Translation: Two Ends for Xi Jinping, a Play

In this one-act , New York-based writer Bi Ruxie imagines two outcomes for Xi Jinping if China went to war with over the Diaoyu Islands. Wang Qishan, who is in real life spearheading the Xi administration’s anti-corruption campaign, plays a crucial role in both scenarios. There is a fictional news anchor, Ms. Tian Zonghua, but all of the other characters make up the real Politburo Standing Committee.

Two Ends for

I can’t help but break taboos, because I am Charlie!

–Bi Ruxie explaining himself

Time: January 1st, New Year’s Day, 2019.

Dramatis Personae:

Xi Jinping, President

Wang Qishan, Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection

Li Keqiang, Premier

Zhang Dejiang, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress

Yu Zhengsheng, Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference

Liu Yunshan, Secretary of the Central Secretariat of the Chinese Communist Party

Zhang Gaoli, Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China

Tian Zonghua, female news anchor

The curtain rises on Xi Jinping’s office. There’s a large, wide desk and a big, sturdy chair; Above, there is a television monitor. Xi Jinping is sitting ceremoniously in his seat, an inscrutable smile shows across his face. A female television host, Tian Zonghua, stands stage left.

Tian Zonghua: (With microphone in hand) China Radio International, China National Radio, China Central Television, I am your host, Tian Zonghua. Right now, I am standing in the office of Xi Jinping. Today is January 1st, 2019. President Xi is about to give his 2019 New Year’s greeting to the country and the entire world. But first, let’s take a look back and the major events that transpired at the end of last year.

The overhead monitor displays the words: “The world watches as the Diaoyu Island War erupts! Through President Xi Jinping’s heroic leadership, China is completely victorious!”

Accompanied by energetic and passionate Chinese military music, the monitor shows footage of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force carpet bombing the Diaoyu Islands, marines aboard various military vessels, the Liaoning aircraft carrier breaking through the Japanese military’s last line of defense at the , and the Chinese flag waving in the wind…)

Tian Zonghua: (With an air of euphoria) President Xi, may we begin?

Xi Jinping: Pause the broadcast.

Tian Zonghua: Yes sir. (Facing backstage) President Xi’s orders: pause the broadcast.

Voice from backstage: Aye. President Xi’s orders: pause the broadcast.

leads Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli onstage.

Wang Qishan: Happy New Year, President Xi.

 All: Happy New Year, President Xi.

Xi Jinping: (Asking as though he already knows the answer) Qishan, you’re looking quite pleased. Any good news?

Wang Qishan: Wonderful news! President Xi, Japan’s defeat marks China’s transformation into a superpower! As the saying goes, if the nation rises, luck must be on our side! You are the Great Liberator of the Chinese people!

Li Keqiang: (Not wanting to be left out) This is an unprecedented victory for China, reinforcing the foundations of our country! I do declare, it’s a great masterpiece!

Zhang Dejiang: (Not wanting to be left out) I do declare, what a great undertaking!

Yu Zhengsheng: (Not wanting to be left out) I do declare, what great sentiment!

Liu Yunshan: (Not wanting to be left out) I do declare, what a great accomplishment!

Zhang Gaoli: (Not wanting to be left out) I do declare, what a great operation!

Wang Qishan: (Bombarding Xi with praise) I do declare, what great philosophy, what a great era, what a great accomplishment, what a great deed! In fact, not even Chairman Mao or Comrade Deng Xiaoping can compare to you! The masses adore you, your legacy shall be sung throughout the ages! Today, China has set foot into an era of majesty! If we don’t change our system of governance, then we cannot claim success or pass it down to the next generation! President Xi, in this reality after Japan’s defeat, the Party and the old system are no longer right for China! Changing the republic to an empire–this is historical logic!

X Jinping: (Feigning surprise) Qishan, have you been drinking?

Wang Qishan: Qishan is not drunk, but China is intoxicated! China is in the midst of a Golden Age, like the Han and Tang dynasties! President Xi, please don the emperor’s yellow robes!

Xi Jinping: (Feigning fury, striking the table) Nonsense! Central Security Regiment!

Shouted from backstage: The Central Security Regiment is here!

Xi Jinping: (Feigning outrage) Wang Qishan is a megalomaniac! He wants to change our system! This cannot be tolerated under the law! I order Wang Qishan arrested and sent to Qincheng Prison!

Shouted from backstage: The Central Security Regiment refuses to carry out this order!

Xi Jinping: (Feigning ignorance) And why is that?

Shouted from backstage: The Central Security Regiment requests President Xi Jinping take the throne!

Xi Jinping: (Sighs) You’re trying to catch me being unjust! You just want to roast me on open fire, don’t you!

Wang Qishan: (Quietly snaps his fingers) President Xi, there’s been a mutiny! What are we to do?!

Xi Jinping: (Tacitly, pretending to be put in a hard place) Qishan, there’s been a mutiny! What are we to do?!

Wang Qishan: (Resolutely) May we respectfully request that President Xi assume the throne!

All: (Resolutely) May we respectfully request that President Xi assume the throne!

