The results are back from the spin-doctors

The solution is to let Xi Jinping rule China for as long as he wants. But what was the problem?

Although the emperor-for-life arrangement had been in the pipeline for several months, the official announcement left Communist Party apologists scrabbling for a/the correct reason (they can’t just say they’re as clueless as the rest of us).

The stopgap position was that the Presidency is a mainly symbolic post, and scrapping the term limit simply brings it into line with the more important positions – so it’s just tidying up some little discrepancy we hadn’t noticed before, ha ha. But China’s censorship apparatus went into overdrive to suppress critical and any chatter about the change, confirming that the change was a big deal.

For Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing shoe-shiners, this is the nightmare challenge: use your wits and originality to produce an explanation that makes you sound authoritative without running the risk of contradicting the eventual official line.

Rita Fan opined that there is no-one else able to run China at this crucial time. This angle passes the Obsequiousness Test handsomely. But it raises the question of what is wrong with a system where only one person out of 1.4 billion can do the top job – what happens if the guy gets run over by a truck?

Regina Ip took a more academic tack, lecturing us that, unlike the West with its Magna Carta, China has barely even invented lawyers and needs stability, and look at Trump and Brexit. Trump can be used to justify almost anything, and the Western-democracy-is-mayhem idea is a useful distraction – even a compelling contrast with the competent-stable-meritocracy-dictatorship one. But the argument doesn’t make any sense. Has China been slipping towards dangerous populism? Does the emergence of an infant-wacko freak-show in the White House require China to change its constitution as a safeguard against something similar happening in Zhongnanhai? No.

In a more nuanced approach, Beijing commentator Hua Po explains that Xi inherited a mess and needs more time to train the strongman-successor China needs. While this maintains the Xi-is-unique-and-irreplaceable-if-not-actual-Messiah thread, it neatly blames someone else. If Hu Jintao hadn’t been such a lame loser (we infer), this wouldn’t be necessary.

This interpretation of the Xi power-grab seems to appeal to the pro-Beijing think-tank crowd. Hong Kong’s Shiu Sin Por expands on it by asking what would happen if Xi could only have one more term and left the anti-corruption campaign half-finished? We shudder to think, obviously.

However, it seems that Party theoreticians have now spun the definitive official account of why Xi needs to – sorry, China needs Xi to – have his personal and centralized grip on power extended for longer than previously envisaged. Thanks to grassroots and many regions and the Seventh Plenum and overwhelming appeals and consultations and surveys, it’s by unanimous popular demand.

Cue thunderous applause


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17 Responses to The results are back from the spin-doctors

  1. KwonTungPassBy says:

    Who will run China should Xi get run over by a truck?
    The truck driver, of course!

  2. Gooddog says:

    And so, the dictatorship begins…

    It’s so easy for a country to slide into dictatorship if it does not have strong, independent institutions and a respect for the rule of law. Its like breaking a paper wall.

    China is now at the mercy of Xi – let’s pray he’s more Lee Kuan Yew than Chairman Mao…

  3. Joe Blow says:

    The last emperor ended up as a gardening assistant in a communal garden.

  4. Revolution says:

    I saw Regina this morning handing out Judy Chan election leaflets outside HKU Station. Very pleasing to see that nobody who went past was prepared to take one.

  5. Yes, democracy is messy and imperfect, but it has several great advantages over dictatorship:
    1. If a nutcase or megalomaniac gets into power, he can eventually be voted out again.
    2. The clash of competing ideas is more likely to throw up a workable solution to any problem than the lone musings of an unchallenged supremo.
    3. When a dictator is wrong, no one may be brave enough to tell him so. This has left many dictators so detached from reality that they start to believe their own propaganda, and their eventual overthrow catches them by surprise.

  6. Jesse Jackson said that the difference between Republicans and Democrats was the difference between Coke and Coke Lite.

    The horrible undemocratic and unrepresentative stability of the USA is assured. In China it is always at risk.

    I do wish you could start thinking sometimes. It’s never too late. Leave the firm.

  7. Red Dragon says:

    Oh the Chinese “masses”!

    You gotta love ’em.

