Posts Tagged ‘Chinese Communist Party’

United States has to keep pace with China and its economic power plans

November 10, 2017
United States has to keep pace with China and its economic power plans
© Getty Images

The Chinese Communist Party Congress, which recently concluded in Beijing, gave President Xi Jinping a second five-year term and embraced his ambitious plans to turn the country into a global superpower. While it will take time for China to match U.S. military capability and surpass the United States in the overall size of its economy, the strides it has made in driving international economic development in strategically important parts of the world are at once impressive and alarming. It is impressive because it entails hundreds of billions of dollars invested in critical infrastructure such as roads, railroads, port terminals, and power plants. It is alarming because with that development comes increased economic and political influence, the ability to dominate, if not control, access to economic markets, and hostility towards Western values.

Indeed, Xi makes the argument that China offers a new model for development that does not require a country to imitate Western values. One must assume that means that deals can be “negotiated” behind closed doors rather than through open and transparent bids, and that there is no pressure on host governments to move toward more political or economic freedom for their citizens. As Xi has said, “It offers a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence.” Yet, the day a host government agrees to let the Chinese build a huge infrastructure project in their country, which the Chinese will finance and the host country will pay over time, is not a day of independence, but rather a day of long-term debt dependence on China.

The centerpiece of the strategy is the “One Belt, One Road” initiative launched by Xi four years ago. It is focused primarily on connecting and integrating the economies of China and its Eurasian neighbors. Since inception, it has expanded to include some 60 countries in Asia and Europe and has been augmented by the economic corridor of China, Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar, and the economic corridor between China and Pakistan The latter consists of infrastructure project commitments totaling $57 billion. Although the United States has struggled to maintain a productive relationship with Pakistan, particularly given their strategic importance as a nuclear power, the breadth and depth of Chinese investment in Pakistan over the last few years cannot help but diminish U.S. influence in that pivotal country.

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China also has moved aggressively into Africa. At the present time, China is Africa’s number one trading partner, its number one infrastructure financier, and its number one source of foreign direct investment growth, according to a recent study by McKinsey & Company. There are currently more than 10,000 Chinese firms operating on the continent, over 30 percent of which are in manufacturing, and roughly 90 percent are privately owned Chinese businesses. Some 89 percent of the employees are local Africans. So their Africa strategy is about more than just infrastructure projects, large state owned enterprises, and exporting Chinese workers. It is also about dominating economic markets, often at the expense of U.S. and European firms.

Some may take comfort in the fact that the West has won the battle of political ideologies and that few, if any, nations aspire to adopt a communist system. However, in the global marketplace of today, money talks and economic strength is a critically important soft power tool. If China were merely engaged in a benign effort to expand its own economy, increase trade, and address the enormous need for investment in the developing world, it would represent a challenge to the West, but not necessarily a threat. However, Xi’s description of a “new era” in which he “sees China moving closer to the center stage,” backed up by a “world class” military, sounds more like a threat than a challenge, particularly for those who value freedom and democracy, and work for open, transparent, and competitive markets.


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The question is how best to contain and compete with China’s plans for economic expansion. It is not to imitate or replicate its development approach, but rather to dramatically modernize and upgrade our own economic diplomacy and development toolkit, and work much more collaboratively with our allies in Europe and Japan. A new economic development strategy led by the United States should play to our strengths of entrepreneurship, technological innovation, and private capital investment. It should rely more on encouraging and enabling private sector investment than on foreign assistance.

The U.S. government agency with the responsibility for what is called development finance is the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Although it makes money every year, this agency should be replaced with a new development finance corporation that consolidates various programs spread across different parts of the executive branch. It should have the same tools as its European and Asian counterparts. With the same tools for facilitating private capital investment in high risk developing countries, the United States should lead an initiative to leverage and blend financing with our European and Japanese allies to provide the scale necessary to compete with China.

The United States should also work more closely with the multilateral development banks that share our commitment to private sector driven economic growth and level playing fields for competitive markets. When the United States reduces its support for those institutions, the Chinese are happy to fill the void. This is no time to retreat, or think small. If we want to maintain a level of influence in the world commensurate with our economic and military might, we must engage quickly and smartly.

Robert Mosbacher Jr. is chairman of Mosbacher Energy Company. He was the ninth president of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

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China’s military ordered to pledge total loyalty to Xi

November 6, 2017

A paramilitary policeman stands guard at Tiananmen square during the closing session of the 19th Communist Party Congress in Beijing. (AFP/Nicolas Asfouri)
BEIJING: China’s military has been ordered to pledge absolute loyalty to President Xi Jinping while a paramilitary police force now literally sings his praises, further cementing his place as the country’s most powerful leader in decades.
The world’s largest armed forces should be “absolutely loyal, honest and reliable to Xi,” said a new guideline issued by the Central Military Commission and reported by state news agency Xinhua late Sunday.
China’s military personnel of around two million is technically the armed force of the ruling Communist Party rather than the state.
The commission’s calls for fidelity to Xi shows the extent to which he has consolidated power since having his eponymous philosophy written into the party constitution last month.
Xi’s political philosophy — Xi Jinping Thought — should also guide the strengthening of the military, Xinhua said of the new guideline.
“The army should follow Xi’s command, answer to his order, and never worry him,” Xinhua quoted the guideline as saying.
For decades China has been governed in an ostensibly collective fashion by the party’s elite Politburo Standing Committee.
But Xi has increasingly centralized power and looks to be following in the footsteps of revolutionary leader Mao Zedong.
On Sunday, a song titled “Be a good soldier for Chairman Xi” was released by the People’s Armed Police, a paramilitary force under the Military Commission.
Nearly a half-century ago, the army sang “Be a good soldier for Chairman Mao.”.
Xi became chairman of the military commission when he came to power in 2012 and last year acquired the new title of commander-in-chief of the joint forces battle command center.
He has also presided over a corruption crackdown that felled some of the country’s highest-ranking military officers.

