6:20pm 02/10/2022
Xi Jinping can’t be overthrown easily
By:Ho Wah Foon

In the week that followed President Xi Jinping’s high-profile visit to Central Asia (Sept 14-16), wild rumors began to go viral on Twitter and India’s media outlets, claiming that this powerful leader of China was placed under house arrest after a military coup by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Xi was not seen in public for ten days until September 27, when he emerged to visit an exhibition in Beijing together with other top leaders of China – including Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

My first reaction to the rumor was total disbelief. I thought this must be a foreign scheme to destabilize China ahead of China’s 20th Congress (on October 16) to decide its leadership for the next five years.

Xi reportedly is vying to be secretary-general of the Communist Party of China (CPC) for the rare third term.

The key reason for my disbelief was that Xi has been enjoying strong support from his own people since he became president in March 2013.

His people-first governing policy and strong economic management which saw the eradication of abject poverty in late 2020, has brought stability and prosperity to China.

While public opinion poll is not fashionable in China like the West, available ratings on Xi in the past showed that support for his leadership was over 90%, the figure that leaders in the West can only envy but could not dream of.

In addition, Xi also enjoys support among the political elite.

China expert Christopher Johnson from the United States has written that “Xi appears to be hurtling toward a substantial victory at the 20th Party Congress (on Oct 16).”

Xi should have total grip over the PLA as the chairman of the Central Military Commission, the highest national defense organization in China.

According to China Daily, the PLA has been undergoing a historic reform guided by Xi since late 2012, when Xi became the secretary-general of the CPC and the Chinese military.

Since Xi’s support and control is strong, who dares to overthrow him? Plotting to do so would have been a near impossible task, even with foreign help.

But still, as they say: anything is possible in politics.

As a trained journalist, my curiosity spurred me to check the authenticity of the rumor.

One lazy way is to go checking the credible news media outlets. The first outlet I went to was Reuters. This was because I had worked for this international news agency in the 1980s, and I was trained not to report unfounded rumors.

I also checked the news content of China Daily and Xinhua News Agency – two official news outlets of the Beijing government.

No credible news linked to the rumor. Then I looked into the original source of the rumor.

The rumor was widely picked up and circulated by Indian media outlets.

What do I think of Indian media? Most of them have nothing nice to say about China probably due to the longstanding border conflict New Delhi has with Beijing.

I believe many Indians, like the West, will be very happy to see Xi fall from grace and China collapse.

Digging deeper, the origin of the rumor was linked to the Falun Gong Movement. This is an anti-communist religious group which since the 1990s has been banned in China.

In London and New York’s Chinatowns, I had seen them distributing leaflets to me vilifying China’s leaders and their families.

And the person who set the social media abuzz was Falun Gong’s Jennifer Zeng, who said in a tweet seniors of the CPC removed Xi as head of the PLA.

As evidence, an unsubstantiated video was posted to show movements of military vehicles in China.

Jennifer Zeng, now in the US, is an anti-China activist who was arrested four times in China for links to Falun Gong.

China’s official media had ignored the rumor, which was clearly debunked on September 27 by Xi’s appearance in public.

For some people, this rumor was not ruled out initially because of recent public discontent over economic problems and restrictions caused by Xi’s strict zero-Covid policy, which he himself had adhered to by quarantining for ten days after his highly successful Central Asia trip.

In recent months, Chinese house buyers have expressed anger over delayed and shoddily constructed homes, and bank depositors in Henan’s Zhengzhou have staged protests for failing to recoup their bank savings.

But still, all these problems may not be enough to remove a leader with strong track record.

To many people, the larger picture is that since 2013, Xi has cracked down on massive corruption, further opened up China for investors, launched his signature Belt and Road initiative to benefit China and the third world, eliminated abject poverty, popularized the use of yuan, and transformed China into the world’s second largest economy and a strong nation.

His rule has brought prosperity and pride to the Chinese people.

A YouGov poll released in July 2019 found that about 22% of people in mainland China list Xi as the person they admire the most.

The annual Global Wealth Report by Credit Suisse, released recently, shows the wealth of Chinese “has grown faster than anywhere else in the world,” according to Global Times.

As China is facing fierce sanctions from the US and threat of sovereignty on Taiwan, and probably the Third World War, Xi’s leadership is seen as important and irreplaceable.

Hence, if there is any coup d’état story, it will be more credible if it comes from the West.

The 27-member European Union (EU) is being torn apart due to its flawed foreign policy that follows the dictates of the US.

Aiding Ukraine in the Russia-Ukraine war, the sanctions the EU imposes on Russia have backfired.

God knows how many EU nations will be denied natural gas this winter after recent attacks on the Nord Stream gas pipelines, how many people will stage stormy protests against their governments, and how many will die of hunger and freeze to death.

If elected leaders in the EU do not quickly wake up to give priority to the interests of their people, they can expect their governments to be short-lived. Stepping down in disgrace is only a matter of time.

In fact, the first warning shot to EU governments came from the Czech Republic.

On September 3, about 70,000 people protested in Prague against rising energy prices. Similar protests also erupted in other EU countries. The most recent protests are happening in Germany.

This September also saw a change in the governments of the United Kingdom, Italy and Sweden.

Which nation will come next? Not difficult to guess if you follow EU news closely.

(Veteran writer Ho Wah Foon is a freelance journalist after retiring as editorial consultant from The Star. Prior to this, she had worked for Reuters, Chinese Forbes magazine, The Straits Times of Singapore and The Edge. The views expressed here do not represent those of Sin Chew group.)



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