  8. LRE says:

    “The solution is to let Xi Jinping rule China for as long as he wants. But what was the problem?“

    I suspect the problem was: “How can I as a party member make lots of lovely corruption money from being a party cadre without running foul of Xi Jinping’s anti corruption campaign and ending up in jail?”

  9. Knownot says:

    Last Friday, Big Lychee linked to an article in ‘Foreign Policy’ magazine about the endorsement of traditional Chinese medicine in Chinese hospitals, and the promotion of it all over the world by Confucius Institutes – even though there is no proof that any of it, however old, is efffective.
    – – – – –
    Yesterday, RTHK reported that a HK deputy to the NPC, Peter Wong, said that the proposal to amend the constitution was not a move backward but a step forward towards an enhanced democracy. “You have a supervisory committee to check on all public servants, including the president and vice-president. So it is a more enhanced democratic system.”
    – – – – –

    When they’re weak or feeling ill
    They turn to old Chinese tradition.
    Of course, they don’t recover – still
    It won’t change their conviction.
    Herbal powders, qi relief,
    A quack’s deceit, an old wife’s tale;
    Ever stronger grows belief
    Even when they fail.

    A paradox,
    A paradox,
    A most ingenious paradox!

    If Comrade Xi serves many terms
    Surely that’s a real game-changer.
    No, the deputy affirms,
    There isn’t any danger.
    As a loyalist, he deplored
    So much ignorant attack.
    This is China moving forward,
    In no way going back.

    A paradox,
    A paradox,
    A most ingenious paradox!

    [with acknowledgement to a song in ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ by Gilbert and Sullivan]

  10. Chinese Netizen says:

    “…what would happen if Xi could only have one more term and left the anti-corruption campaign half-finished?”

    Answer’s quite obvious…the next guy would go after Eleven, family & faction in the same manner.

  11. Stanley Lieber says:

    They cheered Hitler in 1933, too.

  12. Donny Almond says:

    If all the masses had been consulted before they agreed, then how come nobody ever asked me ?

    Another question: is Regina Broomhead the most unprincipled ‘politician’ we were ever unblessed with ?

  13. FOARP says:

    The hilarious thing about all of these excuses is that they are all predicated on the idea that China is in the midst of some kind of crisis. However, when asked to identify what this crisis is that requires Xi to be president for life they clam up, because that would mean admitting that there was something bad going on in today’s China.

    I predict the eventual answer will be some specious nonsense that blames the “west”. Something like “We’d love to keep our old system but it allowed foreign influences to harm China so we had to change”. They may well use Bo Xilai as an example of this threat.

    Meanwhile some of the quotes from NPCC representatives asked why this is happening are laugh-out-loud funny:

    Representative asked why this was happening: “Don’t know anything about it.”

    Journo: “But they just read out the amendment. Weren’t you paying attention?”

    Represenative: (Silence.) “It was very hot in that room.”

    Another representative: “China’s facing a complicated situation. So this reform is good.”

    Journo: “Complicated how?”

    Representative: (Silence.) “It’s all complicated.”
    (Three follow-up q.’s fail, delegate walks away)
    Representative: “Enough. What I’ve said is already a really good answer.”

    Jouno: “Does this mean that Xi might rule for a lifetime?”

    A different representative: “That’s blind speculation.”

    Journo: “So under what conditions would China ever switch leaders?”

    Representative: “I need to use the bathroom.”

    See the thread here for the original quotes:

  14. @Donny Almond – “If all the masses had been consulted before they agreed, then how come nobody ever asked me ?”

    As a Briton excluded from voting under the 15-year rule, that’s what I wonder every time I hear that Brexit is “the will of the British people”. When did I stop being British, and why wasn’t I informed?

    China is not the only country suffering from a lack of democracy.

  15. pie-chucker says:

    Don’t fret, OldN, my leave vote would have balanced yours.

  16. Joe Blow says:

    @ Donny Almond: “the most unprincipled ‘politician’ we were ever unblessed with.”
    I would go with the vile piece of shit named Christine Loh, hands down.

  17. Red Dragon says:

    I wonder how they “got at” Christine Loh.

    If they had something on her, it must have been seriously juicy.

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