Towards a world-class Chinese military by 2050

November 5, 2017

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (centre), who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, visiting a joint battle command centre in Beijing last Friday, where he issued a directive to the People’s Liberation Army high command to “work hard at combat readiness, and lead our military to be able to fight and win wars”.  PHOTO: XINHUA

President Xi rallies the troops in sign that nation will take more muscular military stance

Improve your combat capabilities, and be ready for war.

President Xi Jinping delivered this directive to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) high command on Friday, during a visit to a joint battle command centre in Beijing, the latest indication yet that China will adopt a more muscular military stance in the coming years.

“The Central Military Commission (CMC) should strengthen the troops’ sense of crisis and war, work hard at combat readiness, and lead our military to be able to fight and win wars,” said Mr Xi, who is also chairman of the CMC, the supreme military decision-making body in China.

Turning the PLA into a more capable, synchronised and obedient force is clearly a top priority in the coming years, said analysts who noted that Mr Xi understands well that China’s strongest leaders such as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping owed their political longevity to absolute authority over the PLA, which is the military wing of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

China’s growing overseas interests and geopolitical ambitions also mean the PLA has to evolve to meet an ever wider range of demands, the experts added.

Odds are good that Mr Xi, who sees himself as an equally epochal leader, can achieve these goals, having overseen in his first term an unprecedented restructuring of the PLA to reduce its focus on ground troops, even as he lessened the influence of the generals and concentrated more power in himself.


Last month’s 19th party congress saw Mr Xi elevated to the stature of Mao and Deng within the CCP after his political thoughts, bearing his name, were inscribed in the party Constitution.


In sum, those priorities are not purely just for defence – we need to understand that naval power is a flexible instrument for a country’s pursuit of its national interests in whichever form possible… It’s often a mixture of practical defence, security needs and the quest for prestige.

MARITIME EXPERT COLLIN KOH, of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, on China’s growing naval ambitions.

Also at the national congress, he set out a two-stage plan to complete the PLA’s modernisation by 2035, and for it to become a world-class force by 2050.

The mid-century goal is likely an ambition to achieve “peer capability with the US military”, the US Department of Defence said in a recent report.

“The military reforms seek to enhance the PLA’s ability to conduct joint operations, improve its ability to fight short-duration, high-intensity regional conflicts at greater distances from the Chinese mainland, and strengthen the CCP’s control over the military,” it said.

The key here is the ability for the PLA to operate effectively far away from the Chinese mainland, said experts.

Mr Xi’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative to build infrastructure and trade routes across much of the world has increased China’s clout, but it has also opened up major vulnerabilities that the PLA needs to safeguard, said Mr Timothy Heath, a senior researcher at the US-based Rand Corporation.

This is why China has made significant strides in expanding its naval prowess, rolling out this year alone its first domestically-built aircraft carrier, a new generation landing helicopter dock and Asia’s largest destroyer, even as it streamlined its coastal forces.


  • China has been steadily improving its combat capabilities and military hardware across all its armed services. These are the milestones the PLA has hit in the past year:Feb 1: China tests a new version of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Dongfeng-5C, carrying 10 dummy nuclear warheads. It comes a week after another ICBM, the DF-41 (the world’s longest range missile), is spotted in Heilongjiang.

    March 10: China’s latest stealth fighter, the Chengdu J-20, enters service in the PLA air force and takes part in drills with troops, rocket forces and the navy. It has a longer range, more internal fuel capacity and a larger weapons capacity than the US F-22 and F-35 fighters. March 29: China is reported to have started building a new generation of large amphibious assault vessels. The 40,000-tonne Type 075 Landing Helicopter Dock is twice as large as its predecessor and can deploy and house 30 helicopters.

    April 26: China launches its first domestically built aircraft carrier in Dalian, the Type 001A. In the same month, China ramps up test flights for its Shenyang J-31 stealth fighter prototype.

    May 22: Z-19E “Black Whirlwind” makes its maiden flight in Harbin. The gunship is China’s first attempt at a locally produced, advanced attack helicopter intended for the export market.

    June 28: China launches the Type 055 guided-missile destroyer, billed as Asia’s largest and most advanced warship, and second only to the US Navy’s Zumwalt-class destroyer in capabilities.

    July 25: A high-tech weapons research agency, the Scientific Research Steering Committee, is set up. It is modelled after the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.

    Sept 22: Troops at the Djibouti military base complete their first live-fire drills. The Horn of Africa naval base, China’s first overseas military base, is formally opened on Aug 1.

    Oct 29: China successfully trials a new electric propulsion motor at a naval base on Hainan Island. It is significantly quieter and thus stealthier, and will likely be used on nuclear submarines. Its designers say the breakthrough will put China’s submarines ahead of those in the US and Britain.

    Lim Yan Liang

This is to support what China calls “active offshore defence” of its territorial interests and expand its “envelope of deterrence” in the East and South China seas and the Yellow Sea into the western Pacific Ocean, said maritime expert Collin Koh of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

The hardware enhancements also come as China takes a more aggressive posture in the disputed South China Sea, having built fighter jet hangars and runways on artificial islands it controls there and conducted naval exercises in the nearby Paracel Islands.

China is also using its growing “blue water” navy – a maritime force capable of operating globally – to secure its overseas interests and demonstrate its ability to be a bigger global security provider, such as when it evacuated civilians from Yemen in 2015, said Dr Koh.

“In sum, those priorities are not purely just for defence – we need to understand that naval power is a flexible instrument for a country’s pursuit of its national interests in whichever form possible,” he said.

“It’s often a mixture of practical defence, security needs and the quest for prestige.”

But Dr Koh noted that the next stage of China’s military overhaul goes beyond just hardware or software modernisation, to a military that can operate together as a coherent force.

This means pushing through holistic reforms that reach “the level of training and doctrinal development to make full use of the hardware and software capabilities”, he added.

RSIS China specialist James Char agreed, noting that Mr Xi will likely be able to effect these deeper changes having stacked the new CMC membership with his favoured generals, all of whom either share a long association with him, or have been groomed by him.

