It might be an eerie truth that the current news-dominated-Chinese President Xi Jinping has actually only been an emperor of half of China. Ever since he took the helm of the largest political party in the world, the Chinese Communist Party, Xi has been largely under threat from the former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and his minions since 2013.
Jiang was a stern political eunuch of the former Chinese Communist Party’s Chairman Deng Xiaoping, whose economic reform brought the traditional social alteration in China in exchange for a swift reform to modernity, from which the bloody Tiananmen Square Students Massacre ensued in 1989. At the time, Jiang was appointed as head of the Chinese military in cleaning out students from Tiananmen Square. Jiang’s role in the Tiananmen Square Massacre and his loyalty to Deng and his family granted his Chinese presidency after Deng’s lingering withdrawal.
During his ten-year rule, Jiang followed Deng’s economic path, and lured trillions of foreign investments into China, in exchange for China’s massive human labor and market, at the cost of environmental and cultural destruction across China. But his most notorious policy in the brutal crackdown of political dissidents and millions of Falun Gong practitioners and their families was hit by a score of lawsuits overseas. Thus, during his later years, he never stepped out China.
However, Jiang’s power grasp in China has been unprecedented. Even after two years of his retirement from the role of head of state, he was still officially the highest military commander in China. He only gave up the position as head of the military in 2004, two years after his successor Hu Jintao was crowned as the head of state. Jiang’s control of the Chinese military since 1989 enabled him to sustain his influence over much of the Chinese Communist Party landscape. There have been several rumors of assassination plots launched by Jiang’s group against Hu and Xi , therefore, Xi and Hu’s days as the highest Chinese leader have never been easy.
During Hu’s tenure as the Chinese President, he was actually never able to initiate any major policies, nor was he fully in control of any economic sectors in China. Even at some major Communist congresses, Jiang Zeming was always seen rigidly standing next to his successor. People called him ‘The Emperor over an Emperor.’ By his later years, Hu was able to grasp some sentiment of independence, which eventually transported his shady crown to Xi Jinping.
Xi’s mission as the head of the Communist Party has never been crystal clear, though he did launch several political cleansings within the Communist Party to remove Jiang’s supporters. However, the reality is that both Jiang Zeming and Deng Xiaoping’s family networks have been managing much of China’s economical hubs and major industries for over 3o years. Their soft money power penetrated almost every layer of Chinese business and major foreign conglomerates for several decades. Their families’ lifestyles are born of luxurious, indulgent and superiority which is unmatched by any royalty anywhere in the world. How willingly would they give up their money-driven networks to Xi? The answer is very clear.
Thus, Xi has never actually been the Chinese emperor as foreign media portrayed, and his power might not have seemed as powerful as Chinese media propagandized. His dubious leadership was also heightened during the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th Congress, he humiliated Hu Jintao by removing him from his seat in front of the world media and Chinese people. This political purging was staged on the same day as Xi proclaimed his unprecedented third term at the congress. Hu was the key initiator of Xi’s presidency, he also is the leader of Communist Youth League. During the last few years, the league formed a faction of power resistant to Xi’s emperorship. Such a political drama is the landmark of the Communist’s power struggles. But as younger generations of Chinese are growing up with more western influence, and they are able to travel overseas relatively free, they now see the world much differently than Xi’s generations. Xi’s absolute ruling on Zero Covid policy has slowly angered Chinese populace in the past three years. It has triggered nationwide protests recently, the largest one since the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989.
In Chinese history, it isn’t unusual for figurative heads of state to be managed from behind the scenes. This phenomenon was largely replayed each time during Jiang’s reign in China. As well, when this type of political mechanism is in place, it usually leads to the end of a dynasty.
With Jiang’s death, and the unyielding protests against Xi’s Covid lockdown, China might face the most uncertain state of its country as it did 2,000 years ago during the late Han Dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.) — The Warrior State.