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China’s top leaders forced to prove loyalty to Communist Party and lifetime President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping (Lan Hongguang/Xinhua/Sipa USA/TNS)
December 29, 2018

China’s top leaders conducted a succession of conferences on Tuesday and Wednesday in Beijing to highlight President Xi Jinping’s power while also confirming their 2019 agenda.

During the conferences, the leaders underwent self-criticism analysis so Xi could evaluate their allegiance to him and the Communist Party following the trade war with the U.S.

Politburo, the main policy-making committee of the Communist Party made up of 25 members, was “asked to conduct criticism and self-criticism in light of work experience” and “how they have taken the lead to implement Xi’s instructions and key Party regulations and policies,” according to South China Morning Post.

Politburo used to be the primary source of governing in China, but after Xi became president, he relinquished much of their power and took more control.

China’s trade war with the U.S. has weakened China’s economy recently, forcing some to reevaluate Xi’s role, driving him to order the self-criticism analysis.

While highly favored under China’s former ruler, Mao Zedong, self-criticisms are being used again by Xi in an attempt to secure his position of power.

Chinese University of Hong Kong professor Willy Lam said the meeting was “extraordinary” because the leadership is “admitting there is tension within its ranks,” according to Yahoo News.

“It means some of the Politburo members have done or said things contrary to Xi Jinping’s interests,” he said. “Xi is under tremendous pressure to come to a compromise with Trump before the deadline in early March.”

Xi is facing criticism for taking Trump too lightly and not realizing the significance of the tariff increases.

Speaking on the trade negotiations, “Donald Trump is in a good position to benefit from Xi’s weak position,” Lam said.

Beijing-based independent political commentator Hua Po said Xi “doesn’t feel secure, and to be frank, this also shows a lack of self-confidence.”

“He always suspects that someone wants to rebel. So, for Xi Jinping, strengthening the centralized system and absolute obedience to his leadership is now the only way to face these internal and external challenges,” Hua said.

Lu Xiang, an expert on China-US relations at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said the meeting ran much deeper than the trade war.

“It’s more about the domestic and external challenges that China faces. Xi is warning the cadres that they must not let their guard down and his message is consistent with what he said at the 40th-anniversary celebration when he warned there are ‘unimaginable perils’ ahead,” Lu Xiang said.

He added, “Of course the trade war is one of the challenges, but the message isn’t about the trade war.”