Mr Xi’s promotion of PLA anti-graft chief Zhang Shengmin to full general last Thursday also signals that the anti-corruption campaign to eliminate resistance within the ranks to sweeping reforms will continue apace, China analyst Charlotte Gao wrote in The Diplomat.

“The next phase will be to inculcate the troops with what I like to refer to as the ‘heartware’ – military ethos and operational doctrine, especially with regards to conducting joint informationised warfare,” said Mr Char.

Correction note: An earlier version of the story attributed a quote wrongly to Ms Charlotte Gao. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 05, 2017, with the headline ‘Towards a world-class Chinese military by 2050’.

China Reforming The World Order — Some friction to be expected in China’s rise as global leader

November 2, 2017

By Goh Sui Noi
China Bureau Chieg
The Straits Times

BEIJING • China’s ambition under President Xi Jinping is clear – to be a global leader by the middle of this century.

In his report last week to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Mr Xi said China aspires to be a “global leader in terms of composite national strength and international influence”.

This is part of the Chinese dream of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” after its century of decline and humiliation from the Opium War of 1840.

The country, Mr Xi said at the 19th five-yearly national congress of the party, is now at a “new historic juncture” in its development. And the new era will be one that “sees China moving closer to centre stage and making greater contributions to mankind”.

These contributions include, among other things, offering its development model as a “new option” for other countries wanting to speed up their development and taking an “active part” in reforming the international order.

While observers say China’s aspirations are understandable, there are those – both in Asia and the West – who worry about what these mean for the rest of the world.

Western observers are of the view that China intends to replace the US as the dominant power in Asia and reshape the international order to be more in line with its interests.

China’s ambition to serve as a development model and increase its international influence, together with its endeavour to turn its People’s Liberation Army into a first-class military force – as mapped out in Mr Xi’s report – reinforces “the widely held assessment that China harbours a deep-seated desire to displace the United States as the dominant power in Asia”, wrote two analysts with the American think-tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Photo: A military band practising before the opening session of the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th National Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. While observers say China’s aspirations are understandable, there are those who worry about what these mean for the rest of the world. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


In addition, wrote Ms Bonnie Glaser and Mr Matthew Funaiole, Mr Xi’s highlighting of the building of islands and reefs in the South China Sea as a major achievement of his first term showed China would “prioritise strengthening its control over the contested waterway at the cost of rising friction with its neighbours and the United States”.

Furthermore, during his first term, Mr Xi has sent mixed signals over whether China supported a rules-based international order, taking part in United Nations peacekeeping missions but also rejecting international tribunal findings against its claims to the South China Sea. Mr Xi’s vision for the future, they suggested, may signal an intention to double down on challenging elements of the prevailing world order that Beijing sees as contrary to Chinese interests.

During his first term, Mr Xi has sent mixed signals over whether China supported a rules-based international order, taking part in United Nations peacekeeping missions but also rejecting international tribunal findings against its claims to the South China Sea.

The “overarching vision (Mr Xi) laid out should raise alarm bells in Asian and Western capitals”, they said.

While not disagreeing totally on the issue of the international order, Professor Jia Qingguo, dean of Peking University’s School of International Studies, said China’s promotion of reform of the international order is not about China’s interests alone, but also about making the system more equitable and fair.

He added that China is a beneficiary of the international order and that stability of the system is important to it.

He pointed out that Mr Xi, in his report to the party congress, also stressed that China would safeguard the stability of the order.

He added that the US was the most powerful nation in the world and that it was important for China to handle its relations with the US well. “This is important bilaterally for China, and also for safeguarding the international order.”

As for China’s growing military might, he contended that a strong Chinese military is not a bad thing. “If it is in China’s interest to safeguard this order, then a strong China is a good thing for the international order,” he said.

Prof Jia also pointed out that while China needs to be heard on the world stage because of its growing interests all over the world, the international community is also demanding that it plays a bigger role given its growing influence as a result of its economic might.

“In the past, China could sometimes dodge or keep quiet,” he said. “But now as its status and influence grow, people expect it to say or do something.”

On issues like the North Korean nuclear crisis, “people expect China not just to speak up but also play an important role”, he noted.

The US has been pressing Beijing to do more to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes and the subject is expected to come up when US President Donald Trump visits China next week.

Still, there is also disquiet in the Asian region over China’s intentions as it grows stronger.

Over in India, former Indian ambassador to China Ashok Kanthi wrote that the manner in which the Chinese pursued their dream “has generated widespread anxieties, including in India”. This included “China’s readiness to deploy its economic, military, political and diplomatic clout to advance its interests, defined in increasingly expansive and unilateral terms”.

In Indonesia, an article in The Jakarta Post pointed to Mr Xi’s envisioning of a more modern and powerful military for the new era, saying the Indonesian military needed to continue to reform and modernise too, to respond to the changing strategic environment. It talked about the possibility of confrontation with “a more affluent and powerful China” over “the unresolved territorial dispute over parts of the South China Sea near the Natuna Islands”.

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China H-6 bomber near Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines

It also raised concern over China’s Belt and Road Initiative to help build infrastructure in developing countries, saying that while Indonesia should make the most of the financing and development opportunities presented by the initiative, it also needed to ensure that the law of the land prevailed.

While there are actions by the Chinese that cause concern, particularly in their neighbourhood, Professor Yang Dali of Chicago University warned against getting into a situation where whatever the Chinese do “is necessarily bad”.

He pointed out that Mr Xi was right in saying that some Chinese practices and experiences may be of value to other developing countries which can learn from them, such as China’s development of infrastructure and investment in education.

He noted, too, that in the area of climate change, China has chosen to play a pivotal and global role that has been welcome.

China, he said, has been willing to learn, adapt and react to external criticism, including in the way the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is run. In doing so, China will not only be a global citizen “but also play a leadership role that is valuable for the global community”, he added.

In the East Asian region, China’s problem is possibly that it has risen so fast that it is not ready for the leadership role that it is playing.

It needs to go through a learning period, Prof Jia noted, including accumulating knowledge of international organisations and understanding of the conditions of the region and its history and culture.

Both sides, China and its neighbours, have to adjust to each other, he said.

