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CCP's 'Second-Generation Reds': Can the Anti-Xi Rebels Oust the Strongman and Form a New Party?

According to a Taiwanese paper, Second-Generation Reds, who are children of Chinese political elites like Deng Xiaoping, are plotting a coup against Xi Jinping.



President Xi Jinping at an international conference on the Belt and Road Initiative on October 18 at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (©Kyodo)

Could this be the first black swan event for China in 2024? While New Year's Day 2024 was hardly over, there came an explosive piece of news. The Second-Generation Reds of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have collectively rebelled, aiming to form a new party to overthrow Xi Jinping's rule.

Second-Generation Reds on the March

Second-Generation Reds (hong er'dai 红二代) refers to the sons and daughters of Chinese political elites, especially children of the founding members of the CCP. 

This news that some Second-Generation Reds were rebelling against Xi Jinping was revealed in a front-page article in the Taiwanese newspaper Liberty Times. The news broke on January 3, amidst the heated Taiwanese election campaign. The author of the article is Yuan Hongbing, a former criminal law professor at Peking University who is now living in exile in Australia.

The main point of the article is that the Second-Generation Reds group led by Liu Yuan has formed a political consensus to overthrow Xi Jinping's rule. Liu Yuan is the son of Liu Shaoqi, former Chairman of the People's Republic of China.

Frontpage article in the Taiwanese newspaper Liberty Times titled “How Does the CCP's Serious Political Crisis Affect Taiwan?”

Yuan Hongbing's Assessment

Yuan Hongbing's January 3, 2024 Liberty Times article makes the following assertions:

  1. The Second-Generation Reds believe that Xi Jinping has completely betrayed former CCP leader Deng Xiaoping's reform and opening policy after ten years in power. The Reds believe that Xi has regressed to the era of the Cultural Revolution. They claim that this has led to a comprehensive crisis in politics, the economy, society, and diplomacy.
  2. The Second-Generation Reds also believe that Xi Jinping has destroyed the CCP's system of democratic centralism and implemented personal dictatorship. The Reds think that this has led to the deterioration of the economy and people's livelihoods, the near bankruptcy of the national treasury, boiling public resentment, turmoil among officials, and an imminent social crisis.
  3. To stop Xi Jinping from leading the country to an unprecedented disaster, the Second-Generation Reds will form a new party. They will transform the CCP into a Chinese social democratic party and move towards a democratic socialist parliamentary political system. They will also abandon the policy of using force to threaten Taiwan and will improve diplomatic relations with other countries. 

The article further states: "We [ie, the Second-Generation Reds] will take action, issuing an appeal to the 90 million CCP members, launching a groundbreaking democratic political reform, stripping Xi Jinping of the power to dominate China's destiny," etc.

Political Royalty and Powerful Dissenters

Yuan Hongbing's Liberty Times article names some of the Second-Generation Reds who participated in the anti-Xi petition. They include Liu Yuan, Deng Pufang (son of Deng Xiaoping), and Hu Deping (son of former CCP head Hu Yaobang). Additionally, the children of veteran CCP generals such as Ye Jianying, He Long, Nie Rongzhen, Xu Xiangqian, Su Yu, Xu Haidong, and Wang Zhen also joined the action. Apart from the Second-Generation Reds, a group of military leaders, who were considered close to Xi Jinping, also joined the petition. 

Yuan Hongbing stated that this anti-Xi movement is an unprecedented political crisis for Xi Jinping, who is sitting on a volcano that is about to erupt. If Xi were to follow in the footsteps of Mao Zedong and launch another political persecution against these "Second-Generation Reds," it would ignite the anger of Communist Party members against Xi. This in turn would lead to Xi's downfall in a crisis. This is a highly probable scenario for a black swan event within the Communist Party in 2024.

Yuan Hongbing did not specify when the petition was initiated or if it is still ongoing.


Could the Second-Generation Reds Coordinate against Xi?

