Chinese Ascendant Xi as Attention Turns to All Facets of Life | Xi Jinping News

As billions of people across China celebrate the National Day on October 1, Chinese society finds itself in the midst of a government-led reengineering effort on a scale not seen in decades.

Over the past year, the government has targeted key sectors of society, from the wealthy and powerful Chinese tech barons to education, celebrity culture and even the privacy of citizens under the banner of ” common prosperity ”.

The precise reasoning and timing behind the sweeping crackdown is unknown, but theories include that some regulatory measures may have been delayed by COVID-19 or that the government may be preparing for the Communist Party of China National Congress next year.

Held once every five years, the 2022 summit will be unprecedented.

After the removal of mandates in 2018, President Xi Jinping is entering a third term and could rule China indefinitely.

“(Xi) wants to prove his leadership in almost all spheres of China, whether it’s international relations, domestic affairs, corruption issues, cultural issues, which is new, and so, you see all kinds of movements occur almost simultaneously, perhaps in preparation for the big events of next year, “which include the 2022 Winter Olympics in addition to the party congress, said Lim Tai Wei, senior researcher at the University. Singapore National.

A visitor poses for a photo with a figure of Chinese singer Wowkie Zhang at Madame Tussaud in Beijing last month. Beijing now targets celebrity culture with new restrictions [File: Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo]

Many date the crackdown to October 24 last year, when Alibaba founder and tech titan Jack Ma publicly criticized China’s regulatory system during a speech in Shanghai. Shortly after the event, regulators forced Ant Group, Ma’s financial technology company, to suspend its planned $ 37 billion IPO, sending shockwaves through the global business community.

The mogul has been missing from public view for three months and since January he has kept a low profile as Beijing shifts its attention to the country’s other tech giants.

In July, regulators sued the popular ride-sharing app Didi over concerns that its users’ data could be breached by U.S. officials following its listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Didi was pulled from app stores and its value plummeted, raising fears for the future of the industry.

Concern for the oligarchs

Over the past year, China has also passed new legislation protecting user data privacy and targeting monopolies owned by companies like Ma’s Alibaba and the equally powerful Tencent. Meanwhile, the IRS has attacked some of China’s most famous celebrities, some of whom owe tens of millions in unpaid taxes, in a continuation of a larger anti-corruption campaign that began after the take of Xi in 2012.

“It’s no different than the 1890s in America during the ‘thief baron era’ and then you had (President) Teddy Roosevelt’s antitrust movement. These two periods had new industries that had, to use the Chinese term, “barbaric growth,” and then the state and politicians stepped in to change the rules of the game because they thought it was not healthy. for the economy, ”said Richard McGregor. , principal researcher for East Asia at the Lowy Institute in Sydney and author of Xi Jinping: The Backlash.

“Obviously there is an element of state control and party control. The party has always been concerned about the growth of a class of oligarchs that arose in Russia in the 1990s and became politically active and politically powerful.

Unlike the United States during the Golden Age, however, many wealthy Chinese are now invited to donate to a “prosperity pool”, described by some as a black box, although it is intended to fight against the widening of inequalities amid fears that it will one day lead to social unrest.

The narrowing of social gaps is also widely seen as the reason for the government’s crackdown on for-profit private tutoring centers which, until recently, were an integral part of the lives of many students hoping to compete in the ultra-high school system. competitive from China.

Other changes targeting young people include limits on computer gaming time during the week and crackdowns on fandoms and sissies, or what China calls “sissy” men like those the we see in K-Pop bands.

“Unpredictability”

“Xi Jinping Thought,” Xi’s political ideology that was enshrined in the constitution in 2018, will also be added to the national curriculum and taught in schools from primary to college.

This is a social engineering effort on a scale not seen since Mao Zedong was the supreme leader of China, but it is still unclear whether it is all due to Xi.

“We don’t know what’s coming from above and which different agencies are offering what they think Xi Jinping wants. Progressive leftist politics in the West are socially liberal, but the left wing in China is socially conservative, neo-Maoist, anti-sissy, anti-gaming, anti-celebrity culture. Xi is obviously worried about private entrepreneurs. Is he personally concerned with effeminate pop culture? I doubt it, ”McGregor said.

Whatever the motivation and whoever pulls the strings, the slew of announcements has surprised many.

Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, says recent crackdowns highlight “the continued unpredictability” of the Chinese government.

“Many people have characterized the Chinese government in recent years as a more institutionalized form of governance despite being a dictatorship,” Wang told Al Jazeera.

“I think the sweeping changes that are being made as part of Xi’s consolidation of power ask how accurate this understanding of the Chinese government is.”


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