he inherited is seriously corrupt, with officials caring only about their own interests and set aside all political principles; the country's resources are close to depletion and its environment badly polluted; severe disparity between rich and poor gives rise to widespread social resentment. Judging from international situation, however, Xi Jinping is more lucky than the two previous generations of leaders. While the world recognizes China as a tyranny, the predominant approaches to deal with China are to appease it, or submit to it out of fear. This is what enabled China to control the UN Human Rights Council alongside such countries with poor human rights records as Russia, Cuba, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and Algeria.

However, this absent of external pressure would only make Xi Jinping even less capable of sensing danger, sending him further and further down the path of dictatorship, amplifying the tension within the country and resulting in crises lurking all across China.