Xi Jinping: (Pretending to object) I couldn’t! I couldn’t!

Wang Qishan: By defeating Japan, you have established a stable structure of power. The heart of the Party, the heart of the people, and all Party members yearn for you to assume the role of emperor! All under heaven pay their allegiance to you! May President Xi Jinping this day become the Emperor of the Chinese Empire and take control as Great Sovereign of the Nation!

Xi Jinping: (Shaking his head) No, no, no. This is no small matter. We must seek the opinion of the people of the entire nation.

Li Keqiang: (Presenting a thick file of documents) President Xi, the four direct-controlled municipalities of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Chongqing; the 23 provinces of Heilongjiang, Liaoning, Jilin, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Shandong, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Anhui, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Fujian, Guangdong, Hainan, Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Qinghai, Gansu, and Jiangxi; the five autonomous regions of Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Tibet, and Guangxi; and the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau; one after another, are all sending in their petitions, urging President Xi to take the throne as emperor!

Xi Jinping: (Shaking his head) No, no, no. This is no small matter. We must seek the opinion of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Zhang Dejiang: (Presenting a thick dossier) The Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress has passed a resolution urging President Xi to take the throne as emperor!

Yu Zhengsheng: (Presenting a thick dossier) The 13th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference has passed a resolution urging President Xi to take the throne as emperor!

Liu Yunshan: (Presenting a thick dossier) The intelligentsia are sending in letters urging President Xi to take the throne as emperor!

Zhang Gaoli: (Presenting a thick dossier) The Communist Youth League Central Committee, National Federation of Trade Unions, and the National Women’s Federation have all passed resolutions urging President Xi to take the throne as emperor!

Wang Qishan: The Chinese people have arrived at their moment of greatest glory, erupting into a triumphant roar!

Xi Jinping: (Shaking his head) No, no, no. This is no small matter. Our brothers and sisters in Taiwan would not agree.

Wang Qishan: (Raising a diplomatic cable high in the air) Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has sent a special telegram, urging President Xi to take the throne as emperor! If we appoint Tsai as governor of Taiwan, she is willing to order all Taiwanese civil and military officials to surrender. Tsai is a shrewd woman—presidents must be elected every four years, but appointed rulers hand down their power forever, from generation to generation! For her own wealth and status,  Tsai is willing to sacrifice Taiwan! Soldiers on both side of the Taiwan Strait need not bloody their blades. Peaceful reunification! Chairman Mao was determined to liberate Taiwan, but he did not! Comrade Xiaoping advocated “one country, two systems” in futility! Xi Jinping the Great!

Tian Zonghua: (Aside) According to the traditions of historical TV dramas, as Xi Jinping has already refused the throne three times, he can therefore accept!

Xi Jinping: (Sighing deeply) For Taiwan’s return to the embrace of the motherland, I have no choice but take up this burden!

Like magic, Wang Qishan takes out a piercingly yellow imperial robe, and gathers Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli around him. They place the yellow robe on Xi Jinping. Wang Qishan leads the group in kneeling to the ground before him, kowtowing three times, and loudly chanting, “Long live the Emperor.”

Xi Jinping: (Quickly assuming his new role, speaking cordially) Qishan, you and I met as commoners. We once shared the same bed and blankets in the caves of Shanbei. We know one another deeply. I shall grant you a special exemption from kneeling before me!

Wang Qishan: (Standing up) Thank you, Your Majesty! (Turning to Tian Zonghua) Ms. Tian, you, stand at His Majesty’s side.

Tian Zonghua: (Trembling with unbridled yearning) Am I to be the queen?

Wang Qishan: The Queen is Ms. Peng. Everyone in the land knows this. You are to be head concubine.

Tian Zonghua: (Overwhelmed with joy) I’m head concubine?

Wang Qishan: You are Head Concubine Tian.

Host: (Kneeling down as in a historical TV drama) Head Concubine Tian is here, Your Majesty.

Xi Jinping: Precious Concubine Tian, rise.

Host: (Stands) Thank you, Your Majesty.

Tian Zonghua, now Concubine Tian, stands at Xi Jinping’s side.

Wang Qishan: His Majesty is no libertine, he has but one queen and one concubine.

Xi Jinping: (Aside) Over 30 years–over 30 years! Heaven and Earth know of my patience and struggle! I have finally ascended to the throne!

Austrian composer Johann Strauss’ “Emperor Waltz” plays from backstage.

Xi Jinping: (Majestically) Xi Zhongxun shall be bestowed posthumously with the title of Grand Emperor, and Qi Xin shall be honored as Empress Dowager. It shall be established that Peng Liyuan is Queen, and Tian Zonghua shall be conferred the title of Head Concubine! My daughter Xi Mingze, acting as a man, will be Crown Prince of the Eastern Palace! Wang Qishan will act as Prime Minister to the Throne. Li Keqiang shall be the Supreme Military Commander. Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, and Zhang Gaoli shall be royal ministers!

All: Thank you, Your Majesty!

Xi Jinping: (With palpable arrogance) The People’s Republic of China, changed to the Empire of China; the year 2019, changed to the First Year of Jinping–From today forward, I am the state!

