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China Watch: Deja Vu All Over Again as a New Year Under Xi Jinping Begins

The regime seems determined to enhance Xi's authority and return China to the Maoist line as it seeks to deal with growing domestic crises in 2024.



Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the third Belt and Road summit in Beijing on October 18. (©Kyodo)

What does the year 2024 hold for China? Some of the moves made by China's leadership under Xi Jinping at the end of 2023 could offer us a sense of how the domestic situation will unfold in this new year. 

On December 11 and 12, the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) held its annual Central Economic Work Conference. Its purpose was to unveil the government's major planning priorities and basic policies for economic work in 2024. 

Observers focused on what kind of rescue measures the central government would come up with at the conference as the Chinese economy continues to sink. But the stock market reacted to the meeting's outcome with thorough disappointment. 

From the opening bell on the following morning, December 13, shares began to fall on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Shares finally broke below 3,000 points on the Shanghai Composite Index, a level the market had held for a long time. 

It was the same on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange that day. The Shenzhen Composite Index fell 1.21 percent. Since then, share prices in both markets have continued to slump. 

In other words, the stock markets delivered a decidedly negative verdict on the Central Economic Work Conference. Instead of delivering real economic stimulus measures, it produced nothing but empty slogans.  

Xi's Confidence-boosting Slogans

The only noteworthy policy that came out of the work conference is to be found in Xi Jinping's statement. He said, "It is imperative to boost publicity concerning the economic situation and guide public opinion in this regard to boost confidence in the bright prospects of China's economy."

The CCP held its annual Central Economic Work Conference on December 11-12, 2023. (Xi Jinping is in the center.) (© Xinhua News Agency/Kyodo)

In other words, the Xi regime is unable to take any effective measures to save the Chinese economy. Instead, it will have no choice but to use window-dressing through "propaganda" that talks about it but does nothing tangible to help the real economy. Doesn't this amount to an inadvertent admission that the Chinese economy has more room to fall in 2024? 

Increasing Repression in 2024

As China's economy continues to sink and unemployment grows more widespread, social unrest in China will inevitably increase. The administration's response will assuredly be to tighten the reins and intensify repression.

On December 22, minister for state security Chen Yixin completed an inspection tour of local security bureaus. Meanwhile, he is reported to have told the bureaus that "state security operations" in 2024 planned "to deeply develop a serious and realistic struggle against espionage and subversion."

Chen Yixin, State Minister for Public Security, China. (© Radio Free Asia: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Naturally, the "subversion" Chen referred to was domestic opposition activities and movements to overthrow the regime. As head of Communist China's secret police, Chen was proclaiming that a "major struggle" was about to unfold. In it, such elements would be savagely repressed. 

At the same time, Chen singled out the development of the anti-espionage struggle as an "operational policy" for the new year. That should lead us to expect that the CCP's secret police will run rampant, and China will be a society of repression and terror in 2024, even more than in previous years. The country is therefore likely to become a "dangerous zone" for its own citizens and also for foreigners, including Japanese.

Borrowing the Aura of Mao

December 26 marked the 130th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong. As general secretary of the Party, Xi Jinping led all members of the CCP leadership in staging a grand memorial ceremony for Mao. 

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

Earlier in December, the CCP theoretical and news journal Qiushi (Seeking Truth) published a commemorative commentary filled with lavish praise for the "achievements" of the "revolutionary leader Mao Zedong." At the same time, it sang Xi Jinping's praises to high heaven. It lauded him as "the leader of the people who bears the aspirations of the masses." Then it went on to say that the establishment of President Xi's position as the "core of the Party" is "a blessing for the nation and the nation's people."

Choosing the Regressive Road

The regime will have to deal with the growing domestic crisis. As it does so, it will likely attempt to further strengthen the political authority of the dictator Xi Jinping. Therefore, it is seeking to place Xi on the same level as Mao Zedong, the "legendary revolutionary leader and originator of the nation's opening to the outside world." By doing so, the authority of Xi would be enhanced.

The Xi regime seems determined to accelerate its return to the Maoist line. That approach supposedly had been repudiated by Deng Xiaoping's reform and open-door policy. At the same time, Xi's own "sacralization" and "Maoization" are becoming even more pronounced. 

Therefore, this could well be the year that China makes a great push on the regressive road to an era of Maoist-style "cultural revolution."


(Find access to the column in Japanese.)

Author: Seki Hei


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