China was an ordinary power before now, but is becoming less so.

“China needs to adjust its view of things and the way it does things accordingly,” said Prof Jia.

At the same time, countries in the region also need to adjust to China’s rise. While in the past they may be used to a certain way of dealing with their relationship with China, they now have to use other methods.

“During this period of adjustment, there may be contradictions and conflict,” he said.

At the end of the day, he said, China’s desire is to have good relations with its neighbours because this means China will be more secure and have more opportunities for growth.

The same could be said for countries in the region. The question is what kind of relationship is acceptable to both sides – and that needs to be negotiated.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2017, with the headline ‘Friction to be expected in China’s rise as global leader’. Print Edition | Subscribe

Chinese universities start ‘Xi Thought’ institutes — “Xi Philosophy will be implanted into students’ hearts and minds”

October 30, 2017


© AFP/File | A slogan in a Beijing street reads “Promote Xi’s thought of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, making it a lively practice in Beijing”

BEIJING (AFP) – Xi Jinping Thought will now be taught, researched and promoted in universities across China, ensuring that the leader’s eponymous philosophy is implanted into students’ hearts and minds.

At least twenty universities have established research institutes for Xi’s ideology, which was enshrined in the Communist Party’s constitution during its 19th national congress this month.

The distinction places Xi on a par with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. It means that his dogma — “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” — will become a mantra for a new generation.

According to media reports Sunday, the research institutes will not “hide in the ivory tower” but advocate the incorporation of Xi thought in all aspects of daily life.

“We will gather many experts and professors to disseminate and preach Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era in businesses, neighbourhoods and villages,” Jiang Hongxin, head of Hunan Normal University’s newly-founded Xi Thought research centre, told the People’s Daily, the party mouthpiece.

Jiang’s attitude mirrors that of many institute directors, who in interviews with Chinese media over the weekend espoused a deep devotion to spreading Xi-isms.

“The (research) centre has a unique duty, which is to push forward Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era in curriculums, in classrooms and in minds,” Chen Xianda, a professor at Renmin University of China, told the Beijing-based Guangming Daily.

One institute director said the centre was the school’s way of “answering Xi’s call” to educate young people, while another said the Xi Thought organisation would “guide the entire school, from top to bottom, in implementing the spirit of the 19th congress”.

“We must always keep in mind the generosity of General Secretary Xi Jinping,” Zhou Qihong, a party secretary at Wuhan Donghu University, told the People’s Daily.

The lessons must “enter brains and hearts”, he said.

The education ministry also released guidelines Monday for mandatory elementary and high school extracurricular programmes that include activities to “foster emotional attachment to the Chinese Communist Party“.

China Edges Closer to One-Man Rule

October 25, 2017

Party congress empowers President Xi Jinping without elevating a likely successor

WHO’S WITH XI: President Xi Jinping, center, strode by other members of the Communist Party’s new Politburo Standing Committee in Beijing on Wednesday. Pictured from left, Han Zheng, Wang Huning, Li Zhanshu, Li Keqiang, Wang Yang and Zhao Leji.
WHO’S WITH XI: President Xi Jinping, center, strode by other members of the Communist Party’s new Politburo Standing Committee in Beijing on Wednesday. Pictured from left, Han Zheng, Wang Huning, Li Zhanshu, Li Keqiang, Wang Yang and Zhao Leji. PHOTO: QILAI SHEN/BLOOMBERG NEWS

BEIJING—The future of 1.4 billion people, the world’s second-largest economy and an emerging military juggernaut now lies largely in the hands of just one man: China’s President  Xi Jinping.

In unveiling a new top leadership lineup without a potential successor to Mr. Xi on Wednesday, the Communist Party edged closer to resurrecting one-man rule, four decades after the death of Chairman Mao.

The parade of the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee onto a red-carpeted podium in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People was the climax of a twice-a-decade process that placed Mr. Xi on a par with Mao in the party constitution and positioned him as pre-eminent leader even beyond his second five-year term.

Concentrating such power in Mr. Xi—who can now make policy and personnel choices virtually uncontested—draws to an emphatic end an era of collective leadership. It also represents a historic gamble.

Mr. Xi is calculating that strongman rule will make it easier to add China to the ranks of rich, global powers and to project Chinese power globally. An early test of the latter comes in just a few weeks, when U.S. President Donald Trump is due to visit Beijing.

The risk is a political culture that rewards loyalty over initiative, in which it is harder for the leadership to astutely address complex challenges.

“The biggest drawback of this power structure is that no one will dare to tell him the truth: There could be an emperor’s-new-clothes situation,” said Zhang Lifan, an independent historian and political commentator. “If there is a crisis in the future, he might not get the necessary information.”

That would be dangerous, given China’s critical role in the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and its outsize influence on the global economy and world financial markets.

Mr. Xi, who is 64 years old, has offered few details of how he will exercise his enormous powers. “I see this as approval of my work, and even more encouragement that will spur me on,” he said in a speech after introducing the new Standing Committee in a ceremony shown live on state television.

The leadership revamp effectively endorsed the revival of autocratic rule in a country where emperors wielded absolute power for centuries, and where Mao’s brutal dictatorship caused tens of millions of deaths through famine and the turbulence of political purges.

After Mao’s death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping began to liberalize the economy and develop norms for retirement and power-sharing, which evolved further after the Cold War’s end to avoid the gerontocracy and bureaucratic sloth that contributed to the Soviet Union’s collapse.

By the time Mr. Xi took power in 2012, however, the party had been thrown into disarray by a scandal surrounding one-time political highflier Bo Xilai.

Red Stars Rising

China’s Communist Party inaugurated a new leadership team following a twice-a-decade congress.

Mr. Xi became convinced that what led to the Soviet Union’s dissolution was a lack of strong party leadership. “In the end nobody was a real man, nobody came out to resist,” he said in an internal speech shortly after taking power, according to people who saw an official summary of his remarks.

Most striking in the new leadership slate unveiled on Wednesday was the absence of any member of the next generation of leaders, now in their 50s. That was the strongest indication yet that Mr. Xi plans to rule for the long haul.

