China?s propaganda drive after reappointment of Xi Jinping as President

By Haya Wakil

The governing Communist Party of China has announced an amendment to the constitution on 25th February 2018 which might lead China to a one-man rule. The announcement was the removal of a clause that restricted the term of the President to two for five years each. The current limit which applied both to the President and Vice President may soon be scrapped if passed by China’s Parliament. This is considered to be one of the boldest steps by Xi Jinping till now, to strengthen his control over the fast-moving Chinese society and the party specifically. His only agenda is to make China a superpower under his own leadership.

Propaganda through media

President Xi’s face can be seen all over the front page of Sunday newspapers. Earlier this month, through a constitutional amendment, the term of the president was lifted, and last week, Xi took the oath for his second presidential term. A copy of the constitution was also carried by the three members of armed forces on the stage in the oath ceremony.

This means an unlimited period for Xi in his office. Out of around 3000 legislators, only six dissented with either no vote or absentia. Neither debate nor any discussion took place before the voting. The state media described this moment as a historical event in Chinese history and captured many of them present there with full of tears. Even the ordinary people who couldn’t witness this event live were glued to the televisions and full of applause.

Communist Party’s official newspaper, People’s Daily addressed Xi with the phrase “leader loved and respected by the people” which was often associated with Mao and also “helmsman of the country”. Also, a game was introduced by People’s Daily WeChat account, where players had 20 seconds to shower their praise for the party by repeatedly tapping on the screen to show their satisfaction for the government’s achievements in the past term. The state was successful in censoring any comment against the decision but international news is something beyond their control.

The state went active on social media in censoring any article or comment which went against their interests and encouraged more of supportive comments. Propaganda posters were put up all over China to celebrate his second term.

Appointment of officials

Xi in this annual session of National People’s Congress scraped certain laws like unwritten retirement age of senior officials. This enabled Wang Qishan, a close ally, to be voted to the position of Vice President. He is the first to hold this position as a non-Politburo member since 1998. His appointment is important in terms of securing China’s trade as against the US where Trump is pushing for a trade war. Mr Wang has a reputation for saving China from deep crisis many times. He was the main point of contact with America because of his extensive network with American officials during Global Financial Crisis.

Mr Liu He, a trusted economic adviser and also appointed as one of the four deputy Prime Minister, was behind Xi’s increasing attention to economic issues. He will be leading a committee overlooking various financial matters.

Le Keqiang was appointed as the Prime Minister, shunning rumours of his replacement. Xi who intends to run the country with his “small group” has marginalised Le to the extent that his allies have been empowered with more duties. Traditionally looking after the economic policy his duty seemed to have been limited to ‘cutting red tape’.

Strengthening the party and country

Xi’s attempt to strengthen the legitimacy of the Communist Party and institutionalise its rule by erasing the line between party and state has been termed as one of its most dynamic changes every proposed in the country. Although the party virtually have authority over everything, this step will make it all the more rampant. Quoting Xi himself from his speech last October, “Government, military, society and academics are like the north, the south, the east and the west (equally important). But at the centre is the party. The party leads them all

The year 2018 also marks the 40th anniversary of the opening up of policy undertaken by Deng Xiaoping. Xi wants to realise his ‘Chinese dream’ as soon as possible, and for this, military-civilian integration is extremely important. He encourages the three forces to aim at development at various levels featuring high quality, efficiency and more sophisticated technology. This also includes the development of China’s land borders with India in particular.

The Indian Foreign Ministry said that Xi Jinping was congratulated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the telephone for his re-election. The two countries are looking forward to mending their relation especially after the Doklam issue that led to a 73-day military standoff and a near-war situation. 2018 will see a lot of interactions between the counterparts of two countries. Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and external affairs minister are to visit China next month. In line are also Shanghai Cooperation Summit, G20 summit and BRICS summit.

Speculations whether Xi will continue for life or just this term

Some view that continuity for a second term is not that bad as portrayed by media, as it will mean continuity in both domestic and foreign policies and it is not necessary that he will rule till his old age. China particularly at this point has stakes at various places. Its economic interest in the African region and the Indian region is one of them. His ambitious plan to make China a superpower under his leadership including the One Belt, One Road initiative, which will speak of China’s growth story, is something which required his leadership. China’s stake in North Korea, South China Sea and Sino-US trade are some of the burning issues right now.

Party leaders have stated that this decision was essential to remain on the lines of consistency. Since China’s influence is growing worldwide and the leader has to represent the country more than often on the international stage, it is essential that they have a uniform face. After all, it’s not easy to find a leader who best represents the nation’s interest, one of the reasons given by party official. Since Xi is looking for long-term policies and preparing the ground for next generation, this decision became all the more necessary.

Li Shuzhong, a policy adviser on the constitutional amendments and vice-president of the China University of Political Science and Law, affirmed that the party has a five-year plan which will be revised accordingly after seeing its practicality and success.

But the sceptics are not convinced as power is something which one parts with only on his deathbed. The term limit sets a clear course for the next leadership with smooth power transition and avoids any uncertainty. The statement of revision of the amendments is seen as a distraction to shut out any criticism.