Secrecy usually characterizes the Chinese regime’s internal politics, especially regarding the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Specific facts that expose the fierce struggle confronting the leaders on the eve of the October 16 conference are sometimes surprising. 

Such is the case of the rare public appearance of veteran former CCP Standing Committee member Song Ping. He gave an interview in which he reportedly emphasized that “reform and opening up is the only way for China’s development.”

However, Song’s words no longer appear on the networks because of the relentless censorship exercised by the Chinese regime. However, some of the responses from his readers corroborate the issue he addressed. 

According to Aboluowang, on September 19, there were approval messages in the comments and responses. Others speak of “supporting Song Lao to change the course” and “adhering to reform and opening up.” 

The publications only show Song Ping’s congratulations on the 10th anniversary of the Jiangsu COSCO Senior Citizens’ Learning and Assistance Foundation via a video on September 12. 

The fierce struggle within the CCP

Song Ping’s recent statement is seen as an attempt by opponents of the leader, Xi Jinping, to thwart his re-election ambition. It’s assumed Xi will seek re-election at the 20th National Congress. 

After Song Ping was blocked and deleted from social networks for internet users, the user of the Twitter account, @sunnyeeaa123, questioned the censorship, saying: 

“Who is pulling the strings of the Cyberspace Administration of China? Just now, Li Lanjuan and Zhong Nanshan’s comments were blocked; Zhang Wenhong was blocked earlier. Even Li Keqiang, The Yangtze River and The Yellow River will be blocked!”

Adding, “Moreover, Song Ping, a centenarian old man, just said that reform and opening up is the only way for China, and the whole network blocked him! China’s Cyberspace Administration is so rampant and lawless, who gave him the power?”

User, @Farmer9911, explained, “The Cyberspace Administration is the right hand of Baozi (one of Xi’s nicknames). All actions obey and serve Bao’s political needs.”

Song Ping, born in 1917, held important positions in the Chinese regime for several generations. They included as secretary to the late former premier Zhou Enlai and head of the Organization Department of the CCP Central Committee.

Also, he was Hu Jintao’s mentor. He appointed him to a series of posts and introduced him to CCP General Secretary Hu Yaobang in 1982. 

He then supported him so successfully that 10 years later, he succeeded in getting him to take up his position as one of the seven permanent members of the Politburo, in 1992, upon his retirement. 

Hu became General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party from 2002 to 2012 and President of the People’s Republic of China between 2003 and 2013. He took over these positions from Xi’s archenemy, Jiang Zemin. 

Hu was succeeded at the top of the CCP by Xi Jinping, who received strong support from the successors of the early CCP leaders, known as members of the “red aristocracy.”   

Hu then led the Communist Youth League (CYLC), which has some 90 million members. But although he supported Xi, Hu was snubbed by Xi, who downplayed and silenced the organization in 2017. Likewise, its budget was slashed. 

This case is about the intervention of one of the Party sources. According to Nikki Asia, “Xi expressed his strong frustration with the Communist Youth League from the beginning.”  

Reform and change vs. Party and closures

After the death of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping took control and promoted the country’s economic opening.  

Deng Xiaoping is credited with the reform and opening up that promoted the industrialization of the country and the economic development that enriched the leaders and their families. Their children are known as “the princelings.”

However, Xi is accused of sacrificing this trend that had become state policy. Instead, Xi promoted the cult of his personality. He returned to the strict rules that characterized Mao’s leadership, bringing back memories of the terrible cultural revolution. 

Xi’s controversial change in direction, aggravated by the incomprehensible and painful confinements to which he subjects his people, has muddied his image. However, the ‘red aristocracy’ that elevated him now seems to be against him, according to the Voice Of America (VOA).

In this regard, VOA quotes a former Red Generation member and CCP insider, who said opposition to Xi’s re-election is now mainstream among the Red Generation.

VOA’s source said, “What I’ve seen shows that the opposition to Xi’s re-election is widespread, and basically 90% of them don’t support it. The more vehement ones cursed, and the call to get off at the station must be very strong.”

This approach is corroborated by the censorship and blocking of veteran Song Ping, for his praise of “reform and opening up is the only way for China’s development.” On the contrary, Xi seems to give higher priority to the Party and the encirclement of citizens. 

Xi reinforces his power 

The uncertainty surrounding the identity of the next CCP leader will be known during the next National Congress. However, everything points to Xi winning his re-election unless unexpected events occur. 

Journalist Jennifer Zeng comments on a recently issued document. Xi tells CCP officials and leaders that they should be prepared to be demoted or leave their posts.

Jennifer Zeng comments, “This new document not only clears the regulatory hurdles to Xi’s re-election inside the CCP, but also gives Xi almost unlimited power to decide the fate of other CCP officials.”

Zeng notes that age and term limits were removed, meaning that CCP officials can now serve for indeterminate terms. It would allow Xi Jinping to retain power “forever in terms of party rules.”

These changes would indicate Xi’s powerful backing, so much so that he could remain in charge for an unlimited time. In addition, Xi promoted changes to the Constitution in 2018, removing the term limit for China’s president.

Another fact that Zeng highlights is the phrase: “Adhere to Xi Jinping thought of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era as the guide.” Thus, the degree of adherence to Xi’s thought would become the measure that determines the continuity or dismissal of an official at any level of the CCP. 

In practice, “Unlike in Deng Xiaoping’s time, whether officials could produce enough GDP will be no longer be that important. In other words, officials’ economic performance will be much less important than their thoughts or their loyalty to Xi Jinping,” Zeng argues. 

All the power Xi has achieved becomes almost a guarantee of his continuity in power. However, this does not eliminate the existence of his opponents, nor the frustration of a large part of the population, eager to exercise their political rights.

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