It is said that Yuan Hongbing purchased the space from Liberty Times and published the article as a political advertisement. Even so, the content caused huge shock waves and heated debates among the overseas Chinese population.  

Some people have expressed doubts about the authenticity of this news. These people believe that if a coup is to be carried out, it must be carried out in secret and can only be announced after it has succeeded. Such a high-profile petition will only startle Xi, these people say. If it fails, the leader, Liu Yuan, will be imprisoned for life.

Some also say that it is quite impossible for the Second-Generation Reds to communicate with one another and plot something together, as each of them is under strict monitoring and control. They also lack enough support or power to do anything, it is claimed.

However, a consideration of all the previous signs, as well as of the current situation, leads to a different conclusion.

Whispers of a Revolution

On November 1, 2023, Liu Yuan published an article commemorating the 125th anniversary of Liu Shaoqi's birth. The article mentioned how Liu Shaoqi emphasized that "democratic centralism" must be followed and that he "clearly opposed personal dictatorship."

Liu Shaoqi (left) and Mao Zedong in 1959. (From the Memorial Hall of Comrade Liu Shaoqi in Ningxiang, Hunan Province.)

It also mentioned that during Deng Xiaoping's era, regulations were made to "not allow one-man dictatorship or paternalism." At the same time, those regulations "prohibit any form of a personality cult." 

This article was considered to be an unnamed criticism of Xi Jinping's dictatorship. A lot of commentators wrote about it. Interestingly, this article can't be found online now. 

In addition, on the evening of November 6, a concert commemorating the 125th anniversary of Liu Shaoqi's birth was held at the Beijing Concert Hall. Many Second-Generation Reds, including some military generals, attended the concert.

Liu Shaoqi's History with Mao Zedong

Xi Jinping, who had attended an event on the 120th anniversary of Liu Shaoqi's birth, was absent from the commemorative concert. He did not make any statement.


At that time, many commentators believed that this was a gathering of Second-Generation Reds led by Liu Yuan. The purpose of the gathering, it was believed, was to express dissatisfaction with Xi Jinping on the occasion of Liu Shaoqi's birth.

In particular, Liu Yuan mentioned in his article the so-called Seven Thousand Cadres Conference held by the CCP in January 1962. 

In 1962, a man-made famine caused by the CCP put tens of millions of Chinese people into an early grave. Mao Zedong's prestige within the party greatly declined. Local officials and party members were deeply dissatisfied with the CCP Central Committee.

Mao therefore convened a meeting with 7,000 officials to strengthen centralization and promote grain procurement. 

However, Liu Shaoqi delivered a report and, along with others, pushed for more democratic methods. Thanks to this, the meeting adopted a democratic approach. Officials began expressing their real opinions on the Great Leap Forward Movement, and some openly criticized Mao. As a result, Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping had to engage in self-criticism in front of the full assembly.

The Past in the Present

After the Seven Thousand Cadres Conference, Mao Zedong had to take a back seat. Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, and others presided over the daily affairs of the CCP's central government.

From then on, Mao resented Liu Shaoqi. Four years later, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, overthrew Liu, and persecuted him to death. Mao thus regained his power.

The current situation of the CCP is very similar to the period in the 1960s after the three years of great famine. Then, three years of great famine led to the deaths of tens of millions of people. Now, Xi Jinping's three years of strict lockdowns have completely collapsed the Chinese economy. The CCP's irresponsible handling of the pandemic has resulted in countless deaths. The death toll is likely to be no less than that of the three years of great famine — maybe more.


Bringing up the topic of the large assembly of 7,000 cadres at such a time is, of course, very sensitive. Having dared to mention it indicates that Liu Yuan is mentally prepared to offend Xi Jinping.