Under recent practice at the twice-a-decade congress, the party has retired leaders over 67 and elevated to the Standing Committee at least one potential successor for the top post five years before he would take power, to ensure a smooth transition. By those norms, none of the new Standing Committee members are young enough to succeed Mr. Xi and rule for two five-year terms.

Xi Jinping is arguably the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. What’s behind his rise and how long will he remain in power? Photo: Reuters

“Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping each needed decades to achieve their accomplishments,” said Ding Xueliang, a China politics expert at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “Xi Jinping still needs to consolidate his gains and needs more time to achieve his goals.”

Premier Li Keqiang, whose powers have been severely curtailed, remained on the top body. Three of the five new members have close ties to Mr. Xi.

Mr. Xi also now has trusted lieutenants in the new Politburo, the party’s top 25 leaders, and the broader 376-member Central Committee, which includes ministers, state industry chiefs, senior military officers and local government heads.

In his first term, Mr. Xi has steadily amassed power and sidelined rivals by taking direct control of the economy and the military, assuming new titles and overseeing an anticorruption campaign that targeted senior figures and their families.

Mr. Xi has now declared the start of a new era defined by strong leadership and more balanced development, instead of the unbridled growth under Deng, as a way to preserve party rule far into the 21st century.

Officials at all levels have been quick to demonstrate enthusiasm.

Renmin University in Beijing, one of China’s top schools, on Wednesday established a new research center dedicated to the study of “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”—the political theory that was just inscribed in the party charter.

The theory sets out a long list of vaguely worded principles, including “a people-centered approach,” “a new vision for development,” “seeing that the people run the country” and “upholding socialist core values.”

It will be a big task to turn these broad goals into specific guidelines that China’s bureaucracy will follow.

“Xi needs local leaders to implement his policies, and he thinks that corruption crackdowns are the key to implementation, in a theory of ‘if only they would do what I say.’” said Ryan Manuel, an expert on Chinese politics at the University of Hong Kong. “It isn’t that simple.”

Write to Jeremy Page at and Chun Han Wong at

Appeared in the October 26, 2017, print edition as ‘China’s Xi Gains a Longer Lease on Power.’

China and Xi Challenge the World’s Constitutions

October 25, 2017


An authoritarian government that runs smoothly looks like a viable option. Unless it falters.
By Noah Feldman
Get used to that face.

 Photographer: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

The most important constitutional amendment of 2017 isn’t to the constitution of a country: It’s the amendment approved Tuesday to the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party, which enshrines President Xi Jinping’s “philosophy” alongside the thought of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

Talk about a sign of the times. Around the world, from Poland to Spain to Turkey, Israel, India and the U.S., constitutional democracy is undergoing a stress test. Buffeted by the forces of nationalism and populism, democratic institutions are struggling. Meanwhile, China, which doesn’t practice constitutional democracy or aspire to it, is trying to demonstrate that it can structure a legitimate government by evolving its own authoritarian structures of control. It’s a risky process, to be sure. But, from the outside, it seems to be proceeding successfully — and deepening the challenge to constitutional democracy.

China has its own constitution, but it matters less for governance than the party’s constitution. That’s because de facto power rests entirely with the party and its leadership. The Communist Party Congress, which takes place every five years and is now winding up, is the venue in which the structure of Chinese government is made public — to the extent it ever is in a system notable for its opacity.

The new amendment elevates what it calls “Xi Jinping Thought for the New Era of Socialism With Chinese Special Characteristics.” Behind this mouthful of words is a twofold message: Xi is a historic, epoch-defining leader on par with Mao and Deng, and he’s not planning to fade into oblivion after his 10-year term comes to an end.

The second part of this message has major constitutional significance for how power transitions occur and are going to occur in China. Since Deng stepped back from political life, China (read: the party) has undergone two highly significant transitions, each separated by a decade. In each instance, generational leaders stepped back from power, making way for younger men (and so far it has been all men).

The process wasn’t as smooth as clockwork. Jiang Zemin, Deng’s successor, maintained one of his posts and a good deal of influence for a few years after his formal retirement as president. Yet the basic structure of the transition was visible to the public.

RELATED: What Xi Can Learn From Deng

This transition structure represented a new, distinctively Chinese Communist answer to the greatest single problem confronting any polity: how to transfer power peacefully and stably. Monarchy usually does it by a system of identifiable heirs. Democracy does it by elections. Autocracies struggle mightily, often experiencing coups as transition looms.

The Chinese transitional structure has been an extraordinary success, measured by the standards of authoritarian governments. During the period covered by the post-Deng governments, now a bit more than 25 years, depending on how you count, China has experienced spectacular, unprecedented economic growth. That the party has smoothly maintained power during such an era of societal transformation is a fact of historical importance.

Xi has been signaling for years that he is in the process of changing how power transitions in China, and the new amendment is simply the most formal recognition of that change. From a power-sharing, consensus-driven approach, the Communist Party under Xi is circling back to the model of single-leader dominance that characterized it under Mao and Deng.

The fate of governance in China under this back-to-the-future form of governance remains very much in question. On the one hand, consolidating power in a single leader makes some things easier — like fighting corruption. In a consensus-based system, no one leader has the incentive or capacity to push out others who are corrupt. Consequently, everyone in a leadership position has an incentive to steal what he can for himself and his family.

It’s therefore no coincidence that Xi has made anti-corruption his signature issue. Doubtless he thinks corruption represented the single greatest threat to the party’s legitimacy — a view that’s very probably correct. By addressing that threat, Xi is improving the party’s prospects for continued authority.

Yet when it comes to economic reforms, a single-leader system is less conducive to experimentation. Multiple leaders can share credit, but they can also share blame. Xi has no such advantage, and it therefore shouldn’t surprise anyone that he’s been less open to experimental market reforms than his predecessors. If experiments go awry, he will be blamed.

The greatest worry of the single-leader approach is that it raises the dangers and costs of stable transition. Autocratic leaders don’t like to groom successors, who may get impatient and try to displace their former patrons.

