Supreme leader Xi

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

Xi Jinping has a very respectable track record within the Chinese Communist Party and is known for his modesty. The current Chinese leader is seen, both internally and externally, as a politician who has made a career out of silence, assiduity and humility. He is the son of Xi Zhongxun, a historical figure of the Communist Party, which not only played a crucial role in protecting Mao Zedong during the Long March, but also provided political guidance for the success of Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms in Guangdong.

In 2012, as Hu Jintao's successor, Xi proved the opposite of Bo Xilai, a former Politburo member, who was most active in challenging his claim to the position of supreme leader. Bo went out of his way to create his own personality cult, upsetting some Party members, while Xi has always been known as a careful technocrat, trained with the harshness of the Cultural Revolution.

Bo, on September 21, 2013, was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to life imprisonment, then confirmed definitively on the following October 25, this event paved the way for Xi, or what the West perceives as a reformer.

However, even the most moderate voices outside of China believe that the 2022th of XNUMX is now far from the perception the Western political elite had of him a decade earlier, as he seeks to secure a highly controversial third term..

Despite previous misjudgments by Americans and Europeans, Xi presented solid grounds for trust. China was expected to see dizzying development, thanks to modest but steady progress towards political and economic openness. Xi recounted his personal experiences in the United States, which he visited five times before becoming general secretary of the Communist Party, starting in 1985 as a young official, and reconfirmed several times until 2012.

However, when Xi took office as president, he worried more about the difficult internal circumstances, rather than the political and business partnerships that Washington believed would lead Beijing on the path of an elusive "liberal reform".

There is no doubt that wealth has undermined the central government, encouraging many influential factions within the Party and fueling widespread forms of corruption. The Party had to get rid of the corrupt cadres that undermined its legitimacy if Xi was to restore unity and avoid being remembered as a relatively weak leader.

This is exactly what Xi pledged to do at the time of his inauguration and over the next few years he accomplished it, initially making new enemies but then leveraging the success of his anti-corruption efforts to crush rivals and ensure the development of a party hierarchy centered on the cult of his person.

Despite his dedication to work, economic reforms - deemed necessary for sustained growth - slowed significantly in Xi's first two terms. At the beginning of the first term, many within the Party believed that the rise of market forces would mark the end of socialism, postulated by the canonical works of Marx and Mao.

Xi deliberately decided to safeguard the Party when faced with the option of choosing between political legitimacy and openness, seeing that one increasingly required the other.

Currently, local and foreign observers have no doubt that Xi will be able to maintain his position as the leader of China, arguably the most important and significant leader after Mao. This is hardly shocking, especially when you consider that Xi did not appoint an heir when he ran for re-election as general secretary of the Communist Party in 2017. A few months later, at the beginning of 2018, he succeeded in having the limitations on the president's mandate laid down by the Chinese Constitution removed and his national charter inserted " concept of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era ".

Although there is no doubt about Xi's ability to govern, the XX National Congress of the Communist Party will be an excellent test bed for some issues that have been in the attention of many observers for months, if not years: what is China's starting plan for a COVID-free world? How is the planning of the Belt and Road Initiative and "shared prosperity" programs progressing in the face of a declining domestic economy and serious long-term problems such as the housing crisis and the demographic curve going in the opposite direction?

China's history also demonstrates that the greatest threats to political stability and territorial unity are power gaps. How long can Xi continue to reign without announcing his designated heir? How will she avoid being a lame duck once she has appointed a successor at a time when she wishes to solidify his legacy?

The questions are numerous, but the answers to date are not many. The people chosen to hold positions in the Politburo and Standing Committee, regardless of their proximity to Xi, will perhaps be able to provide clues as to how close his control over the party will be and, consequently, what the future of China's relations will be with. the rest of the world.

Photo: Xinhua