Former US President Donald Trump is no longer in power, but his actions and legacy continue to hurt his biggest rival- Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xi may be a brutal dictator, but even he can’t afford to lose favour with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials. However, despite the best of his efforts, Xi seems to be facing adverse sentiment within the CCP over Trump-era sanctions.
When Trump was in power, the US imposed a number of sanctions and visa restrictions on CCP officials over Xi Jinping’s hawkish policies in the South China Sea, and blatant violation of human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Till now, Chinese officials continue to reel under the burden of Trump-era restrictions and they seem to blame Xi’s high-handedness for their troubles.
As per Nikkei Asia, there is growing discontent among some of Xi Jinping’s fellow “second-generation reds”- a term used to describe children of revolutionary-era CCP leaders. They are concerned about Xi Jinping’s political style that relies on policies like ‘Xi Jinping thought’ in order to make some kind of a demigod out of himself. Xi’s political style reeks of personality cult, which is banned under the CCP Constitution.
Opposition from the CCP to Xi Jinping’s high-handedness and its serious consequences is actually becoming quite clear now. Last month, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng met US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Tianjin. Interestingly of all things, revoking sanctions on party officials was right at the top of China’s demands. This simply shows the level of dissatisfaction in CCP officials over Trump-era sanctions and the high degree of pressure that Xi faces from within the party.
At the end of the day, everyone in China understands that Chinese officials got sanctioned only because of Xi Jinping’s roguish behaviour. Over a dozen CCP officials were targeted with sanctions due to the Hong Kong crackdown alone. CCP officials were also targeted by Trump over the concentration camps being operated in Xinjiang. One of such CCP officials targeted by US sanctions included regional Communist Party boss Chen Quanguo, who sits on the all-powerful CCP Politburo.
The Trump administration had even warned Xi Jinping of sanctions over ‘CCP dictatorship’, but Xi was simply uncontrollable in his behaviour.
In fact, Trump continued to hurt the Chinese Communist Party till the very end of his tenure as the US President. In January this year, Trump imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for Beijing’s misdeeds in the hotly contested waters of the South China Sea.
At the end of the day, it is the CCP officials who had to face the consequences of Xi’s coercive behaviour inside and outside China. And therefore, they have every right to be angry with Xi Jinping. This is why they are fuming with the Chinese President.
In fact, signs of disillusionment with Xi Jinping within the CCP had started emerging last year itself. As per a HT report published in 2020, opposition to Xi Jinping was visibly increasing.
Many senior CCP cadres, officials, students, intellectuals and scholars went as far as criticising and slamming Chinese President Xi Jinping on social media, even at the risk of facing censure and punishment from the Xi administration.
Some of Xi Jinping’s more popular critics such as Xu Zhongrun, Xu Zhiyong, Zhang Xuezhong and Yu Linqi also took to WeChat and demanded that Xi Jinping steps down. Such posts went viral on Chinese social media and inflicted considerable damage to Xi Jinping’s image within China.
A major sign of serious discontent within the CCP also got revealed by a March 22 WeChat report which disclosed that “princelings”, the children of high-level veteran Party cadres, called for an “Emergency Enlarged Meeting of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) Politburo” to discuss Xi Jinping’s replacement.
Meanwhile, Xi Jinping is looking to ward off the pressure being piled on him from within the Party by mobilizing the masses with populist actions. Xi has resorted to some big decisions like allowing Chinese couples to have three children, ending for-profit tutoring and capping the amount of homework that can be assigned to children.
For Xi Jinping, mitigating the soaring education costs in China’s megacities or allowing couples to have three kids is a part of his policy to mobilize public opinion in his favour and counterbalance the growing signs of dissent and rebellion within the CCP. Xi’s future hangs in balance, primarily because of the Trump-era sanctions against the CCP officials and the negative sentiment that they are generating against the Chinese President.