Xi Jinping has consolidated power quickly. Now he is showing it off

Xi Jinping has consolidated power quickly. Now he is showing it off

Dec 21st 2013 | BEIJING | From the print edition

IT WAS, as a Chinese newspaper put it, “a new beginning for the Chinese dream”. On December 15th the imprint left by Neil Armstrong’s boot on the moon in 1969 found its near-equivalent in the minds of China’s media commentators: the “Chinese footprint” gouged in the lunar dust by Yutu, a Chinese rover, after its mother ship made the first soft landing on the moon by a spacecraft since 1976. President Xi Jinping, watching from ground control, clapped as the image appeared on the screen. For the promoter-in-chief of the Chinese dream it was a moment to cherish.Mr Xi launched the “Chinese dream” slogan within days of taking power in November 2012. It has since swept the nation, appearing everywhere on billboards and propaganda posters. It featured twice in a resolution adopted by the Communist Party’s Central Committee at a plenum last month that marked the tightening of Mr Xi’s grip. He has said the Chinese dream includes a “dream of a strong nation” and a “dream of a strong army” and, especially since the plenum, he has been playing up the strongman image.

Some Chinese actions in the region have appeared more assertive, too. On December 5th a Chinese naval ship had a tense encounter with an American cruiser in the South China Sea. Both sides kept quiet about it until more than a week later when American officials revealed that their vessel, USS Cowpens, had been forced to manoeuvre to avoid hitting the Chinese ship, which had passed in front.

The incident occurred while the American cruiser was watching China’s new and only aircraft-carrier, theLiaoning, as it made its first foray into the area, which is riven with competing maritime claims. (The Liaoningfeatures in a special issue of four “Chinese dream” postage stamps issued in September; two others show Chinese spacecraft and one a deep-sea submersible.) America lodged protests with China about the near-miss in international waters. A Chinese newspaper, however, accused the Cowpens of posing a threat to “China’s national security”. The encounter is likely to add to American concerns that China is trying to claim the sea, a vital trading route, as its backyard.

The maritime near-miss came after the announcement on November 23rd of an “Air-Defence Identification Zone” in the East China Sea that would require all aircraft flying through it to report to the Chinese authorities. This enraged Japan, which controls islands within the zone, and was criticised by other countries, including America and South Korea. On December 16th during a visit to Hanoi, America’s secretary of state, John Kerry, said the zone had increased the risk of a “dangerous miscalculation or an accident”. China’s enforcement of it seems to have been scant, but nationalists at home have hailed the move. On the same day as Mr Kerry spoke, China’s defence minister, Chang Wanquan, was in Jakarta, where he said that critics of the zone were causing “a hundred harms and no benefits”.

“Chinese dream” rhetoric has suffused China’s coverage of the moon landing by theChang’e-3 spaceship, and the Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover’s successful deployment from it, sporting the Chinese flag on its side. In a televised call to three Chinese astronauts orbiting Earth in June, Mr Xi had said: “The space dream is an important part of the dream of a strong nation.” Despite some mutterings on Chinese microblogs about the pointlessness of replicating feats performed so long ago by the Soviet Union and America, Mr Xi appears as fixated on the moon as his predecessors were. The army’s main mouthpiece, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, said it was hard to say exactly when a Chinese person would land on the moon, but that Chinese spacemen were “heading towards this goal with unprecedented speed”.

The urge to purge

In Beijing rumours have continued to swirl that Mr Xi has been flexing his political muscles by putting a retired member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under house arrest on suspicion of corruption and other crimes. The New York Times reported on December 15th that Mr Zhou had become the first person of such rank to be placed under formal investigation for corruption since the Communist Party came to power in 1949. The newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying Mr Xi and other leaders decided to take this action in early December. Mr Zhou enjoyed enormous power as head of the internal security apparatus before stepping down at the same time as Mr Xi took office. He was also widely thought to be the patron of Bo Xilai, a Politburo member who was sentenced to life in prison in September for corruption and abuse of power.

But although Mr Xi usually appears confident, a recent propaganda campaign has betrayed a sense of insecurity that still permeates the party elite. In early December official newspapers began praising an anonymous internet posting that urges Chinese to draw lessons from the chaotic collapse of authoritarian regimes elsewhere. “We support Chairman Xi Jinping because we don’t want to become a second Libya,” says the article, titled “You are nothing without your motherland”. Some microbloggers have mocked it, but employees of some state enterprises have been corralled into studying it. Mr Xi’s glorious dreams of the future, it appears, alternate with nightmarish visions.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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