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Xi ‘Lying Flat’ and Losing Out? No Way!–Even Purged Opponents Rally Around Him as the West Gets It Wrong Again


While protests of various kinds spread in China as Xi Jinping’s Lockdown Policy went bust, the West is again misreading him and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in a big way, but this time alongside many of Xi’s fiercest online critics too.

With his virus policy about-face done with zero preparation for medical and other consequences, many people wonder if Xi is suddenly reduced to “lying flat.” Might he have lost the motivation to fight or otherwise be at a loss to know what to do when his notorious lockdown policy crumbled? Or is he simply trying to spite his domestic critics by doing nothing and letting the virus run wild?

In the CCP scheme of things, no state action, or non-action, is without a deep strategic reason. So, behind the hands-off attitude towards the virus, there must be a cold, rational CCP strategy. And Xi, with his Red Guard background and constant emphasis on carrying out “struggles,” is not one to lie flat. So, what is happening?

The question is just about answered by various Chinese officials already–Xi’s new strategy is to get the country to full herd immunity as quickly as possible, within a month. So, some top provincial and major city officials are now gleefully claiming that the rate of infection among their population is 80 percent or more, even though a short while back, they all were boldly claiming zero case numbers under the Xi lockdown, which the WHO just said was hogwash. By achieving herd immunity nationwide that way and then pushing the economy into a restart, Xi and his CCP can claim a different victory as he goes into the National Peoples Congress (NPC) this spring.

Under this new strategy, the Chinese government’s apparently stupid refusal of foreign offers of free mRNA vaccines makes good sense–and that is not done to save face. Effective vaccines now would be counterproductive to Xi’s new strategy. Why? And wouldn’t the economy weaken, as so many people die? The communist government’s answer would be no, and it may well be right in a dark sense. China’s economy may strengthen as a result of the many deaths, which are practically all concentrated among the chronically sick and the very old, with just a minuscule percentage of exceptions. From the Party’s point of view, it is a golden double opportunity to solve a good part of China’s aging problem and save on the country’s overall medical bill. Paxlovid? Never mind. Pfizer said China wouldn’t pay the price that poor countries like El Salvador are paying. Why would China want to pay any price to hold onto baggage and a burden? (Note: China has always been importing limited quantities of mRNA vaccines and Paxlovid for use in Hong Kong and Macao and for its top Party and government officials with distribution via its Special Supply System)

And if a by-product of pursuing this new strategy is to re-infect the rest of the world, and put a heavy medical and financial burden on those countries in the West which cannot just let their vulnerable people die off like falling leaves, then why not? Accordingly, Xi is promptly opening China’s borders for its nationals to travel outside. So even while plane loads of majority-infected Chinese passengers have landed in the West, his diplomats are harshly criticizing and putting pressure on those countries which quickly implement border controls to screen out COVID-19 carriers from China.

Connecting all the dots, one sees a clear outline: Far from giving up on the COVID issue, Xi is forcefully pivoting to a No-Vaccine-No-Medicine policy that serves him, his Party, and the communist state very well. While at the same time throwing a viral equivalent of a dozen nuclear bombs at the West.

Of course, one may ask: Now that there are popular revolts against him and his leadership, wouldn’t the opposing factions in the Party exploit the opportunity to attack Xi, so that he loses power or at least suffers a weakening of authority within the Party? The correct answer is the opposite of what most of Xi’s critics would think if they did not take into serious consideration the anti-people nature of the entire CCP.

Last year, with a number of policy blunders–his support of a globally unpopular Putin, his stringent lockdown policy in Shanghai and elsewhere, which damaged the economy, etc—may indeed have hurt his leadership and potentially weakened his bid for a third Presidential term. But unlike the West, where popular resentment can bring down a government, China is different. The White Paper Revolts and similar acts of popular disobedience, which immediately preceded Xi’s lockdown policy U-turn, are lending strength to Xi in fulfilling his power dreams, now helped by his political opponents. How so?

Xi’s political opponents in the Party–the Communist Youth League faction and the remnants of the Jiang Zemin faction–are still ubiquitous except in the highest ranks since the purge at the recent 19th Congress. They have always been in every way as corrupt and cynical as Xi, if only because they represent the crony capitalists and have dominant control in the private sector. And they are as eager to protect CCP rule at all costs as Xi and his faction. Now the recent revolts are genuine people revolts, even though they are weak and far from being “revolutions” as imagined in the West, and do not pose an imminent danger to CCP rule. Yet if not nibbed in the bud, those minor acts of disobedience could erode CCP authority and power, speeding up its long-term decline. No faction of the CCP would let that happen, no matter whether they are in power or not. The Party must not be even allowed to look like it has bowed to people’s pressure. This is an immutable, congenital, all-faction CCP consensus.

So, there will be a compromise–Xi will be on track to get his third Presidential term this spring, but the quid pro quo would be for him to cut the opposition some slack, such as stopping any further clamp-down on the biggest companies, which is already being celebrated by a group of famous Chinese corporate chiefs last week.

The same evil compromise between opposing factions happened in the spring of 1989 when most of those who initially opposed the bloody crackdown turned around to support Deng; some others were given early retirement but no punishment if they kept quiet. The one who appeared to be on the side of the people–Zhao Ziyang, got life confinement at home. Seen as a hero in the West, he never uttered in public one single word to denounce the massacre. That’s because his loyalty was first and foremost to the Party–not any different from the murderous Deng. A ruling faction of the CCP can be defeated and be deposed, but only by its intra-party opponents in an opaque power struggle–and cannot, never, ever, be forced out, or appear to have been forced out, by the people.

And so, paradoxically, the White Paper Revolts and other “revolutions” occurring in the last month or two strengthened, not weakened, Xi’s bid for the third Presidential term, as his intra-Party opponents came around to cut a deal with him and support him in unity against popular dissent. This is in the nature and tradition of the CCP. Ignoring this will lead to gross underestimation of CCP survivability and overestimation of the power of dissent, mistakes that are repeated time and again in the West.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Joseph Yizheng Lian

Professor Lian was born and raised in Hong Kong. He obtained his B.A. in mathematics from Carleton College and his PhD in economics from the University of Minnesota. Lian has published extensively in academic and professional publications, and among his many books is a travelogue of his round-Taiwan cycling trip.

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