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“Great Helmsman 2.0”: how the Chinese president was one step away from becoming the new Mao Zedong

On February 25, the Chinese Communist Party, which occupies a dominant position in the local political system, proposed to lift the restriction on the number of presidential terms. These restrictions operated for more than thirty years, and they had one goal – to prevent the appearance in the country with authoritarian inclinations of a new dictator like Mao Zedong.

Since 2013, the post of President of China is “party prince” Xi Jinping. His family participated in the civil war, suffered from terror, and after the persecution returned to the leadership of the state. Si became a well-known fighter against corruption and climbed to the top of the political system, and then he was a step away from a lifelong one-man rule.

From general publicity to universal terror

In 1950, a civil war in China ended in which the Communists defeated the leftist nationalists from the Kuomintang Party. China became a republic with a “democratic dictatorship of the people”, led by the “great helmsman” Mao Zedong, who at first relied heavily on China’s main foreign ally-the USSR.

After Stalin’s death, China at first followed the course of Khrushchev’s time. In 1956 Mao announced his own policy of glasnost under the slogan “Let a hundred flowers blossom, let one hundred schools compete”. A year later, the liberalization campaign was turned down due to criticism of the Communist Party and personally to Mao, and the supporters of the revision of the course began to be harassed.

Shortly thereafter, Mao came up with the “Great Leap Forward” – his own version of collectivization, in which peasants were driven into production communes. The mass production had to compensate for his lack of professionalism, but in fact, both industry and agriculture fell into decay in a few years, and a large-scale famine began in the country.

“Pilot” recognized the failure and for a few years retired from the leadership of the state. At the same time, the role of Mao’s supporters in the army strengthened: it was led by the allies of the national leader, who began to introduce the cult of his personality among the soldiers.

Mao returned to politics in 1966, and his first step was a massive criticism of the Chinese revisionists, who by that time were able to reduce the instability of the national economy. He also put forth 16 theses on how to rebuild China under a new socialist reality – the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” began.

The authorities attacked the corrupt intelligentsia, for example, professors. Against teachers united schoolchildren and students, who for six months were sent to an extraordinary vacation. The enlightenment campaign turned into a propaganda of the personality cult of Mao, as well as the search for “class enemies”, pogroms and a wave of murders.

From the cave to the Imperial Palace

Mao died in 1976. In the same year, the “cultural revolution” ended, which in recent years has reduced its intensity. After the death of Mao, contrary to expectations, the members of the Communist Party who were persecuted again returned to power. Among them was the former deputy chairman of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Si Zhongxun.

His son Xi Jinping, who was one of the so-called party Crown Prince, was sent to the province for labor re-education during the Cultural Revolution . The sixteen-year-old worked on par with ordinary poor peasants, lived in a cave and slept on blankets covered with blankets. Xi Jinping became a convinced communist and returned to Beijing – where he entered the prestigious Qinhua University.

In the university, Si received a chemical and technological education, but did not associate life with science. He received clerical work in the State Council, and then became the secretary of one of his father’s associates, Defense Minister Geng Biao. In 1982, the “party crown prince” left by his own will back to the province, where he began to actively advance along a long train not only in civil, but also in military-party positions.

Young Xi Jinping in rural work during the "cultural revolution". Photo from the special project "BBC"
Young Xi Jinping in rural work during the “cultural revolution”. Photo from the special project “BBC”

After almost 20 years, Xi Jinping rose to the first high post – he became governor of one of the eastern Chinese provinces, located across the strait from Taiwan. The head of the region actively attracted investors from the rebel island, led by the former enemies of his father from the Kuomintang. Thanks to this, he was able to quickly build up the prosperity of the province, and he was transferred to a richer region.

By this time, Xi Jinping, became one of the most famous fighters against corruption, although before that he supposedly walked the career ladder with the support of his father and his associates. Thanks to this, in 2007 he headed the hill of Shanghai (in fact – became mayor of the city). He was delayed for only six months: in 2008 he became deputy chairman of the PRC (in fact, vice-president of the republic).

