Xi Jinping’s huge surprises

Clothes hang from the entrance of a single-story brick house, known as a “black jail” in Beijing. Photo: AP

An Unpredictable Leader
A great leader must be unpredictable in dealing with tricky issues in order to have surprise when he attacks his targets. As a result, the targets are not prepared when he attacks. If they know what his next step will be, they will be well prepared to resist the attack.

Xi’s First Surprise: Blitzkrieg in Shutting Black Jails and Freeing Illegally Detained Petitioners
Xi Jinping does not look shrewd or fearful. In the five years when he was a Politburo Standing Committee member and Vice President, he only did what he was told to do without any exceptional performance. He had thus given the impression that he was but a good boy that will faithfully follow his predecessors’ steps without any creation or innovation.

True, Xi talked about his priority to deal with corruption as soon as he was elected, but his predecessor Hu Jintao has talked much and sent inspection teams to various provinces and organizations to fight corruption with little achievement. Xi’s words were but CCP jargon to please the people. The vast number of corrupt officials simply disregarded Xi’s talks.

However, on December 4, 2012, less than three weeks after he was elected, Xi Jinping took lightening actions to close the “black jails” set up by local governments in Beijing to imprison petitioners who came to Beijing to seek remedy for local injustices. Xi freed all the prisoners of the black jails.

That shocked powerful local officials as six months before Xi’s surprise actions Hu Jintao, the ten top leader, held a national conference on dealing with petitioning attended by high officials including some Politburo Standing Committee members and gave the instruction that local governments should shut their representative offices in Beijing as Hu was clearly aware of local officials’ malpractices in rounding up and persecuting petitioners. However, local officials simply ignored Hu’s instruction and maintained their offices and black jails till Xi suddenly closed them six months later.

CCP has a system to accept people’s letters of complaints and petitions at State Bureau for Letters and Calls in order to remedy local injustices. To prevent local malpractices especially corruption from being known by central authority, local governments have set up their representative offices in Beijing to intercept the petitioners. The petitioners rounded up by local governments were locked in illegal detention centers referred to as “black Jails” by media and web users.

The thugs employed by local governments used threat and violence to make petitioners promise that they would stop petitioning and then sent them back home. Petitioners were often tortured if they were disobedient. If they persisted in petitioning, they would be sent to local labor camps to receive reeducation through labor for one to four years. According to the reeducation through labor system at that time, police had the power to imprison people in reeducation camps for as long as four years without undergoing any legal procedures. Xi abolished the system later.

Xi’s action opened the channels previously blocked by local officials for informing against local corruption through China’s petition system.

Previously people did not dare to expose officials’ crimes of corruption as when someone informed about a corrupt official, in order to shield the official, the authority first examines the background of the informer instead of the official exposed. The informer would be punished if anything irregular had been found in the investigation. Even if nothing irregular had been found in the thorough investigation, the informer would have gone through lots of trouble during the investigation. If the official exposed was powerful, he might order his subordinates to frame up the informer and persecute him.

However, Xi’s abrupt move made people believe that Xi really wanted to fight corruption. As a result, people began to report officials’ crimes of corruption on the Internet and media. Under Xi’s rule, the exposed official was immediately investigated. If the official was found guilty, he would be punished severely while there was no investigation of the informer at all.

Xi’s severe punishment of the corrupt officials exposed by informers greatly encouraged people and scared corrupt officials. There was expectation that Xi would soon begin a nationwide anti-corruption campaign, but for months Xi remained inactive till people almost lost confidence and officials were no longer scared. Then he gave people a huge surprise.

Xi Jinping’s Mass Line Campaign, the “Purgatory” for Officials
Instead of the much expected anti-corruption campaign, in July 2013, Xi Jinping launched a nationwide seemingly Maoist campaign, the year-long national mass line campaign. He used Mao’s wording on mass line but his mass line is in fact entirely different from Mao’s. It precisely proves how clever he is in manipulating the application of Mao Zedong Thought.

In fact, there are three different mass lines: CCP’s traditional, Mao’s and Xi Jinping’s mass lines, the purgatory for officials.

