Regional CCP chiefs pledge loyalty to Xi amid speculation over new leadership lineup

Xi Jinping sends the strong message that there is no room for dissent in ruling Chinese Communist Party ranks
By Gu Ting and Chen Meihua for RFA Mandarin, and Lee Yuk Yue for RFA Cantonese
2022.10.18
Regional CCP chiefs pledge loyalty to Xi amid speculation over new leadership lineup Guangdong provincial party chief Li Xi [1] told a meeting of Guangdong delegates that he fully supports Xi's status. Meanwhile, Shanghai party chief Li Qiang [2], Beijing CCP secretary Cai Qi [3], Chongqing party boss Chen Min'er [4] and Tianjin party secretary Li Hongzhong [5] made similar statements of support to their regional delegates.
Reuters [1-4]; AFP [5]

Regional Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chiefs signed up to political mantras supporting Xi Jinping at the 20th party congress on Tuesday, discussing charter amendments that analysts said will likely bake in Xi's status as supreme leader of party and government.

Trusted Xi ally and current Guangdong provincial party chief Li Xi told a breakout meeting of Guangdong delegates to the 20th National Congress in Beijing that he fully supports Xi's status, encoded in the political buzzwords the "two establishes" and the "two safeguards," which refer to upholding CCP rule with Xi at the "core."

Shanghai party chief Li Qiang, Beijing CCP secretary Cai Qi, Chongqing party boss Chong Min'er and Tianjin party secretary Li Hongzhong all made similar statements of support to their regional delegates, state media reported on Tuesday.

Public statements of support for the "two establishes" and the "two safeguards" is now a key test for Xi allies within party ranks, analysts said.

"Unpacked, the 'two establishes' is a claim to the legitimacy of Xi Jinping’s rule, and a challenge to any who might oppose him," the China Media Project (CMP) said in an analysis on Aug. 10, 2022. "As such, the phrase is an important part of the process of 'loyalty signaling,' or biaotai, the registering of support for the top leader."

Similarly, the "two safeguards" refer to safeguarding Xi's "core" status and the centralized authority of the CCP, it said in a Sept. 2 article titled "All Aboard the Adulation Express."

"Together, the 'two establishes' and the 'two safeguards' lay claim to the basic principles governing China today, centered on Xi himself — and they define the protection of these principles as the chief task of the country," CMP director David Bandurski wrote in the second article.

An overseas commentator who gave only the surname Yang said the media reports about the regional party chiefs were laying the groundwork for Xi's acceptance for a third term in office.

"The whole government and party propaganda and public opinion machine has now achieved a momentum that is no different from how it was in [late supreme leader] Mao Zedong's time," Yang told RFA.

"The 20th party congress has been held in such secrecy, because they are afraid of a single misstep," he said. "The final confirmation will come after the 20th National Congress ends."

People watch an outdoor screen showing the live speech of Chinese President Xi Jinping during the opening session of the 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress in Hangzhou, China, October 16, 2022. Credit: AFP
People watch an outdoor screen showing the live speech of Chinese President Xi Jinping during the opening session of the 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress in Hangzhou, China, October 16, 2022. Credit: AFP
'Think and act as one.'

Yang said he didn't expect any dissent at the congress, which is being held behind closed doors.

"They will have prepared in advance for every eventuality, and they'll have measures in place to counter any dissenting voices that may emerge during the congress," Yang said.

Xi met with delegates from the far western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), where they praised his policies in the region--measures applied to Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities that have been described as genocidal by experts and some Western countries. A United Nations report in August said Chinese practices in Xinjiang “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”

One XUAR delegate told Xi the CCP would "rather offend tens of thousands than let down 1.4 billion," official media reported.

The praise by Xinjiang party officials did not go down well with Uyghur exile groups, who say the rights situation deteriorated on Xi's watch.

“A decade ago, when Xi Jinping started his first term as general secretary of the CCP, nobody could foresee the suffering he would inflict on the Uyghur people”, said World Uyghur Congress President, Dolkun Isa.

“In these ten years under his leadership, the Chinese government has orchestrated and implemented a policy of repression against the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in East Turkistan that are now internationally recognized as crimes against humanity and genocide," he said.

The statements of loyalty also give some clue as to which regional leaders may be up for promotion, and a seat on the all-powerful Politburo standing committee.

The CCP's official newspaper, the People's Daily, carried a front-page report about a meeting between Xi and the Guangxi delegation.

Xi told delegates they should "think and act as one."

"What is this unity, and who sets this goal?" political commentator Tang Jun asked rhetorically. "Is it all being dictated by a single person, by the party as a whole, or by the people of China?"

He said it is clear that Xi's remarks mean that there is no room for dissent within the party.

"We can tell from the current propaganda phrasing that the doctrine of never swerving from the central party line has become fixed [in party ideology]," Tang said.

Political commentator Si Ling said the sharp increase in the number of references to "security" and "stability" in Xi's Oct. 16 political report to the party congress showed that Xi likely doesn't feel entirely secure in his supreme status yet.

"What Xi Jinping means when he talks about national security ... is doing more to control people and to suppress a plurality of voices," Si told RFA.

Fear of dissent

He said the protest banners calling for Xi's removal on the Sitong traffic overpass in Beijing on the eve of the congress had highlighted just how much the government fears dissent and public opposition.

"This rare protest called for Xi Jinping to step down, for an end to the inhumane zero-COVID policy, and for reforms to the political system," Si said. "I think these are the things that the Chinese government feels most insecure about."

"This security that Xi Jinping talks about sends a signal to the rest of the world that China will further suppress 'unstable' factors among Chinese officials, and that the freedom of independent election candidates, human rights lawyers and rights groups could be further suppressed," he said.

Feng Chongyi, an associate professor at the University of Technology in Sydney, said there is likely far more anti-Xi feeling within party and government ranks than ever reaches the public eye.

"[Xi] also talked about struggle, which means destroying opposition within the CCP," Feng said. "Giving such high priority to 'security' and 'struggle' strikes an ominous tone in his report."

The Wall Street Journal ran a report on Tuesday naming six new members of the CCP Standing Committee as key Xi ally Wang Huning, CCP disciplinary chief Zhao Leji, Shanghai party secretary Li Qiang, Guangdong leader Li Xi and CCP general office director Ding Xuexiang.

Citing sources close to the party leadership, the report said Li Qiang, 63, was a favorite to succeed incumbent Li Keqiang as premier at the National People's Congress (NPC) in March 2023.

Other candidates to replace Li Keqiang include Wang Yang, currently chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference advisory body's standing committee, and Hu Chunhua, the youngest of China's four vice premiers, analysts told the paper.

Taiwan's United Daily News predicted on Tuesday that the new Politburo standing committee would comprise Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Wang Yang, Zhao Leji, Ding Xuexiang, Chen Min'er, and Hu Chunhua. 

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie. Additional reporting by Alim Seytoff for RFA Uyghur.

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