Opinion: Xi Jinping May Be on His Way Out as China Faces Distress

China broke a long-standing tradition on March 4 by declaring that Premier Li Qiang would not be hosting a press conference at the end of the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress in Beijing. Additionally, the National People’s Congress (NPC), which is recognized as the central government’s legislative body, announced that there will be no post-meeting press conferences until 2027. This decision marks a significant departure from the norm, as the premier would typically field questions from both domestic and foreign media during the widely televised event. This event has been a prominent fixture on the Chinese political calendar since 1993.

At a time when there are concerning reports about China’s increasing assertiveness in its neighboring seas and indications of internal turmoil within the Chinese regime, this unexpected decision has been made.

China’s leaders are now responding to a rapidly worsening situation, as they grapple with a faltering economy. Contrary to the official report by the National Bureau of Statistics stating a 5.2 percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP) last year, the actual growth, as estimated by the Rhodium Group, was a mere 1.5 percent. The economy, which has been the driving force behind the country’s remarkable ascent over the past fifty years, is clearly in decline.

Since the official announcement of China’s GDP in January, there has been increasing doubt regarding Beijing’s claims of a strong economic growth. The country is facing various indicators of a struggling economy, including worsening deflation, declining property prices, ongoing debt defaults, a depreciating currency, a surge in capital flight, and the failure of local governments. Additionally, the shrinking population, which reached its peak in 2021, further exacerbates the situation.

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The government claims that it is depending on high-tech businesses, referred to as “new productive forces,” to spearhead an economic transformation. While it is undeniable that there are pockets of exceptional performance, these alone are insufficient to salvage an economy burdened by fundamental structural issues.

The head of the central government, the premier, holds the responsibility of the State Council. Hence, it is evident that he prefers to steer clear of discussing economic or any other issues, aside from using clichéd phrases. As renowned author William F. Buckley, Jr. once questioned, “Why does nonsense evade scrutiny?”

In addition, the decision to cancel press conferences until 2027 indicates that China’s leaders are not optimistic about the improvement of the internal situation in the near future. Li Qiang’s Work Report, presented on the first day of the NPC, lacked detailed plans for revitalizing the economy this year.

The inner workings of the Communist Party have become even more mysterious under the leadership of Xi Jinping, making it extremely difficult for those outside the party to gain insight.

According to Steve Yates, chair of the China Policy Initiative of the America First Policy Institute, the decision to cancel post-NPC press conferences signifies a significant shift in the Chinese regime’s approach. Yates emphasizes that the press conferences have served as a platform to showcase China’s technocratic leadership for the past thirty years. He also highlights the distinction between the central government and the Communist Party, mentioning that the event was used to attract investments, showcase manufacturing growth, and promote the idea of China’s peaceful rise.

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The decision to end the press conferences has been interpreted by some observers as a reflection of the country’s growing emphasis on internal affairs and centralized control, according to Reuters.

According to Yates, the sudden cancellation of the event indicates that Xi Jinping and the Communist Party no longer feel the need to promote the idea of a peaceful rise or emphasize the role of technocrats. Yates observes that Xi Jinping is now withdrawing from even minimal levels of transparency, accessibility, and accountability. The decision to blackout the event until 2027 is a concerning indication that Xi Jinping intends to convey his message through actions rather than diplomatic means.

In recent times, Xi has adopted a notably assertive approach in China’s neighboring waters, coinciding with these advancements. Particularly concerning is the provocative behavior witnessed near Taiwan’s Kinmen island following the unfortunate incident involving two Chinese fishermen on February 14. These individuals had intruded into the waters surrounding the offshore island without any valid reason, leading to their untimely demise.

The State Department recently issued a warning to China regarding its aggressive actions in the South China Sea. Specifically, China’s behavior around Second Thomas Shoal was deemed highly belligerent. In response, the United States emphasized its readiness to use force against China to fulfill its obligations as outlined in Article IV of the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.

The recent aggression is only a recent indication of disunity within the regime. One example of this is the expected appointment of Liu Jianchao, an ally of Xi Jinping, as the new foreign minister. However, the delay in announcing this appointment, along with other key personnel appointments at the NPC, suggests that there has been intense infighting and that Xi has not been able to have his way.

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Furthermore, the NPC follows a series of mysterious disappearances that have occurred over the past six months. Notably, Qin Gang, the former foreign minister, and General Li Shangfu, the former defense minister, have vanished without any explanation. In addition, significant transformations have taken place within the People’s Liberation Army, particularly within the Rocket Force, which is responsible for overseeing China’s nuclear arsenal.

There are differing views on the current state of the Communist Party, with some observers suggesting that there is intense infighting at the highest levels. On the other hand, others believe that President Xi Jinping is consolidating his power. Regardless of who is in control, it is clear that China and its government are facing significant challenges.

Extraordinary events are unfolding within the borders of the People’s Republic of China.

Gordon G. Chang, the renowned author of The Coming Collapse of China and China Is Going to War, can be found on X, formerly known as Twitter, where he goes by the handle @GordonGChang.

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