A 21st Century Communist?
Currently poised to take over from Premier Hu Jintao, the PRC’s number two, Xi Jinping, strikes an enigmatic figure across the political landscape. Relatively unknown to the international community, who is the unknown official, whose impending tenure comes at a time of great tension between the East and West? Will his presidency differ in any way from that of his militaristic predecessor?
Born in Beijing on 1 June 1953, Xi Jinping was raised in a fervently communist household. The son of ex-revolutionary and State Councillor, Xi Zhongxun, his rise to power has charted a 41 year career from former employee of the CMC to that of a pseudo-diplomat, consistently representing Chinese economic interests in a multitude of environments. With a host of successful Latin American visits, during which the PRC has firmly rooted itself as one of the region’s most prominent admirers, his reputation abroad was nevertheless shrouded in anonymity until a recent trip to the US.
…a wolf in sheep’s clothing…
Cordially welcomed by Barack Obama and received with a full honour guard at the Pentagon, Xi Jinping exuded the air of an internationally friendly and modern communist politician. Juxtaposed with the solemness of his predecessors, Xi’s marriage to famous folk singer, Peng Liyuan, and open admiration for film maker, Jia Zhangke, make him a potentially tempting ally for any Western government. Today’s unveiling of a Hollywood project, jointly funded by DreamWorks and two Chinese media groups, will also bolster his reputation as a non-reactionary leader.
Nevertheless, quick to robustly defend his country’s murky human rights record, it was with some irony that his stay was belligerently plagued by pro-Tibet demonstrators. Yet, all in all, Xi’s state visit has seemingly been one of cooperation and diplomacy at a time when Sino-US relations are slowly waning. But is he genuinely earnest in his attempts to modernise aspects of Chinese rule, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing, adroitly disguising the bellicose intentions of his own party?
…an ideology so fundamentally divergent to communist rule…
Many political scientists favour the latter argument. As the greatest producer of Western popular culture, the United States has flooded mainland China with its vast array of globally recognised singing icons, Hollywood blockbusters and fashion styles; a cultural invasion often heavily criticised by the PRC’s leaders. Alongside such seemingly harmful exports, however, comes the dissemination of an ideology so fundamentally divergent to communist rule, that its very mention gravely undermines the party’s totalitarian legacy. This is the principle of democracy – something which is increasingly prevalent amongst the burgeoning ranks of China’s now politically aware middle classes.
Only by controlling or mitigating US influence, therefore, will communist rule continue to survive. By covertly influencing Hollywood’s films pertaining to China, Xi’s new regime is able give off the air of a progressive ideological outlook, while subtly manipulating anything deemed to be overly westernised. Such concerns over America’s growing influence in the region are pressing issues now, given the recent news of Obama’s strategic military return to East Asia. The US presence, albeit begrudgingly tolerated, is one that will thus disrupt any Chinese attempts to assert its power over Taiwan and any neighbouring countries. Xi Jinping’s main objective is not to embark upon a policy of unity with the West, but to tactically safeguard the communist stranglehold over China’s people.