Xi, the Marxist prince

(To Gino Lanzara)

Politics continues to turn to the East; the red aristocracy with 3.000 delegated vassals of the CCP is close to meeting in Beijing to give life to the event of the 20th congress, or the consecration announced at the third top term, with a serious mortgage indefinitely, for Xi Jinping. If the (probable) reconfirmation will deliver Xi to Chinese history, it will remain to be understood, at dawn on October 17, which China will have to follow yet another helmsman.

Let's dispel unrealistic myths: China is not a democracy, therefore without elections, Congress is the only instrument allowed to allow the replacement of the leadership; the Congress, made difficult by the measures against a recruding Covid after the celebrations of the national holiday, will be nothing more than the promenade of the results of months of friction and negotiations aimed at formalizing decisions already taken even before the official opening of the works. The various souls of the party have spent the last year engaged in fighting to ensure that their candidates win the mandate. The beginning of the congress is scenic entertainment adapted to the presentation of a show which, skipping unnecessary acts, could immediately result in a call for the standing ovation final to a leadership already appointed. The Centennial Congress intends to show the objectives of future power and symbolic social cohesion. As Kremlinologists once did, at every congress the faces of those present are observed to cross out pensioners, or to ignite bets on unpredictable absences.

Simultaneously with the Congress, the European Council will be held which will deal with Asia by monitoring the trends of a China that has maintained the profile of the systemic rival1. The European idea of ​​convergence, or rather of the most binding economic agreements thanks to which greater political openings could have been reached, has now collapsed in the face of news from Xinjiang2.

Xi has been in office since 2012, but the time for construction sites has not yet come for him, unless some unlikely event occurs. Cup of theater; notwithstanding the rules and traditions of the celestial red principles, he will continue to hold the positions of party general secretary, primary source of power, head of the party's central military commission and president of the People's Republic; leaving intact the party structure could also be recognized the apical and non-collegial office of party president, abolished in the 80s and the exclusive prerogative of Mao. Moreover, according to the well-informed, this may not even be the last mandate for Xi, so much so that the hoped-for conquests of 2035 would already project him into the future, a timeless representative of a sacred secular dynasty.

The changes in the constitutional constraints relating to the presidential mandate are coupled with the preservation of the office of general secretary in derogation of the dictates of Deng Xiaoping who, mindful of Mao's longevity, intended to prevent other leaders from the gerovital. Power returned to being centralized, party and government offices overlapped, post-Maoist limitations shattered. Given that most of the leading cadres will have to leave office, it is certain that their replacement will have to win the approval of Xi, who is addressed with an attention kept aroused by the fact that no one has been prepared to succeed him, and that the opponents are disappeared from the scene thanks either to a careful campaign for the prevention and repression of corruption or because it does not meet the requirements of the new code of conduct. For the avoidance of doubt, Xi issued a warning to retired cadres, reminding them that the government would investigate corruption in the past 20 years, and admonishing them not to question the party's guidelines.

The designation of a successor in 5 or 10 years appears remote; even a smoky designation would crack Xi's power. But beware: the possibility of solidifying its political base will depend both on the cohesion and support of the Politburo and the Standing Committee, and on the ability to lead one of its loyalists to the post of premier, after years of opposition with the current Prime Minister Li Keqiang. .

At the moment Xi is not sure that the premier is his protégé, although it is still difficult to think that there could be an opposition not accepted by the Secretary, especially if the latter is a master in the game of expansion of alliances. If Xi succeeds in imposing a politician like Li Qiang, he will demonstrate such strength as to warn anyone from just thinking about trying to head off; this is to definitively silence every possible and imaginative hypothesis of a coup.

It is also necessary to watch over internal opposition to the Party. Xi remains because he is a symbiont of power, despite having made several mistakes, such as maintaining the zero-COVID strategy for too long, damaging economic growth and limiting private initiative. Among other things, the pandemic management has raised more than one question, given the size and importance of the hidden information. Xi has weakened the channels dedicated to the expression of dissent, especially that inside the Party, also because the one animated by intellectuals and entrepreneurs has not taken root, in addition, against minority ethnic groups, religious groups and non-governmental organizations, Xi has pursued the scorched earth policy, forcing everyone to conform to Han rule.