COVID-19 Xi Jinping
A crowd holds up white sheets of paper in protest of Beijing's zero-COVID policy in Beijing, China, on November 28, 2022. (©Reuters/Thomas Peter)

A Gathering Grudge against Xi Jinping

In December 2023, there were rumors that, in the wake of China's economic crisis, Xi Jinping had begun to force Second-Generation Red families to hand over their assets. This was to help Xi tide over difficult times. If the Second-Generation Reds didn't do what Xi asked, they would be "dealt with."

Therefore, I think that the disclosure by Yuan Hongbing of the collective opposition of the Second-Generation Reds against Xi has a lot of credibility. Yes, a covert coup is more likely to succeed. But in a situation where a covert coup may have already failed, publicly speaking out could be a new strategy for Xi's opposition. 

The Second-Generation Reds could be making their voices heard overseas through certain channels, garnering more public support. They could also be letting more CCP officials, party members, and ordinary people know about widespread opposition to Xi Jinping's dictatorship within the party.

Furthermore, the Second-Generation Reds view China as their own property. They are certainly unwilling to let Xi Jinping ruin their country, or their ongoing opportunity to enjoy their special status in China. Launching a counterattack one way or the other would therefore be inevitable.

An Unprecedented Political Crisis

Of course, there is also the possibility that the Second-Generation Reds did not act in such a collective revolt. It could be that the news Yuan Hongbing shared was designed to drive a wedge between Xi Jinping and the Second-Generation Reds. The goal may have been to sow suspicion, or even to get the factions to fight each other. This would also weaken the overall strength of the Communist Party.

In any case, the very fact that this kind of news can come out shows that Xi Jinping is indeed suffering from an unprecedented political crisis. 

As I mentioned in my previous article on the outlook for China in 2024, if Xi Jinping continues on his current path, there will be no hope for China. This has become almost a consensus among all strata of Chinese society.

Having the desire does not necessarily guarantee success, of course. Moreover, reforming the Communist Party, if it means continuing to be dominated by the Second-Generation Reds, does not align with the universal values of humanity today. The Second-Generation Reds may want to enjoy the so-called "revolutionary achievements'' of their fathers. But history will not give the CCP another chance to survive, under any form.

Police officers stand guard in front of a statue during an event commemorating the 130th anniversary of Mao Zedong's birth, December 25, 2023, Shaoshan, Hunan Province, China (©Kyodo)

Forecasting the End of the CCP

As for how the CCP will perish, we may be able to see its downfall unfold in the near future.

According to Yuan Hongbing, Xi Jinping became aware of the Second-Generation Reds' actions at the end of October 2023. After learning about it, he took three actions.

First, he publicly declared an extensive promotion of the so-called "Fengqiao Experience" in China. This experience centers around struggle and implementing mass dictatorship. This serves as a threat to the Second-Generation Reds because it is exactly how Mao destroyed their fathers.

Second, Xi commemorated former CCP leader Mao Zedong in a very high-profile way. Xi praised Mao and held massive rallies in Mao's hometown in Hunan Province on the 130th anniversary of Mao's birth. 

The Would-Be Emperor Has No Clothes

As part of his Mao commemoration, Xi led all the members of the CCP's Politburo Standing Committee to pay homage to Mao. They were to venerate Mao Zedong's body at the "Chairman Mao Memorial Hall" in Tiananmen Square.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (front row, 4th from left) and others visiting Mao Zedong Memorial Hall, Beijing, December 26, 2023 (©Xinhua News Agency/Kyodo News)

This was seen as a warning to those led by Liu Yuan. It was to remind them not to forget the hardships of the Cultural Revolution. Xi was hinting that, if necessary, he might resort to methods similar to the Cultural Revolution against the Second-Generation Reds.

The third action involved Xi urging some members of the Second-Generation Reds to publicly declare that they did not participate in the anti-Xi consensus. 

According to Professor Yuan Hongbing, as far as he knows, so far no one has succumbed to Xi's coercion and issued such a statement.


Author: Jennifer Zeng
Find articles by Jennifer Zeng on JAPAN Forward. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) and on her blog page, Jennifer's World.


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