By placing himself so explicitly alongside Mao and Deng, Xi is saying that great leader dominance is the true historical norm for the party. He’s turning his immediate predecessors into transitional figures, rather than the shapers of the new normal.

Globally, almost no country is directly copying the Chinese system of government. But China’s successes are one important reason that constitutional democracy no longer seems like an inevitable or necessary form of government.

How China fares under Xi’s new dispensation thus has major consequences for constitutional democracy around the world. But perhaps most important, China will no longer be able offer an alternative solution to the authoritarian transition problem — at least not until Xi steps back from power, which isn’t going to be anytime soon.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Noah Feldman at

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Stacey Shick at

Trump’s November Trip To Asia Could Be His Defining Moment

October 23, 2017

US leader’s historic Asian trip will have an enduring impact, but he must confront three harsh realities

United States President Donald Trump’s first official visit to East Asia next month is historic in its combination of low expectations and high potential impact.

The President will visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, marking a potentially defining moment in the next chapter of US-Asia relations.

There is considerable benefit to making a first visit to Asia after rather than before the spectacle that has been the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. It is also of inestimable help to hear the private wisdom of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whom the President hosts today in Washington.

But as a five-nation tour ushers in America’s post-pivot Asia policy, three harsh realities will precede the President’s arrival at every stop on his itinerary.

Image result for Donald Trump, photos

U.S. President Donald Trump (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In North-east Asia, Mr Trump will find grave doubts about the reliability of US leadership, especially given North Korea’s irresponsible proclivity to evoke the spectre of nuclear war. Nobody wants to see Pyongyang deploy a deadly arsenal of missiles carrying hydrogen bombs. And a catastrophic conflict is everyone’s nightmare.

The words Mr Trump chooses during his visit will influence Asian opinion about America’s status as the ultimate security guarantor. Long seen as a benign distant balancer, US staying power and political will are increasingly called into question. Washington has focused on a North Korea strategy of maximum pressure and minimal diplomacy. In Seoul – or perhaps if he visits the DMZ or demilitarised zone, Mr Trump can channel Ronald Reagan in Berlin three decades ago (“Tear down this wall”), conveying both determination and imagination. He must signal to the region that his intention is to convert pressure into diplomatic opportunity, not war.

 Mr Donald Trump will visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines on his first trip to Asia as President next month.


If the US cannot convince Asia to follow America’s lead in dealing with Mr Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s impulsive leader, there’s scant chance that the region will help balance the Sinocentric siren call of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

This raises a second hard truth that Mr Trump must confront on his Asian tour: shifting economic realities.

Delivering powerful speeches in Seoul, Da Nang or Manila will not be as important as the follow-through, and it is impossible to do this alone. Success depends upon hewing to newly identified US priorities, empowering a multi-dimensional policy, and harnessing a network of effective and able partners and allies.

As the President lands in Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the spotlight will be on economics. Here the perception that China is the main engine of global economic growth will loom larger than many in the presidential entourage would care to admit. Illustrative of China’s popular ascendancy is that, according to a recent Pew poll, Australians by a two-to-one margin see Beijing rather than Washington as the economic leader. America may still surpass China in “soft power”, but other data suggests even that gap is closing quickly.

The notion that China simply is the purveyor of public goods, as in building infrastructure under the guise of a benevolent Belt and Road Initiative, needs to be corrected. But Mr Trump must resist the temptation to take the lead in doing so, at least before he clarifies what the US will offer the region by way of an affirmative, inclusive agenda during his tenure. His prerequisite is to articulate a compelling vision, especially after waving the banner of economic nationalism and withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact. Only then will he be at liberty to puncture some of the glib assumptions upon which Beijing’s inflated narrative rests.

Mr Trump should remain attentive to geopolitical opportunities as well. Hence, he should visit Hanoi for bilateral talks with Vietnamese officials, before heading to Da Nang; and he should not completely close the back door that will remain open for rejoining the TPP.

The world’s largest economy retains myriad levers for supporting Asia’s economic opportunity. In the meantime, the President’s call for fair and reciprocal bilateral trade and investment deals can highlight the high standards and transparency by which Washington seeks to fortify a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

A third reality concerning global challenges will be obvious by the time Mr Trump joins Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and other regional leaders in Manila as they commemorate the 50th anniversary of Asean. Rising Asian leaders have pride and operate within their own political and cultural constraints, just as Mr Trump does.

The axiom that “all politics is local” pertains to Asia as well. Seeking to support efforts to confront global challenges such as terrorism, trafficking in illegal drugs and securing borders will best be done by offering support and capacity building, not judgment and disengagement. The US can both lead and cooperate, bringing in allies and partners to anchor Washington’s goals within local mechanisms. Let the Philippines determine the scope of expanded counter-terrorism cooperation, for example, and then work with next year’s Asean chair, Singapore, to broaden and deepen that cooperation.

Managing this trio of unavoidable obstructions – China’s economic power, questions about America’s role and seeing global challenges through a local prism – requires a specific type of preparation for November’s journey.

At the top of the agenda is understanding the challenge. Mr Trump’s call for America to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific region sets a new ambition rooted in history. The White House understands the high degree of continuity in a US policy focused on commerce, the maritime commons, and a balance of power operating within a rules-based order.

In the span of 12 days, few deliverables may emerge out of the President’s Asian trip. Yet the impact will be enduring. Delivering powerful speeches in Seoul, Da Nang or Manila will not be as important as the follow-through, and it is impossible to do this alone. Success depends upon hewing to newly identified US priorities, empowering a multi-dimensional policy, and harnessing a network of effective and able partners and allies.

•The writer is senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Programme at the Centre for a New American Security.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2017, with the headline ‘Trump’s Nov visit can be his defining moment in Asia’.

China’s rising authoritarianism has a stark human cost — China’s human rights activists “certainly haven’t been crushed.”

October 22, 2017

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling

By Jonathan Kaiman
The Los Angeles Times

Li Heping spent his career trying to hold Chinese Communist Party officials accountable for their darkest behavior. He believed in an authority higher than the party — China’s own legal system. And for that, he suffered tremendously.