While the currents of opposition will continue to exert minimal influence3, the elect of the 20th congress will be the indicator of the extent of Xi's power. Meanwhile, the Chinese diplomatic trend has turned its action towards the pursuit of policies wolf warriors, accompanied both by military build-up in the South China Sea and by more aggressive conduct towards Hong Kong and Taiwan opposed by American sorties; Meanwhile, in Europe, the Russian war difficulties benefit Beijing's power projection which, without firing a shot, is finding an increasingly dependent Kremlin: after all, according to Clausewitz, the enemy must never be disturbed while he is making a mistake.

The ultranationalist Global Times, close to the Party, while blaming NATO for having forced Russia to the invasion, tries to put a stop to a conflict that can take on unpredictable connotations. However you see it, beyond impossible friendships, Russia remains a useful actor to which, however, national interests cannot be sacrificed.

In this context, Xi's visit to Central Asia must be framed, aimed at demonstrating both the possession of internal control despite the suffering economy, and the preservation of the position of strength towards the Kremlin, and the ability to safeguard the projects of the BRI, threatened by invasion-induced instability, and leaving the strategic rivalry between the two countries intact. Interestingly, while the Russian communiqués support the Chinese position on Taiwan, the Chinese ones do not mention Ukraine.

To underline the pervasive presence in the Indo Pacific, where the agreement with the Solomon Islands is precluding the berths of Western warships.

In the meantime, it is worth noting the Indian political acrobatics which, facilitated by the uncertainties of the Biden Administration, first strengthens the axis of the BRICS by reconsidering the positioning of the troops in the Ladakh area, and then keeps the foot that ensures the security in the same shoe. Western alliance of the Quad4 which aims to curb Beijing itself. The fact that the Sino-Indian demographic powers reach an agreement confirms the intention of reaching a global order that replaces American leadership. Xi will therefore have to indicate how China intends to interpret its strategic context in the light of the intensification of competition with Washington. As always happens, the presumed successes in foreign policy will be brought to the shields by sacrificing economic concreteness to ideological impalpability.

Inevitable on the part of the US, EU, Japan and South Korea, to see China as a disruptive antagonist and not only in an economic capacity, which has led to the search for policies aimed at detaching from dependence on Beijing, which continues to survive politically only because most of the problems that the West considers insoluble for the Dragon are irrelevant. The economic theme remains central; according to Goldman Sachs, China will begin to review policy zero covid only in the quarter April-June 2023, while The Diplomat points the finger at various economic crises5 overlapping, from the Evergrande real estate crash to bank insolvency.

Another hot topic will be once more Taiwan, an element of territorial sovereignty and integrity to be regained according to the forms adopted by the Consent of the 1992. According to Xi, separation from Taiwan can no longer be done be handed down from generation to generation, although historical moment and context advise not to tread the hand.

Given that Beijing does not give charity to anyone, it also remains to be discussed Belt and Road Initiative that, second The Diplomat, could be replaced with the Global Development Initiative6. The return of ideology and the cult of personality put Deng Xiaoping in the attic; with Xi China returns to being a communist power: the 3 volumes of Xi's thinking, also translated in Italy7, have become compulsory school subjects, which brings to mind the apex of Maoist power. According to these lines, the fight against capital, again demonized after the customs clearance carried out at the end of the Cultural Revolution. Faced with the complaints of the middle class political attention has turned to solving problems relating to private education and health care expenditure. Bloomberg wittily recalled the regime's Marxist matrix. Those who thought of a liberalization are wrong: grisaille and tie did not prevent the hands from turning backwards, without taking away any ambition for total control, both because power is still in the hands of the Party and because the entrepreneurs themselves have continued to hold them. the card in your pocket.

