Recent occurrences involving two Chinese diplomats may suggest that Xi Jinping is losing his grip on power. China experts believe that Beijing’s internal struggles are escalating as the regime’s National Congress approaches.
On June 14, 2022, foreign vice-minister Le Yucheng was unexpectedly removed from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and appointed deputy head of China’s National Radio and Television Administration—a demotion in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) system. Le has served as foreign vice-minister since 2018, and had the potential to become the successor to Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
As a Russia expert, Le, 59, was mainly in charge of Russian and East European affairs. He worked at the Chinese embassy in Moscow twice, and later served as the ambassador to Kazakhstan.
He has been at the frontlines in defending China’s “wolf warrior” diplomacy and blatantly blaming the United States for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“One watches its own arms dealers, bankers, and oil tycoons make a fortune out of the war, while leaving people of a small country with the wounds of war that will take years to heal. This is highly immoral and irresponsible,” Le once said.
Le is a close ally of regime leader Xi Jinping. He originally had the opportunity to become the new foreign minister and thereby control the CCP’s Foreign Affairs Ministry at the upcoming 20th National Congress. Apparently, his removal from the foreign ministry indicates he has lost a battle within the CCP.
Wu Hongbo, the CCP’s special envoy for European affairs, is the other top diplomat whose actions deserve attention. Wu served as the UN Deputy Secretary-General from August 2012 to June 2017. After leaving office, he toured European countries as a diplomat and foreign affairs spokesperson for the CCP.
However, the CCP kept Wu quiet earlier this year after a public appearance on Dec. 2, 2021 in Oslo to meet with Norwegian State Secretary Henrik Thune.
At the end of May, Beijing sent Wu as a special envoy to visit European countries, including Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Germany, and Italy. During his three-week tour, Wu probably shocked the politicians he met, as he admitted at every stop that Beijing made three mistakes: handling the COVID-19 pandemic, “wolf warrior diplomacy,” and mismanaging the economy.
Craig Singleton, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, told Radio Free Asia on June 24 that China’s attempts to reset its relationship with the EU “is reflective of a growing recognition in Beijing that its wolf-warrior tactics have undermined China’s economic position with Europe, one of China’s most important trading partners, and that China needs the European market and European consumers to help get itself out of its current economic mess.”
In the opinion of Shi Shan, an expert on China issues, Wu went to Europe to mend the relationship between the CCP and Europe; but the fact that he openly admitted that the Xi administration made mistakes was detrimental to Xi’s rule.
“The CCP leaders can never be wrong. Within the CCP system, leaders are said to have always been ‘great, glorious, and correct.’ If one is identified as having been wrong, he will have to step down and someone else will replace him,” Shi said.
Even when the CCP leader makes a small mistake, it is very likely to turn into a big mistake, “because he has to cover it up, which is caused by the CCP system,” Shi added.
He believes the removal of Le from foreign ministry and Wu’s unusual statements during his Europe trip indicate that some major events have happened within the CCP’s top echelons.
“The CCP’s Politburo may have deprived Xi of his control over foreign affairs,” Shi speculated.
There are other signs that indicate Xi still controls the CCP’s military, and the public security system through his trusted allies.