President Xi Jinping and the new Politburo Standing Committee travel to Yan’an, suggesting a struggle ahead for the Chinese Communist Party, or the CCP. Beijing picks a new propaganda chief. Former President Hu Jintao’s disappearance deepens the mystery. Fifty-four Chinese police stations have been spotted from Madrid to Athens. The Wall Street Journal publishes an insider account of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s detention and swap for two Canadian citizens. China continues to construct roads in Eastern Ladakh. Chinascope brings you news from a relatively calm week in Chinese politics.
China over the week
Xi Jinping took his top leadership team on their first trip to Yan’an in Shaanxi province after wrapping up the 20th Party Congress in Beijing on 22 October.
Yan’an has a particular significance in modern China’s history and the rise of the CCP.
Yan’an is where CCP Chairman Mao Zedong and his colleagues set up a command base to coordinate military action during the China-Japan war and Chinese civil wars. Yan’an became the centre of a fast-emerging CCP’s activities for over 13 years during a very turbulent period between the 1930s and 1940s.
“The Yan’an Revolutionary Site has witnessed the glorious course of our party leading the Chinese revolution and exploring the Sinicization of Marxism during the Yan’an period,” said Xi in Yan’an.
Shaanxi province is no strange place for Xi.
“I have also lived and worked in the Yan’an area for seven years and have a deep affection for it. My father’s generation also came from here, so I’m very familiar with this area,” said Xi.
Xi Jinping was sent down to an agricultural commune in Shaanxi during the Cultural Revolution—a Chinese sociopolitical movement to preserve communism—from 1969-75.
With this visit, Xi signalled that China might see a period of struggle once again as past ‘revolutionaries’ did during Chairman Mao’s era.
Though it’s not unusual to travel together to a site like Yan’an, in 2017, Xi took the newly selected Standing Committee to Shanghai—the site of the first Party Congress meeting in 1921. In 2012, he took his team to an exhibition in Beijing.
Meanwhile, party posts to crucial positions have started to fill out following the conclusion of the mega party event last week.
Li Shulei, currently head of the publicity department, has been picked to head the propaganda division. The propaganda or publicity department sits at the top of CCP’s messaging hierarchy and will play a pivotal role in spreading his ideas through music, film, news, and social media.
Another key post has also been filled.
Shi Taifeng, former president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, has been picked to head the United Front Work department. The United Front Work Department is another critical tool in CCP’s survival toolbox, hoping to keep its enemies divided.
The scenes of former President Hu Jintao being forcefully pulled away from the concluding event of the 20th Party Congress are still fresh in people’s minds.
A consensus has emerged among analysts that Hu was taken away not because he was sick but for trying to look at the red folder in front of him. Li Zhanshu, a former standing committee member, can be seen persuading Hu not to open the folder, which he kept insisting on doing.
That’s when Xi intervened. He asked his personal security guard to take Hu away.
We don’t know what the folder enclosed, but the document in the folder likely contained names of the lineup for the Standing Committee and Politburo. Hu may have had some disagreements with the final list of names. Sensing unease to follow from Hu’s behaviour, Xi decided it would be best to make Hu sit out of the last stretch of the Party Congress proceedings.
Hu and his son, Hu Haifeng, have been censored from Chinese social media, suggesting that Hu may have had issues with his son’s name not appearing on the final list in the red folder.
Hu has yet to make a public appearance since the incident.
The Covid-19 restrictions in Tibet fell off the news cycle in the last few weeks, but people are angry over the local authorities’ response.
On 26 October, videos of migrant Chinese workers in Lhasa protesting against local authorities over restrictions imposed on them from leaving Tibet circulated on Twitter.
Also Read: Chinese response to border stand-off with India is to construct more highways along LAC
China in world news
People may have already started to forget Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s detention in Canada. But The Wall Street Journal has published exclusive details of the negotiations between Canada and China over swapping Meng for two Canadian citizens, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, detained in China over espionage charges.
“Mr. Xi penned more than 100 notes about her case, and he discussed the Michaels with two US presidents. Mr. Xi refused to free them until Ms. Meng was released. Canada was caught in the middle,” The Wall Street Journal has revealed.
The WSJ report shows that the Ministry of Public Security had a list of Canadians in China ready for Xi, and he only had to pick two names. These Canadian Michaels would prove to be the unlucky ones.
WSJ has a full account of negotiations involving conversations between Xi, Former US President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau through diplomats from the three countries.
Walking around the streets of Madrid or Glasgow, you may not expect to come across a Chinese police station, but you will be surprised to hear about 54 police stations in global cities run by Chinese provincial police departments. In September, the Spanish human rights NGO Safeguard Defenders published a report about 54 police “service stations” worldwide trying to keep an eye on Chinese nationals abroad with the plan to persuade some to return to China. The report finally caught the media’s attention, and local authorities in Netherlands and Canada are investigating the presence of Chinese police stations in their territory.
Chinese nationals, from students to workers, are looking for ways to escape Xi’s China–for personal and professional reasons. But more than ever before, escaping the Chinese mainland doesn’t mean you have left the country behind as the Chinese police have increased their footprint in major European and Asian cities.
The Chinese foreign ministry doesn’t deny the existence of these “service stations” and has said these stations are meant to ‘help overseas Chinese nationals’.
As winter sets in Eastern Ladakh, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is digging tents to stay at their posts, according to The Hindu.
“A large number of tents, sheds and habitats have been constructed in the last two months, and more are underway. Similar expansion of habitat has been observed opposite the strategic Sub-Sector North (SSN),” reported The Hindu, citing sources.
Even Spanggur lake and Pangong lake area are far from calm as new road construction continues.
“Officials said this is part of efforts by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China to reduce their vulnerability near the Spanggur Tso as noticed at the height of tensions on the south bank of Pangong Tso at the end of August 2020 when the Indian Army deployed tanks and troops on mountain peaks in the Kailash range giving it a direct view of the Spanggur gap,” The Hindu reported.
As the 20th Party Congress concludes, the term of Beijing’s envoy in New Delhi has come to an end. Sun Weidong will soon leave his post in Delhi, and a new ambassador will be appointed.
What you must read this week
Exit Stage Right — Hu Jintao’s staggering departure from China’s political scene — China Heritage
Five Firm Grasps for the World — China Media Project
Special Report: Wang Yi calls Russian, Saudi counterparts as Beijing supports OPEC production cut — China-Russia Report
Also read: This is how China’s provinces compete to bring new projects. It’s called localised bargaining
Experts this week
“For Johnson, Truss and Sunak, the promotion of relations with India was a priority in British diplomacy. In fact, the strengthening of British relations with India is similar to the strengthening of relations with India by other European countries. They are now stepping up their external strategic reorientation, especially in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. China is a significant influence on their external strategic reorientation.
For the UK, of course, it is stepping up its external strategic reorientation after Brexit. It is paying particular attention to the Asia-Pacific region, which is clearly the centre of gravity of the world’s political economy,” said Liu Zongyi, senior fellow and secretary general of South Asia and China Center, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS), in an interview with Guancha.
The author is a columnist and a freelance journalist, currently pursuing an MSc in international politics with a focus on China from School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. He was previously a China media journalist at the BBC World Service. He tweets @aadilbrar. Views are personal.
(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)