The fact that Jinping is being prepared to replace the incumbent President Hu Jintao became clear almost immediately: he was engaged in anti-corruption preparations for the Olympics in Beijing, he was almost immediately introduced to the highest military leadership, and in 2009, for him, the protocol was changed to a diplomatic meeting of the Chinese delegation with the Japanese emperor.

Xin Jinping with his predecessor, President Hu Jintao. Photo by Simon Song, South China Morning Post
Xin Jinping with his predecessor, President Hu Jintao. Photo by Simon Song, South China Morning Post

From the reformer to the leader during the five-year plan

In 2013, Xi Jinping, as expected, became president of the People’s Republic of China. This happened after the voluntary resignation of his predecessor, Hu Jintao. By this time, the Constitution of China for three decades, there was a rule: the president of the country can not be in power for more than two terms of five years. This rule should prevent the new Mao, who would rule the country indefinitely.

The first term of Xi Jinping passed under the banner of economic reforms. Drawing on his experience in relations with Taiwan, he let foreign investment into the country, after which China rose even higher in the list of world economic leaders – even despite the drop in small-scale production, which made up a significant part of the Chinese economy.

Even then, the “party prince”, re-educated by the “cultural revolution,” began to gather power over the country in his hands. He created several “special leadership groups” under the president, who performed functions parallel to the government – in the economy, Internet regulation, intelligence and the army. At the same time, he, hiding behind the fight against corruption, sent several large oppositionists to prison.

"Party prince" Bo Xilai, allegedly had a file on the state of Xi Jinping. Photo by Xinhua News Agency
“Party prince” Bo Xilai, allegedly had a file on the state of Xi Jinping. Photo by Xinhua News Agency

In 2016, Xi Jinping was the first of the succeeding presidents to receive a high state name “the leading core of the party.” The following year, he was reelected as president of the PRC, and several of his sayings were added to the charter of the Chinese Communist Party – as was the case with Mao Tse-tung’s theses at the height of the “Cultural Revolution”.

American journalists note that by early 2018 Xi Jinping has unlimited power over China. Today, he positions himself as a “good-natured father of the nation”, who oversees the peaceful development of the country. He replaced the sole rule of the strict rules of the collectivist system – the very one that was created since the end of the 20th century to protect China from the new Mao.

2018 began for China with the proposal of members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party – in fact, the main governing body of the country. At the first meeting after the New Year, the Central Committee members proposed to exclude from the constitution a paragraph limiting the number of presidential terms. After the party plenum accepts this decision, Xi Jinping will be able to remain in power after 2023 – for any length of time.

Xi Jinping during his New Year's address. A shot from the air of CCTV
Xi Jinping during his New Year’s address. A shot from the air of CCTV

What experts say about this

In the opinion of the head of the Pacific programs of the Carnegie Center Alexander Gabuev, in the last year Xi Jinping ceased to be equal to the presidents who were replaced for decades. Instead, more than a hundred years after the fall of the Great Empire, Qing, he turned himself into a new emperor , and the political bureau – into his own yard.

According to Jeffrey Bader, a specialist at the John Thornton Center of America and China, Xi Jinping’s decision to stay for the third term will not only create problems for the transfer of power, but also show all future leaders: norms and consensus no longer play a role. At the same time, Bader doubted in comparison with C and Mao, since the policy of the modern head of China rests on rational logic, and not on a blind ideology.

Managing Director of the consulting agency Eurasia Group Callum Henderson believed that further strengthening of power in the hands of a rational leader could affect the benefit of China, which will begin to pay more attention to social problems.

Head of the analytical department of Complete Intelligence Tony Nash (Tony Nash) believes that the already beginning to grow rich population of China may soon require more representation in power. In his opinion, this can lead to social anxiety and cynicism in the relations of citizens with state institutions.

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