Since the late ’90s, Li, a 46-year-old human rights lawyer, had defended China’s most persecuted groups: dissidents, petitioners, victims of land grabs and forced demolitions, church leaders, practitioners of the banned spiritual group Falun Gong. Then came the “709” crackdown — named for July 9, 2015, the night it began — when authorities detained or interrogated more than 300 lawyers and their associates, including Li. They held Li without charge for nearly two years. And this May, they let him go — on the condition he remain silent.

“What my husband has gone through during that 22 months in jail was relentless, inhuman, perverted and unthinkable,” said his wife, Wang Qiaoling, 44, who has emerged as an outspoken advocate for rule of law amid her husband’s enforced silence. “The police will torture you till the edge of death, both physically and mentally.”

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping ascended to power in 2012, he has both amassed extraordinary power — analysts routinely call him China’s strongest leader since Mao Tse-tung — and ratcheted up repression to its highest levels since the early 1990s.

This week, a twice-a-decade Communist Party congress is almost certain to grant him another five-year term. Yet beyond the congress’ displays of pageantry and protocol — its chandeliers, identical black suits and long, turgid speeches — Li’s experience is a vivid reminder of the party’s propensity for maintaining its grip on power through violence and fear.

The Communist Party, under Xi, has introduced new, draconian legislation tightening control over religion, foreign non-governmental organizations and the internet. Xi’s sweeping anti-corruption drive has “punished” more than a million officials and suppressed competing party factions. He has repeatedly vowed to preside over a “national rejuvenation” — one that categorically rejects “Western values” such as democracy, rule of law and freedom of speech. The media has been neutered. Scores of lawyers, activists and journalists have been jailed.

“After several hundred years, the Western model is showing its age,” the state-run New China News Agency said in a Tuesday commentary.

China’s Communist Party leaders have “determined that they must not drop their guard on being in control,” said Stein Ringen, emeritus professor at the University of Oxford and author of “The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century.” “During the 1980s, when things were relatively open, and people felt like things were moving in a direction of greater openness — that was because there was disagreement. There were different factions in the party leadership, and a debate about what direction the party would take.

“Now there is no debate,” he continued. “It’s absolutely hierarchical.”

Li knew the party’s wrath long before the 2015 crackdown. In 2007, as Beijing prepared to host the Olympics, plainclothes men abducted Li, held him for eight hours, beat him and shocked him with electric batons. They warned him to leave the city and dumped him in the woods. For years, authorities had kept his home under constant surveillance.

But the 2015 crackdown was different — more comprehensive, and more severe.

On July 10 that year, police took Li into custody and ransacked his home and office for files, computers and external hard drives. For the first six months, Wang said, they kept him in solitary confinement. Two guards forced him to stand between them for 15 to 16 hours a day, giving him about eight inches of space.

“Once you move, they would slap, kick and beat you,” Wang said. “They would also write down every detail about your movements, such as, ‘You moved your nose,’ ‘You frowned’ and so on.”

People dressed like doctors forced Li to take drugs — at least half a dose daily, and at least six types altogether. He believed they were blood pressure medications, hallucinogens and sedatives. They made him dizzy and fatigued. “The damage it has on a person’s brain is unthinkable,” Wang said. “You behave like a psychiatric patient. Your brain starts to lose control of how you behave and what you say.

“These types of physical torture are less bloody and violent, yet the damage they do to your body is relentless,” she continued. “Most normal people cannot bear it at all.”

In 2016, authorities transferred Li to an ordinary detention facility in the city of Tianjin, near Beijing, where he lived on a long hall with other prisoners. The torture didn’t stop — authorities shackled his wrists to his ankles for a month. They made him sit on a stool for 16 hours straight.

On April 28, 2017, they gave him a rushed, secret trial. According to authorities, he pleaded guilty to attacking China and its government via social media and interviews with the foreign press. A judge convicted him of “subversion of state power” and released him on a suspended sentence, meaning even a minor infraction could send him back to jail.

At home, Li looked in a mirror for the first time in 22 months. The gaunt, gray-haired skeleton staring back shocked him.

“He can no longer work as a normal person,” Wang said. “His lawyer’s license has been [invalidated], and he lost his physical freedom to go outside Beijing.”

Other victims of the 709 crackdown have made what appears to be forced pre-trial confessions on state television. Virtually all of them cast their legal work as criminal, anti-China and supported by hostile “foreign forces.” Under Xi, these confessions — a relic of Cultural Revolution-era public humiliations — have spiked. At least 40 were broadcast between 2013 and 2016.

Only one lawyer, Wang Quanzhang — a 41-year-old advocate for marginalized groups — still awaits trial. Authorities have not explained the delay. His wife, Li Wenzu, who has not seen him since his detention, believes he may simply be unwilling to bend.

“The government is aiming to punish current arrested activists, and also to frighten the potential activists of the future,” said Li, 32. “Since the [709] cases are fundamentally made up by the government, it’s also difficult for the government to find any evidence that proves them guilty.”

In March, Li and her 4-year-old son, Wang Guangwei, moved in with Wang (and her 6-year-old daughter, Li Jiamei) at her three-bedroom apartment in southern Beijing. They still visit the police and judicial organs — as well as foreign embassies — to advocate for Wang’s release.

“The human rights lawyers’ circle is very small, but we all help each other and cooperate each other and support each other,” she said.

China’s human rights activists “certainly haven’t been crushed,” said Eva Pils, a human rights expert from King’s College London who knows many of the lawyers. “Even in the most desperate situations, they’re resisting in small but significant ways.”

A revolving cast of up to 20 security guards around Li and Wang’s apartment restrict their movement, and state security agents have harassed Li’s aging parents in central China’s Hubei province.

“I don’t believe the situation will change in the short term,” Li said. “But I believe this is a natural reaction — to fight to save my husband, and for his freedom, without any hesitation, no matter the price I have to pay.”

Nicole Liu and Gaochao Zhang in the Times’ Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

Chinese propaganda faces stiff competition from celebrities — “Chinese people are increasingly ignoring party propaganda.”