CCP’s Traditional Mass Line
CCP’s mass line jargon is “working entirely for and relying entirely on the masses of people; from the masses and to the masses”. It means that CCP works entirely for the masses of people; therefore, it shall learn and understand the opinions and aspirations of the masses of people so as to formulate popular policies. CCP relies entirely on the masses of people; therefore, it shall make the masses of people understand its policies and mobilize them to carry out the policies. There is democratic ingredient in this mass line.

This was the mass line implemented by CCP, with which CCP was able to mobilize the masses of people to help it win the Civil and Korean Wars with an army much inferior to its enemies in funding and equipment.

Mao Zedong’s Mass Campaign Complex
The victories of the two wars caused Mao to have an inflated ego. He believed that he was always correct and did not need to know or understand the opinions and aspirations of the masses of people. On the contrary, it was the masses of people who had to study and obey his instructions and do whatever he told them to do because he was always correct.

The victories caused Mao to believe that he could succeed in anything as long as he had mobilized the masses of people. As a result, Mao’s mass line was no longer the CCP’s mass line of “from the masses of people and to the masses of people” but a mass line of mass campaigns, i.e. the full mobilization of the masses of people to act 100% in accordance with Mao’s instructions.

Mao’s mass campaign for fast economic growth – the Great Leap Forward ended up in his disastrous grand famine. It was followed by his great mass political campaign the Cultural Revolution that put the Chinese nation in chaos.

Contents of Xi Jinping’s Mass Line Campaign
Xi Jinping calls his campaign mass line education practice activities. It differs from both CCP’s and Mao’s mass lines in its goal to make people rectify officials’ work style and impose strict discipline on them through the mass-line purgatory. His mass-line supervision of officials aims not only at overcoming for the time being corruption, being divorced from the masses of people and the four malpractices of formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance but also ensuring that officials really become public servants and work for people’s welfare.

For officials, the campaign was in fact a typhoon of purgatory. Xi conducted his nationwide mass line education practice campaign for one year to overcome the malpractices of being divorced from the masses of people, formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance.

Those were the mistakes that almost official from top to bottom had to a certain extent committed; therefore, Xi Jinping calls his campaign an education campaign, i.e. a campaign to educate the officials in order to overcome those mistakes and implement his mass line. In that campaign, all officials had to examine themselves before the masses of people. As they had acted as lords and masters for a long time, they found it very hard to conduct self-examination and self-criticism before humble mass of people, lose dignity and face and promise that they would reform and become the mass of people’s servants.

Did that work? Could officials really be made to examine and criticize themselves? Would the masses of people come out to expose officials’ mistakes openly in spite of being used to be scared by officials? The higher officials’ ranks, the more serious their mistakes. Who dare to expose high officials’ mistakes? Take care that there may be retaliation!

I will elaborate in my next article Xi’s way to make officials go through the purgatory he set for them.

Article by Chan Kai Yee

5 Comments on “Xi Jinping’s huge surprises”

  1. Godfree Roberts says:

    “The victories of the two wars caused Mao to have an inflated ego. He believed that he was always correct and did not need to know or understand the opinions and aspirations of the masses of people. On the contrary, it was the masses of people who had to study and obey his instructions and do whatever he told them to do because he was always correct.”

    Utter rubbish. The old boy never slid into that kind of delusion. Don’t believe Deng’s propaganda about Mao. Instead, look at his record..


  2. Simon says:

    During Hu Jintao’s second and final term as President, Xi Jinping already took control of running the country and considered more important leader than Hu. In 2011 when American secretary of defense Robert Gates visited Hu Jintao and ask about China testing of a new stealth fighter the J 20 Hu gave an impression he was not briefed on the detail. However Xi Jinping personally attended the very test that Gates was asking Hu about.


  3. Steve says:

    Excellent article…Any rampant form of malpractice or negligent professional behaviour or breach of ethics if left unrestrained will spread like an incurable disease. Educational reform for better and higher learning, implementation of the rule of law and professional qualifications and experience was what’s lacking in China over four decades ago. Those holding responsible positions especially in government are products of infested corruption. It’s bound to produce a long line of continuous flow of crooks from tigers down to flies. Like any advanced nation, an Ombudsman or a Commissioner for Administration should be appointed to all provinces to receive and investigate against organisations and especially a public authority. No need to go to Beijing, but reporting officials corruption on internet and media is a wonderful channel of communication for the nation’s citizens.