Main menu

Pages

How Xi Jinping Reshaped China in His Image

featured image

In 10 years of ruling China, Xi Jinping eliminated his political rivals and replaced them with allies. It destroyed civil society, helping the citizens with no other help than its own government. He silenced the opposition, saturating the public conversation with propaganda about his greatness.

Now, securing a third term that defies his peers, Mr. Xi is ready to further his vision of a cool, nationalist China that keeps himself at the center.

His consolidation of power spilled over into the front pages of the People’s Daily, the official spokesperson of the Chinese Communist Party. At the end of every party congress in the past 20 years, the newspaper has signaled a model of collective leadership by showing the top leader alongside other top officials. However, this tradition ended when Mr. Xi’s face filled almost the entire page at the last party congress.






Other members of the Politburo

Standing Committee

Other members of the Politburo

Standing Committee

Other members of the Politburo

Standing Committee


This year’s convention, which closed on Saturday, further consolidated its control. Mr. Xi is now positioned as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, whose nearly unlimited authority allowed China to plunge into years of famine and bloodshed.

As a result, it is almost certain that Mr. Xi’s access to everyday Chinese life – in a country where he is seemingly ubiquitous – will increase further.

Mr. Xi’s omnipresence begins at the very top of the Chinese government.

The Politburo Standing Committee is the Communist Party’s most powerful decision-making body, and its membership is secretly discussed by top party members at each congress. Historically, rival factions of the party jockeyed to elevate their preferred candidates to committee, forcing the last group to weigh different policy priorities and rule by consensus.

But the new roster announced on Sunday shows how completely Mr. Xi has abandoned this norm.






Mr. Xi appointed allies too old or inexperienced to take his place.

Some members who were seen as less close to Mr. Xi retired early.

Mr. Xi appointed allies too old or inexperienced to take his place.

Some members who were seen as less close to Mr. Xi retired early.

Mr. Xi appointed allies too old or inexperienced to take his place.

Some members who were seen as less close to Mr. Xi retired early.


In a major change, four of the previous seven permanent committee members, a few of whom were seen as less close allies with Mr. Xi, were replaced by men considered loyal to Xi. New members include Shanghai’s party secretary, Li Qiang, whose long-standing ties to Mr. Xi seem to have outweighed his oversight in that city’s disastrous lockdown, and Ding Xuexiang, one of Mr. Xi’s best aides.

The new composition makes it far less likely for anyone to back down on their priorities in the coming years, even when the ongoing committee decision-making process is almost completely fuzzy.

Also worth noting: All seven members are at least 60 years old, making it extremely unlikely that any of them will be positioned as potential successors to Mr. Xi in five years. Mr. Xi ensures that there are no questions about who is – and will continue to be – responsible.

Xi’s Agenda

One of Mr. Xi’s main messages is that he alone has the ability to lead China to victory. He framed his policies such as “Zero Covid” – an attempt to eradicate coronavirus infections through quarantine and mass testing – and an aggressive stance against Taiwan as the only way for China to prove itself on the world stage.

This means that although some of these policies have hurt the economy, fueled popular discontent and heightened geopolitical tensions, questioning them means questioning it – increasingly unthinkable in today’s China.

Even explanations of the party’s past now revolve around Mr. Xi, as if the entirety of its evolution was moving relentlessly towards his leadership. Take the Chinese Communist Party Museum, which opened in Beijing last year.



The museum appears to have been designed to reinforce the cult of personality around Mr. Xi and suggests that its agenda has the backing of history. Quotations of him are plastered on the walls throughout the exhibits – even those relating to events that took place decades before his birth, such as the anti-imperialist student protests of 1919 – as if only he could explain and confirm these pivotal moments in the history of the party.

Xi as “Core”

Slogans all over the country adorn shopping malls and bridges proclaiming Mr. Xi’s centrality. Many refer to him as the “core,” a phrase that propaganda officials coined to describe both Mr. Xi himself and his political ideas.

Due to the length of the phrase “Comrade Xi Jinping as the core”, some banners are spread over all the overpasses.






With Comrade Xi

Jinping as the core”

Unite more closely around the party

Central Committee with Comrade Xi

Jinping as the core. practice

actions that welcome your victory

20th National Congress of the Party”

With Comrade Xi

Jinping as the core”

With Comrade Xi

Jinping as the core”

Unite more closely around the party

Central Committee with Comrade Xi

Jinping as the core. practice

actions that welcome your victory

20th National Congress of the Party”

With Comrade Xi

Jinping as the core”

With Comrade Xi

Jinping as the core”

Unite more closely around the party

Central Committee with Comrade Xi

Jinping as the core. practice

actions that welcome your victory

20th National Congress of the Party”

With Comrade Xi

Jinping as the core”


The identification of Mr. Xi as the core has been circulating for several years. But it has been emphasized more and more. At the closing ceremony of this year’s congress, delegates voted to make supporting “the fundamental position of Comrade Xi Jinping” part of the “obligations of all party members.”

“Xi Jinping Thought”

Even when the country is not hosting a major political event, Mr. Xi is inevitable. Children learn about Mr. Xi’s political philosophy, known as “Xi Jinping Thought,” in textbooks with allusions to his name. (Xi’s character is also the character of the word “learn”) His books on how to govern China are prominently displayed at the entrances of bookstores. Xi Jinping Thought even has its own app.

His philosophy was also written into the Communist Party constitution in 2017. Its status was further strengthened by a resolution at this year’s convention declaring that amendments to the party constitution were designed to better support Xi Jinping Thought.

The emphasis on flamboyant, highly visible respect for Mr. Xi has put pressure on local governments, schools, and other institutions to show their loyalty. During the convention, photos of hospital patients, firefighters, and even monks watching Mr. Xi’s speech circulated on social media.


Still, even under Mr. Xi, displays of loyalty can go too far in a country that still suffers from a decade of violence and fanaticism that the Cultural Revolution designed to bolster Mao’s own power.

Earlier this year, local authorities in the southern region of Guangxi printed and distributed small red pamphlets on Xi Jinping Thought.



Photographs of villagers, students, hotel chefs and government employees spying on them were published in state media. “A treasure in the palm of your hand,” one government website said.


But as the footage circulated on social media, some users expressed concern over the repercussions of the Little Red Book of Mao’s writing, which was widely circulated during the Cultural Revolution.

Not long after, the heated official propaganda about the news and pamphlets in the state press was erased.

Comments