Dissent is prohibited; Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba's e-commerce, knows something about it, guilty of criticizing a banking and credit system qualified as primitive. It was enough re-educate But to induce milder advice some by beating others8, despite producing a wealth that the Party wants to be shared in order to contribute to the otherwise suffering collective welfare. In short, the credit belongs solely to the Party, and consists in redistributing capital through funds set up by the same entrepreneurs who have that capital. created.

But what if entrepreneurship private was weakened so much that it could no longer feed the funds? Just think of the slowdown in GDP induced by the Zero Covid policy, which Xi intends to respond to with a combination of tax refunds, tax cuts, infrastructure investments, low interest rates. Principles are one thing, money that the popular adage invokes as an indispensable element for another is another sing mass. While it is true that China does not risk returning to a post-Mao Third World poverty state, there is no doubt that the room for maneuver of private capitalism has been downsized, at a time when the IMF has downgraded growth forecasts. Chinese at 2,8% against the expected 5,5% and the yuan has lost 12% against the dollar since the beginning of the year9; the devaluation with the dollar leads to inflation, as the American currency raises the price of resources. In short, Beijing's dollar reserves are not a problem for Americans, also because China, with a restricted financial market and less availability than the American one, must protect itself against the risk of currency leaks, aggravated by the looming European recession that it will limit imports from its market.

Conclusions. Chinese dream requires that, in spite of himself, Xi challenges the registry, given the long expiry of the objectives: a modern China in 2035, and a developed China in 2049, the centenary of the Republic. Assuming that time, health and fate follow the directives of the Politburo, Xi has no more than 15 years to try to challenge the US, and obviously assuming that the internal problems find a solution.

It is not excluded that Xi will not be able to find confirmation for his offices, but if this were the case he would certainly not lose them all, trusting in the appointment of politicians loyal to him, which is feasible given the latest internal career advancements. What could endanger him? An economic collapse or an international crisis, but remembering that the reform of the Armed Forces served to prevent the formation of dangerous alliances. What if he instead dies or is disabled? Dead Stalin makes another one, but with all the most ferocious purges of the case, as already happened with Mao.

Current crises: clumsy management of the Covid emergency; discontent with private capital; social malaise reminiscent of Tien an Men. How to react? Postponing, and returning to investing in infrastructures, pretending that the Evegrande speculative bubble does not exist, at least until stability is reached, however, conditional on the reforms to be adopted. In moments of crisis, the figure of the strong-willed leader has attracted everywhere, and China certainly was no exception, however, one cannot fail to recognize internally a problematic moment for Xi. The latent resentment will not prevent him from renewing his appointments, but he certainly will not avoid turbulence to which to react with increasingly rigid responses, in a context that has seen the failure of the separation between party and state and the weakening of the executive.

What to fear? An absolute power in search of legitimacy through long-foretold initiatives, like in Taiwan, hoping, for Xi, not to run into an Asian Ukraine.

1 Hungary is oriented not to use the term systemic rival, while Lithuania pushes to eliminate that of partner.

2 The European Global Gateway strategy marked the choice of side against the BRI

3 To remember the Shanghai Gang by Jiang Zemin in association with the faction linked to Hu Jintao, and the Communist Youth League led by Premier Li Keqiang

4 USA, Japan, Australia

5 According to Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, over 4 million small businesses closed between January and November 202.

6 Presented by Xi in a speech to the UN General Assembly in September 2021, it outlines China's leading vision in global development efforts. The initiative aims to support developing countries by raising questions about its impact on the more established BRI.

7 A paperback collection of Xi's quotes has been published with an invitation to memorize them. 

8 Meituan (e-commerce and home delivery), investigated for abuse of dominant position, has lost 30 billion dollars in value; Tencent lost 400 billion; Didi (chauffeured car services) lost $ 29 billion after it went public on Wall Street against government advice. The government then opened investigations into cryptocurrencies, e-commerce, private healthcare, the real estate market, the cosmetics and alcohol industries.

9 However, the euro and the pound did worse

Photo: Xinhua