As China’s Woes Mount, Xi Jinping Faces Rare Rebuke at Home

As China confronts economic headwinds, a vaccine scandal and trade tensions, a legal scholar named Xu Zhangrun decided to speak out. It could be dangerous for him.

Comments: 33

  1. Hubris, before the fall. Trump, take note.

  2. Political speech in China is very different from the West. Hard to know what it means. The leadership is very focused on maintaining the fiction of a monolith, while all sorts of dealing takes place behind the scenes. When one insider breaks publicly with the rest, it's a bold move. What happens next is the question. Possibly nothing, yet.

  3. China is much too big for the 'Communists' to let up their grasp . Xi must double down and suppress this commentary. Iraq and Syria are all the examples he needs to see what happens when too much freedom is exercised.

  4. Good piece of news. Prof. Xu may have done mankind a service showing courage to self reflect as a nation, and stand up to power against personal danger. Xi is a borderline despot who is also duplicitous. Using iron clad reticence and an ever smiling face he - as we seem to be slowly discovering - pursues policies of suppression, hegemony, state cockiness, curtailing of press and human rights. And it is clear. Against Trump he cannot win. Not only has he met a leader who is better at Xi’s own game, Xi is also up against the leader of a stronger country. It is tad sad that a seventh of humanity has to undergo a leader like Xi and all that ails China of today. Adding to sadness is the realization that China has been stubbornly away from change for such a long time, and continues to be.

  5. Even though Xi's family and indeed himself were purged during the upheaval of the Cultural Revolution, unlike Deng, who was the survivor of the purge, Xi was the product of it. In this case though, academia have always been a power center of sort. Whether it was the 5-4 movement or the Tiananmen crackdown, students were the driving force. Indeed, even the HKSAR resistance was instigated by academics. So whether it is Deng, Xi or someone else, dealing with pushbacks from academic institutions is different from those of the lone wolf. Chinese learn from history and revere education. That said, as the beginning of this response has asserted, Xi is the product of the Cultural Revolution, so it is hard to tell what he is plotting to maintain his absolute power

  6. @Bos Deng was indeed purged in 1967 during the Cultural Revolution, as the "No.2 capitalist roader in the party."

  7. ‘Dying to Survive”. (Chinese title: “我不是药神”[translation: I am not the god of medicines]), the hit Chinese movie which concerns the problem of high priced cancer medicines that were not available through insurance on the Chinese market and had also been subject to patent validity and infringement disputes. Chinese stealing technology and blocking foreigners any avenue in China unless they surrender all intellectual property is central to China’s rise and what it does with profits (island building, military expansion, surveillance of everything and everyone in the Big Brother State. This is the 10th anniversary of the Milk Scandal. The Chinese government knew full well that Chinese businesses were selling poisoned melamine-milk to babies but did nothing for months, allowing more kids to die and be injured because of the need for Chinese to save Face at the Olympics in Beijing. After the Olympics the government finally acted, acted surprised, and summarily shot the top offenders as a display. Modern China depends on an American, Sun Yat Sen who saw in America what was unheard of in China— free speech, lawful protest, and took these ideas back to China to overthrow the 3 year old Emperor. Sen remained in power for a grand total of 10 months. Democratic movements in China are short-lived.

  8. @ABC A fair history of Chinese events that are worth of elaboration. The milk pollution that leads to children's deaths and deformities was the issue that launched the Chinese FDA modeled on the American legislation and practice and its discovery of this problem. The U.S. FDA direction in recent years and current times has been in the opposite direction and especially in current times under Trump’s administration. Sun Yat Sen was followed by Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT and war lords and corruption that resulted in their abandonment by Pres. Truman and his Sec. of State as a lost cause. China’s history has lessons for all and they are not an easy read.

  9. The Chinese experiment will ultimately fail. The recent changes in China's government will only hasten it's demise. Their economy cannot continue to grow at 6% per year forever and it will slow down. Mr Xi's moves to become a de facto dictator will only backfire in the long run. Their recent aggressiveness, in the South China Sea for example, will only cause confrontation with the US in a war they cannot win. Make no mistake, Russia is no longer our biggest concern. China is now America's new major adversary of the 21st century.

