Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

Will Xi Jinping Resign?

Posted by on 2009/09/16. Filed under Opinions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

By Liang Jing
Sep 16, 2009 – 8:35:10 PM

Hong Kong’s Open Monthly magazine ran an exclusive story this month that prior to the Fourth Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee, Xi Jinping wrote a letter abdicating his position as “crown prince” and requesting to return to regional work. It said also that the move was motivated by his fear of becoming the CPC regime’s “kingdom loser.” As his request was rejected by the Politburo Standing Committee, however, his crown prince position has not changed. [1]

There are three possibilities: (1) the story was completely false; (2) Xi Jinping was letting the enemy off in order to catch him — resigning prior to the Fourth Plenary Session would force the Standing Committee to take a clear stand on whether they supported him; and (3) Xi Jinping really didn’t want to carry on. While impossible to confirm, the report raises an intriguing question: if he did not in fact want to be the “crown prince,” would Xi Jinping resign?

What Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping have in common is that before they became “crown prince” they had no achievements and no ambition. While hoping to rise, none had never dreamed that he would become the nation’s leader. However, the situations of these three designated “successors” have differed. Jiang Zemin can be said to have “assumed his post under fire.” He knew that he faced being destroyed if he said “no” to China’s patriarch. Jiang risked his arm, and to his surprise it paid off handsomely.

Hu Jintao’s approach to being “crown prince” needs teasing out. He had enough time to realise that he had neither the knowledge nor the ability needed to lead a huge, complex country, and that playing the hero it out would lead only to recriminations; but he apparently also understood that he couldn’t turn back. In my estimate, one of the grounds by which Hu defended his desire for power and position was, why shouldn’t he do anything that as shameless a guy as Jiang Zemin did, being himself more decent and honest; more importantly, Hu thought that if he were to withdraw, it would invite people’s ridicule.

Xi Jinping may have similar concerns. While an official in China can declare he is ‘resolutely retiring at the peak of his career’, there has never been a tradition of abdicating the throne. Since the Qin Dynasty, China’s 2000 year-old tradition is for people universally to vie to be the emperor, hence gaining the empire depended on the “mandate of heaven,” and no matter how unscrupulous or incompetent was he who got the throne, most people could only “resign themselves to the mandate.” To challenge for the empire was to run the risk of losing one’s head.

We now know that the Chinese revolution abolished the monarchy, but failed to get rid of imperial culture. Imperial culture has continued to dominate political games in the PRC and to dominate the thinking of China’s leaders. In the near century since the 1911 Revolution, the CCP has been founded for six decades; the PRC’s political progress has been to move from a “family empire” to a “party empire,” and change the hereditary throne to being General Secretary for a decade. While the emperor is now known as the General Secretary or the “core,” there is still no relation between who gets the highest power and public opinion, and none at all to the wishes of the majority of Party members; not only does the opacity and uncertainty of the procedure whereby the “crown prince” is selected depart completely from modern political civilisation, but are worse than in a monarchy. Not only does such a pattern pose a threat to the stability of China and indeed of the world, how can it not pose a threat to the future safety and honour of Xi Jinping as an individual?

Many people want to be the Emperor in a peaceful prosperous era, but it’s otherwise with a reign of dynastic loss, and as a rational person Xi should see the risk to him is greater than to the previous two, so it would be natural for thoughts of withdrawal to arise. What’s more, Xi Jinping’s record is as yet unsullied and his father Xi Zhongxun was well thought of; if he is determined to abandon the status of “crown prince”, it may be possible for him to obtain a dignified political arrangement. In withdrawing, Xi Jinping, who has “elite” status, has some advantage over the common-born Hu Jintao. On stepping down Xi can go back to a familiar circle, while Hu Jintao, (as well as Wen Jiabao) long ago became friendless and kinless “party hacks” in order to climb, doomed to miserable lives should they lose power and position.

Were Xi Jinping truly intent on resigning, difficulty would first come from his “comrades” in the Politburo Standing Committee, because it would break the current political balance, threatening all their vested interests. Kaifang’s report that the Standing Committee had rejected Xi’s request therefore made sense. However, if true, it once again highlights the sad reality of Chinese politics. The political interests of a handful of people can force someone who has neither desire nor confidence for it to buckle down to be the leader of a vast country of more than 1 billion people—what kind of political system is this? What legitimacy can such a decision have?

Were Xi Jinping to set his mind on it, of course, no one could stop him quitting the unpropitious role of “crown prince.” The question is, can he do so? We all know that on moral grounds Xi should heed the call of conscience. If he knows he is unable to create a clean political situation, he should resign. It would not only enhance his personal dignity, it would also enhance the dignity of Chinese politics. However, we know as well that this is unlikely, because if Xi Jinping valued his dignity, he would long ago have been eliminated from China’s political game.

* Liang Jing, “Xi Jinping hui cizhi ma?” [Will Xi Jinping resign?], Xin shiji, 13 September 2009 [梁京: “习近平会辞职吗?”, 新世纪,2009年9月 13日 http://www.ncn.org/view.php?id=76278&charset=big5.

[1] http://www.open.com.hek/0909content.html

Translated by David Kelly
China Research Centre
University of Technology Sydney

comments powered by Disqus