October 22, 2017

The Associated Press

In this Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017 photo, Chinese women walk past advertisement featuring teen idol Lu Han, also known as China's Justin Bieber in Beijing, China. China works to stifle celebrities as it seeks to dictate the values the nation’s youth should embrace. It’s part of the most ambitious effort in years to shape the country’s booming entertainment industry. Instead of selfish, rich stars, the state is promoting performers who are all about patriotism, purity and other values that support the party’s legitimacy, whether in movies about revolutionary heroes or through rap music. Photo: Ng Han Guan, AP / Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

In this Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017 photo, Chinese women walk past advertisement featuring teen idol Lu Han, also known as China’s Justin Bieber in Beijing, China. China works to stifle celebrities as it seeks to dictate the values the nation’s youth should embrace. It’s part of the most ambitious effort in years to shape the country’s booming entertainment industry. Instead of selfish, rich stars, the state is promoting performers who are all about patriotism, purity and other values that support the party’s legitimacy, whether in movies about revolutionary heroes or through rap music. Credit: Ng Han Guan, AP

HONG KONG (AP) — When the propaganda film, “The Founding of an Army,” hit theaters in China recently, the reaction wasn’t quite what the ruling Communist Party might have hoped for.

Instead of inspiring an outpouring of nationalism and self-sacrifice for the state, it was roundly mocked for trying to lure a younger audience by casting teen idols as revolutionary party leaders.

Viewers more used to seeing the idols play love interests in light-hearted soap operas responded to the film by projecting “modern-day romantic narratives on the founding fathers of the nation,” said Hung Huang, a well-known social commentator based in Beijing. “It was hilarious.”

While China’s resurgent Communist Party once pushed its policies on an unquestioning public, it now struggles to compete for attention with the country’s booming entertainment industry and the celebrity culture it has spawned.

“Chinese people are increasingly ignoring party propaganda and are much more interested in movie stars, who represent a new lifestyle and more exciting aspirations,” said Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

President Xi Jinping, who will cement his authority with his expected endorsement to a second five-year term at this week’s national party congress, has placed a priority on stamping out too much Western influence in Chinese society in part so the party can dictate the values the youth should embrace.

Authorities have responded by taking aim at everything from gossip websites to soap opera story lines to celebrity salaries. Instead of selfish, rich stars, the state is promoting performers who are all about patriotism, purity and other values that support the party’s legitimacy.

The results have at best been mixed and at worst ham-fisted and out of touch.

One problem is that the party’s values often clash with what young Chinese want to watch, according to Hung. Among the more popular shows watched by Chinese youth are those that center on palace intrigue, martial arts fantasies, high school romances or single, independent women.

“While the government could once dictate to young people what they should value and how they should lead their lives, they find themselves completely without the tools to do that now,” she said.

In the 1970s, the state was able to promote people seen as paragons of youthful devotion and selflessness, but Hung said that no longer works because young Chinese — like their counterparts in the West — now prefer to follow celebrity gossip and have the tools with which to do so.

Just this month, teen idol Lu Han, also known as China’s Justin Bieber, announced he had a girlfriend, triggering a flood of shares, responses and 4 million “likes” within a few hours that briefly crashed the country’s popular Weibo microblog service.

A recent commentary in The Global Times, a party newspaper with a nationalistic stance, railed against such celebrity worship, saying China had now surpassed the West in that regard.

“It’s unfair that these stars accrue such glory, unimaginable to those who have made a decisive contribution to the country,” the commentary said.

That was likely a reason the government-backed China Alliance of Radio, Film and Television moved last month to cap the pay of actors, whose salaries had hit historic highs as young Chinese and a burgeoning middle class increasingly spend on movie tickets and goods.

In another move earlier this year, authorities closed 60 popular celebrity gossip and social media accounts and called on internet giants such as Tencent and Baidu to “actively propagate core socialist values, and create an ever-healthier environment for the mainstream public opinion.”

The tension between popular culture and state propaganda isn’t new in China. In the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping’s lieutenants railed against spiritual pollution. But it has gained new traction since Xi came to power in 2012 and officials began a wide-ranging crackdown on perceived societal ills from corruption to dissent to — now — entertainment.

“Xi Jinping has been advocating a revision to traditional, Confucian moral standards,” Lam said. “The definition of what is vulgar or morally problematic has been inflated and expanded so that it has become all-encompassing.”

Shows about the pursuit of great wealth and luxury that used to be tolerated under Xi’s predecessor, aren’t anymore.

The government has demanded that broadcasters “resist celebrity worship” and limit the air time dedicated to film and TV stars.

“The party does not want these entertainment programs to compete with news programs and ‘morality shows,’” said Jian Xu, a Chinese media research fellow at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.

From left, Wang Yuan, Wang Junkai and Yiyang Qianxi of the Chinese boy band TFBoys performing at an awards ceremony in Beijing last year. Credit Imagechina, via Associated Press

One example of a state-approved show is “Touching China,” which honors people who have “touched the nation with their tenacity, bravery and wisdom.”

The government has also tried to shape some celebrities into party-sanctioned role models.

Thanks to their wholesome image and uplifting, patriotic lyrics, the TFboys, China’s first home-grown boy band, have risen to fame because of “political opportunities” they’ve been given, Xu said. The band is pursued by adoring fans and has performed twice on the coveted Lunar New Year gala hosted by state broadcaster China Central Television; it has also been promoted by the Communist Youth League.

Stars deviating from the party’s image of purity and moral acceptability, however, have been punished. In a high-profile drug crackdown in 2014, authorities publicly chastised a succession of celebrities caught using drugs, including Jackie Chan’s son, Jaycee Chan, and singer Li Daimo, forcing them to apologize on state television.

Beijing may struggle to win over young Chinese, but it won’t stop its carrot-and-stick approach to regulating the industry.

“The government’s method of punishment and praise is very obvious: If you work with me, you will reap the benefits, if you don’t, you won’t. If you’re a good boy, you get candy, if you don’t, you won’t,” Xu said.

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