  10. Why must other countries be our adversaries? If war is truly inescapable the human race will destroy itself.

  11. @Mike L The American Washington insider mind needs an adversary to feel it has purpose. There is nothing in the development of Asian stares, China and India in particular that poses a threat to the average US citizen existence, but it does require a maturing of perspective. The other half of the world has arrived and does not plan to be subservient. Actions provoke reactions in both directions.

  12. This can only be good news. Whatever hurts China is good for the U.S. and the West. And let's not forget that China remains the last great colonial empire on earth. Tibet, Sinkiang, and Manchuria are all recent (in historical terms) acquisitions, their peoples are ethnically different from the Han Chinese, and Tibet and Sinkiang in particular are facing economic and cultural oppression and ethnic discrimination at least as bad as that experienced by the Baltic States under Soviet communist rule. China is the "evil empire" of the 21st century. We should be rooting for its fall, and helping to make that happen to the extent we can.

  13. Chris, Very good article, full of insight. I predicted this would happen 8 months ago in my article in The Observer Please read it here.

  14. China will be a great power, but not before one massive plunge. The fake stability brought by complete control of money/ debt, media and thought is increasingly breaking down.

  15. Xi has given me the creeps almost from the beginning. The cheap nationalism of his foreign policy. His incapability to take painful economic reforms. His increasingly repressive regime. It all gave me the impression of a man who only cares about his own power.

  16. See, the old man was right. Keep your head down, abide your time, hide your capabilities. But a few impatient people in Beijing thought otherwise - China's moment had arrived. So it started chucking its weight around, using heft and market access as leverage to get what it wanted. The rules based system, that had helped China so much to get on its economic feet, suddenly didn't matter so much. Guess what, other people notice. A few are even prepared to push back. This is what happens when you believe your own propaganda.

  17. Just finished reading Xu Zhangrun's original article (in Chinese). What immediately jumps out is his strange choice of quasi-classical Chinese writing style. Most Chinese today would have difficulty understand it clearly, including many university level students. Who are the readers he is trying to reach? Secondly, while he makes a martyr-like claim that his article is written at the risk of his own life, he is publishing it while he living in Japan, out of reach of immediate repercussion. Rather disingenuous. Self-promotion is never becoming for Chinese scholars and intellectuals. What really is Xu's motivation and goal for publishing it? The NY Times report did not listed all the criticism Xu leveled against the Chinese government. Surely some of the points are valid and deserve analysis, but they could not be anything new to the ranks of Chinese leaders. It signifies a usual difference between most academics and pragmatic technocrats. There a classical Chinese saying: "scholars discussing politics" - meaning neophytes without real experience blowing hot air. Xu's article is quite typical. As a contrast, Wang Huning is one of the rare outliers among Chinese academics and intellectuals. Wang is a Chinese political theorist and one of the top leaders of China. After spending time in USA and observed how American Democracy really works, his conclusion is Don't Follow the Americans. As usual, western reporters always love to report on dissensions. Nothing new.

  18. @Observer Thank you for you coverage, and yes the Times loves dissidents, 'they are news worthy and often speak English'; Xu Zhangrun may have lacked that or not.

  19. Readers, beware: Promoting obscure "dissidents" against regimes the US ruling class hates or, in the case of China, fears, is an important function of the bourgeois press, one they are ever vigilant to carry out. The Chinese petty bourgeois intellectual dreaming of being the next Solzhenitsyn, with his world fame & millions in book royalties, should remember that Solzhenitsyn died hated by the Russian common people for his treachery. It is a tragedy that the newspaper medium, which could be used to increase understanding & peace among nations, is perverted by capitalist owners into a bullhorn to promote hatred against Russia and fear of China.

  20. Fifty-cent army?

  21. One misunderstanding persists in all these comments- that China is the number 2 economy in the world. That is only true by nominal gross GDP; the more appropriate measure is gross PPP-GDP (PPP for Purchasing Power Parity). The IMF, World Bank and CIA all report this measure. By this measure, according to the IMF, China surpassed the US as number one in November 2014 and it now is about 125% as large as the US and growing faster. See: The list of countries from top to number 6 is: China, US, India, Japan, Russia, Germany (Russia and Germany being roughly equal). It is arrogant and dangerous to assume that China is weaker than it really is. (The same applies to Russia which is often referred to as an economic “basket case” whereas its equal, Germany, is not described this way.) Of course these are GROSS PPP-GDP’s. China and India are developing countries and so their per capita numbers are much lower. But it is the gross PPP-GDP that determines a country’s international power. And in terms of per capita GDP China has used its resources well bringing over 700 million out of poverty (India has not done well in that regard). And China is ahead of schedule to completely eliminate the most dire poverty by 2020. Eliminating poverty also contributes to national strength by generating more loyalty to the government and by freeing up human talent to make positive contributions. China’s further rise is inevitable.

