China’s ‘President of Everything’ President Xi Jinping

China's 'President of Everything' President Xi Jinping

by Joy McDonald

BEIJING (AP) — The last time the Olympics came to China, he oversaw the entire effort. Now the games are back, and this time Xi Jinping is running the whole country.

The Chinese president, who hosted the Winter Olympics amid complaints of human rights abuses, has upheld the tradition of restoring strong governance and reinforcing the Communist Party’s control over the economy and society.

Xi was in charge of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing which served as a “coming-out party” for China as an economic and political force. A second generation member of the party elite, Xi became the party’s general secretary in 2012. He took the formal office of President the following year.

Xi spent his first five-year term at the party and made himself China’s strongest leader since at least Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s. Xi was dubbed “the president of everything” after placing himself in charge of economic, propaganda and other key functions. This overturned the consensus for the ruling inner circle to avoid a power struggle by sharing in decision-making.

The party is crushing pro-democracy and other activism and consolidating control over business and society. It has expanded the control of China’s 1.4 billion people and control of trade, culture, education and religion. A “social credit” system tracks each individual and company and punishes violations ranging from pollution to littering.

Xi’s rise abroad coincides with increased tenacity abroad after three decades of keeping his head down to focus on China’s economic development.

Xi wants China to be “the biggest country on earth, widely admired and therefore followed,” said Steve Tsang, a Chinese political expert at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

“A world where China is top dog, a world where authoritarianism is safe,” Tsang said. Democracies will need to “know their place.”

Born in Beijing in 1953, Xi enjoyed a privileged youth as the second son of Xi Zhongxun, a former deputy premier and guerrilla commander in the civil war that brought Mao Zedong’s communist rebels to power in 1949. At the age of 15, Xi Jinping was sent to the countryside. In Shaanxi province, lessons were learned from farmers as part of Mao’s campaign to educate urban youth in 1969. Xi was caught trying to return to the Chinese capital and returned to Shaanxi to dig an irrigation ditch.

“Knifes are sharpened on the stone. People refine through hardship,” Xi told a Chinese magazine in 2001. “Whenever I encountered trouble afterward, I just thought about how hard it was to turn things back and then anything. Doesn’t seem difficult.”

Beijing is emphasizing a greater role in managing trade and global affairs to match its position as the second-largest economy. It has opposed Japan, India and other neighbors by trying to intimidate Taiwan – the island democracy to which the ruling party belongs to China – and suppress claims of disputed sections of the South and East China Seas and the Himalayas.

The party ended foreign ownership limits in its auto industry and made other market-opening changes. But it has declared state-owned companies the “core of the economy” that dominate oil, banking and other industries.

Beijing draws on private sector successes such as Alibaba Group, the world’s largest e-commerce company, to turn billions of dollars into nationalist initiatives, including making China a “technology power” and reducing dependence on the United States, Japan and other suppliers by developing processors exerting pressure. Chips and other products.

Due to security fears, combined with US and European restrictions on China’s access to technology, there is growing concern that the global industry could split or split into markets with incompatible auto, telecommunications and other products. This will increase costs and slow innovation.

Xi, 68, is sure to break tradition again by pursuing a third term as party leader in a Congress in October or November. He had a two-term limit on the constitution for the presidency that was repealed in 2018. In the 1990s, the reverse arrangement was made for party factions to make decisions and hand over power to younger leaders once every decade.

Even before Xi came to power, party officials complained that group leadership was too cumbersome and allowed lower-level leaders to neglect or hinder the initiative. Officials defended Xi’s efforts to stay in power, saying he needed to ensure reforms.

Xi led an anti-corruption campaign, with the most prominent target being members of other factions or candidates supported by rival leadership. The campaign was popular with the public, but complaints caused officials to refuse to make major decisions for fear of attracting attention.

Xi has called for a “national rejuvenation” based on the party’s tight controls on education, culture and religion. Many of the changes are hostile to ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, pro-democracy and other activists, and independent-minded artists and writers. Social media groups for gay university students have been shut down. Men deemed insufficiently masculine were banned from TV.

An estimated 1 million Uighurs and members of other mostly Muslim minority groups are confined in camps in the Xinjiang region in the northwest. Activists complain that Beijing is trying to eradicate minority cultures, but officials say the camps are for job training and combating radicalization. They reject reports of forced abortions and other abuses.

Xi oversaw the 2015 detention of more than 200 lawyers and legal aides who helped activists and members of the public challenge official abuses.

After the coronavirus emerged in 2019, Xi’s government suppressed information and punished doctors who tried to warn the public. This prompted allegations that Beijing allowed the disease to spread more widely and left other countries unprepared.

Beijing expanded its action in Hong Kong after the 2019 protests, which began over a proposed extradition law and expanded to include demands for more democracy.

A national security law was imposed on Hong Kong in 2020, prompting complaints that Beijing was eroding the autonomy it was promised when the former British colony returned to China in 1997 – and as a trade and financial center was ruining his position.

Pro-democracy people have been put in jail. These include Jimmy Lai, a 73-year-old former publisher of the Apple Daily newspaper, which shut down under government pressure, and organizers of a candlelight memorial to the party’s deadly 1989 crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.

A major potential obstacle to achieving Xi’s ambitions is the struggling economy. Growth is slowing after Beijing tightened controls on the use of credit in its real estate industry, one of its biggest economic engines. It adds to a pullback from politically motivated initiatives including technological advances and orders for manufacturers to use Chinese suppliers of components and raw materials, even if it costs more.

“Xi himself weakens the economy rather than strengthens it,” Tsang said. “If you screw up the economy, it’s not going to make China the world’s leading power.”

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