Recently, most of the media attention has been focused on either the Israel-Palestine conflict or the possible onset of a second Cold War. However, in the political black box of China. tensions have also reached a head, where the Chinese Communist Party’s latest “purge” has reached such momentum in Beijing, that it has experts drawing parallels to Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The new Party general secretary, Xi Jingping, has been labeled by some media sources as “the Gorbachev of China.”
The purge began in November 2012, when Xi took power and vowed to weed out all corruption within the government. He has pursued both “tigers” and “flies” alike, without regard to the position or rank of government officials. Last year alone, 182,000 officials were sought out and “punished” as a result of Jingping’s campaign of terror. And officials all over China are indeed terrified, from the lowliest local officer to the “great tigers” of the previous political generation. It appears that no one is safe from his scrutiny.
Like most politicians, Xi started his “anti-corruption” purge with ulterior motives, not solely to champion the common people and create a utopian communist society. Examining his actions more closely, Xi is systematically eliminating political opponents, particularly conservatives that would oppose his propositions for fundamental economic reconstruction. However, despite trying to preserve China’s economy, the Secretary General’s actions seem to be having a detrimental effect on it. Officials are terrified of making a wrong move and being exiled, sent to prison, etc. Tigers and flies are both painfully aware that no one is safe, especially since Bo Xilai, the “most charismatic politician” in China, was stripped of all his assets and sent to prison for life on charges of corruption and abuse of power. No one dares to make a single decision that might possibly conflict with Jingping’s envisioned policy, thus causing economic stagnation. He effectively holds the government hostage, paralyzing economic growth and development.
Authoritarian regimes are most vulnerable during the transition of power, as various officials within the government attempt to integrate themselves into the policies of the new kingpin. Xi’s transition has created an even more vulnerable situation than usual, due to the sheer number of officials that he has persecuted since he took power. The purge has left remaining officials unclear as to how exactly Xi wants his government to align with and support him, and the “grand tigers” have had enough. Xi has violated the de facto ban against targeting members and former members of the Standing Party Committee. Moreover, he is attempting to destroy all power circles within the Party, directly violating the “live-and-let-live” policy that has kept peace in Beijing since 1981.
The tigers are beginning to go on the offensive against his “oversized ambitions”, and Xi may have started something that he can no longer control. The conservative tigers do not want to see another Cultural Revolution cripple the nation economically for a decade. The people of China don’t care who burns or why, they simply want “the end of corruption” that Jingping has promised. But as Xi’s purge stands, they may be witnessing the will of a vulnerable leader grasping at power rather than the change that they so desperately need.