Washington, DC – China’s legislature will hold its 20th National Party Congress, held once every five years- meeting this October. The re-election of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping is the main focus of this year’s meeting. As the conference approaches, Chinese social platforms and media have been releasing various signals that show Xi’s political opponents have continued to challenge the succession of Xi to a third term.
On June 2, Cai Xia, a retired professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CCP, posted on Twitter that an interim provision in 2006 is still in effect today. Cai was referring to a regulation entitled “Interim Provisions on the Term of Office of Leading Party and Government Cadres” that went into effect in 2006. The interim provision supposedly could challenge Xi’s ability to remain at the head of the CCP in the next term.
According to the interim provision, it applies to incumbent leading cadres of the CCP’s top echelon. It also stated that party and government leading cadres could only serve in the same position for two consecutive terms or a total of 15 years.
Following Cai’s post on Twitter, Taiwanese media published an article on June 5 indicating that the interim provision could hinder Xi’s wish to extend his Party leadership. The article commented that Xi had met various substantive obstacles to his re-election since 2017 in the 19th national meeting of its rubber-stamp legislature.
Besides, Xi’s opponents within the Party are also leveraging the country’s internal troubles to undermine him, according to former diplomat and author Roger Garside. Garside, the author of the book “China Coup,” said that the Chinese leader is facing a combination of external and internal pressures. “There are tipping points… looming up in the Chinese scene of the very gravest kind,” he said, adding that these would allow rivals within the leadership to move against Xi.
Inside China, the mass lockdowns instituted under the regime’s strict “Zero COVID” strategies have produced “a very vulnerable state in China, and an imperative to isolate China from the rest of the world,” he said.
Analysts at Japanese bank Nomura estimate that 26 Chinese cities were implementing full or partial lockdowns or other COVID measures as of May 23, accounting for 208 million people and 20.5 percent of China’s economic output.
“And internally, it’s aroused, as we’ve seen on videos from Shanghai and elsewhere, anger, indignation, and an erosion of respect and loyalty for the Communist Party,” Garside said. “But this came against a background of a disastrous performance in the property sector. We’ve seen the default of major property developers,” he added.
Saddled with more than $300 billion in liabilities, Chinese property developer Evergrande defaulted on payments for its offshore bonds last year. Other real estate developers, including Sunac China Holdings, Fantasia, and Country Garden, have also joined the list of firms struggling to meet their financial obligations. Garside expects further economic harm as home sales have decreased by more than 40 percent and unemployment rises in big cities.
According to the expert, the biggest challenge to Xi’s rule has come from opposition factions within the CCP. While Xi has done a lot over the last ten years to centralize power, Garside believes that his position is one of being “outwardly strong, but inwardly weak.” Meanwhile, others in the Party are lying low but “anxious for their own power and wealth,” he said, adding that “they know the risks that face the Chinese regime now.”
“Their calculation is, that their best hope of guarding their own wealth and power, as well as the nation’s interests, in the short- and medium-term lies in them leading the revolution,” Garside said.
The author referred to comments by former Chinese Party insider Cai Xia to illustrate his point. In her publication “China-US relations in the eyes of the Chinese Communist Party,” Xia wrote, “at least 60–70 percent of the CCP’s high-level officials understand the trend of the progress of the modern world. They understand that only a democratic constitutional government can ensure long-term stability in China and protect human rights, personal dignity, and personal safety for oneself.”
Xi obviously faced an ever-increasing attack from his opponents, especially his much criticized strict “Zero-COVID” policy that has brought the entire nation to the brink of economic and systemic collapse.