  22. April 15, 2018 Gross Domestic Product based on purchasing-power-parity (PPP) valuation for Brazil, China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Russia and United States, 2007-2018 ( 2017) ( 3,240) Brazil ( 23,614) China ( 4,171) Germany ( 9,459) India ( 5,429) Japan ( 4,008) Russia ( 19,391) United States

  23. Are you aware that the large gap between China's nominal GDP and GDP (ppp) indicates that China is still just a developing country, not an advanced country? They still have not demonstrated that they can overcome the middle income trap. And odds are they won't, because most never do.

  24. What nonsense, professor writes a letter from Japan and suddenly 1.4 billion Chinese who lead lives that are remarkably better than 40 and 30 and 20 and 10 and 5 years ago are supposed to care about the arcane complaints made. China is growing splendidly, China is remarkably well-planned for all the unavoidable problems that will arise in such a vast country. Problems in China are resolved, over and over. When I read of the activities of Xi and Li, I am continually reminded of what fine leadership is about.

  25. @Nancy Chinese real GDP has grown at a yearly average of 9.5% between 1977 and 2017, while real per capita GDP growth has been 8.5% yearly. Hundreds of millions of families have been raised up economically and the realizable goal now is to actually end severe poverty by 2020. An awesome accomplishment that only looks to be continuing.

  26. @Nancy All very true Nancy China is doing well but Xi's control is of the party not the country and he has offended powerful section of that organism on the way up. He is ruled as in an insecure position by western scholars such as Carl Minzner and William H. Overholt in recently published books. They make no forecast but warn of his possible demise and why. Li Keqiang was suppressed for the first five years and is now seen frequently so matters may be resolved in Xi favor. But glamour fades rapidly for one of a kind leaders.

  27. August 4, 2014 Real per capita Gross Domestic Product for China, India, Japan, United States and United Kingdom, 1977-2017 (Percent change) August 4, 2014 Real per capita Gross Domestic Product for China, India, Japan, United States and United Kingdom, 1977-2017 (Indexed to 1977)

  28. Xi will carry on his authoritarian ways and continue in power as long as the export engine keeping cranking to deliver wealth. Money can easily displace cumbersome and inconvenient ideals, such as free speech and the freedom to protest peacefully, which cater to the sensibilities of the elite few anyway in China. What is of serious concern to Xi is Trump. His trade war may have a crippling affect on China if the tariffs imposed on China's exports reverberate with other nations. China can, and must, open up its economy to the same rules it expects of the larger trading nations. BRI can only go so far. A one-way traffic of unrelenting exports must give way to a fair and balanced all round trade. The ball is in Xi's court.

  29. Dear China, Welcome to the middle income trap. You're done before you ever really got started, and making Xi into the next Mao is not going to solve your problems. See you in the dustbin of history. Sincerely, The USSR

  30. August 4, 2014 Real per capita Gross Domestic Product for China, United States, India, Japan and Germany, 1977-2017 (Indexed to 1977) August 4, 2014 Real per capita Gross Domestic Product for China, India, Brazil and South Africa, 1977-2017 (Indexed to 1977)

  31. Julius Caesar gave himself a 10-year term as consul and the Senate finally (with Crassus and Pompey) threw him out of Rome.

  32. The first, last and only Chinese Nobel Peace laureate died young, in prison, denied medical assistance of any kind

  33. Xi Jinping has achieved Chairman Mao like control of the CCP and thus in a real sense of The Peoples Republic, but it was not a smooth ride to power. His very popular anti-corruption campaign took down leading figures even up to the Politbureau level and top generals in the PLA. Each of those individuals who fell was of necessity a focal point of a powerful clique who is patiently waiting for ‘its day’ to return. Now Xi may be able to guide the party to function in a manner consistent with his Dream, or not. When a respected figure as Xu Zhzngrun is able to issue a criticism a crack has been opened for reanimating resisting power bases. Expect the same – interesting times.