Wang Qishan: May His Majesty live for ten thousand years! Long live His Majesty! Long live His Majesty!

All: May His Majesty live for ten thousand years! Long live His Majesty! Long live His Majesty!

The finale of Johann Strauss’ “Emperor Waltz” is heard backstage.

Blackout. Xi Jinping’s office. There is a large, wide desk and a big, sturdy chair; Above, there is a television monitor. Xi Jinping is sitting ceremoniously in his seat, an inscrutable smile shows across his face. A female television host, Tian Zonghua, stands stage left.

Tian Zonghua: (With microphone in hand) China Radio International, China National Radio, China Central Television, I am your host Tian Zonghua. I am standing right now in the office of Xi Jinping. Today is January 1st, 2019. President Xi is about to give his 2019 New Year’s greeting to the country and the world. But first, let’s take a look back at the unfortunate events that transpired at the end of last year–

The overhead monitor displays the words: “The world watches as the Diaoyu Island War erupts! Because of American imperial trickery, China is defeated!”

As raucous Japanese military music plays, the screen shows the Japanese Self Defense Air Force carpet bombing the Diaoyu Islands. All kinds of People’s Liberation Army vessels–even the Liaoning–are struck with artillery and sunk. The Japanese completely occupy the Diaoyu Islands. The Japanese flag waves in the wind…

Tian Zonghua: (Somber) President Xi, may we begin?

Xi Jinping: Pause the broadcast.

Tian Zonghua: Yes sir. (Looking backstage) President Xi’s orders: pause the broadcast.

Voice from backstage: Aye. President Xi’s orders: pause the broadcast.

Wang Qishan leads Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli onstage.

Wang Qishan: Happy New Year, President Xi.

Group: Happy New Year, President Xi.

Xi Jinping: (Apprehensively) Qishan, you look gloomy. Do you have some bad news?

Wang Qishan: Extraordinarily sad news! As we have been defeated by Japan, the achievements of China’s 40 years of reform have been wiped away to nothing. The country faces extreme danger and calamity! Nothing other than sacrificing a top official could quench the people’s rage!

Xi Jinping: (With a sinister smile) Great minds think alike. This is a drastic situation, indeed. Nothing other than sacrificing a top official could quench the people’s rage! (Takes out an envelope) Please take a look at this.

Wang Qishan: (Reads the paper) Arrest me? You want to arrest me?

Xi Jinping: (Calmly) Qishan, it is with great sadness that I make this sacrifice. I have no other choice! As the saying goes, when the king is disgraced, the ministers must go down–it has been this way since ancient times.

Wang Qishan: (Feigning surprise) Jinping, are you drunk?

Xi Jinping: Jinping is not drunk, China is intoxicated! China has lost Jieting, and Ma Su must be put to death!

Wang Qishan: (Smiling coldly) You wish to appease 1.3 billion people with my head? (Strangely calm) Jinping, one can know a person’s behavior, and one can know a person’s appearance, but one does not necessarily know a person’s heart. I was wrong about you!

Xi Jinping: Politics is nothing but trickery! The defeat of our military is like a mountain collapsing! The trend is clear–Jinping is for the country and the people. It must be this way! This is the last-ditch measure I must take. Qishan, you and I met as commoners. We once shared the same bed and blankets in the caves of Shanbei. We know one another deeply. After your death, I shall look after your family. I shall treat them doubly well. Take to the road in peace. One only needs to die once for all of eternity. I’m afraid the death is unavoidable, anyway!

Wang Qishan: (With great confidence) Qishan’s loyalty is not blind. I cannot follow this order! I respectfully request that President Xi take the blame for this national disgrace!

Xi Jinping: (Striking the desk) Nonsense! Central Security Regiment!

Shouted from backstage: The Central Security Regiment is here!

Xi Jinping: Wang Qishan is a megalomaniac. This cannot be tolerated under the law! I order Wang Qishan arrested and sent to Qincheng Prison!

Shouted from backstage: The Central Security Regiment refuses to carry out this order!

Xi Jinping: (A sudden shiver. He snaps back) Why?

Shouted from backstage: The Diaoyu Island War has been lost. The Central Security Regiment requests that President Xi give an explanation!

Wang Qishan: (Handing the arrest warrant back with disdain) Jinping, you are cunning and shrewd. You make all kinds of calculations, but you’ve let one slip. You have miscalculated this time!

Li Keqiang: (Not wanting to be left out) We’ve lost the Diaoyu Island War. This is largest defeat ever suffered by New China. The foundation of the nation is shaken! I do declare, what poor skill!

Zhang Dejiang: (Not wanting to be left out) I do declare, what a poor undertaking!

Yu Zhengsheng: (Not wanting to be left out) I do declare, what poor sentiment!

Liu Yunshan: (Not wanting to be left out) I do declare, what a failure!

Zhang Gaoli: (Not wanting to be left out) I do declare, what a poor operation!

Wang Qishan: (Bombarding Xi with criticism) Jinping, you are headstrong, unable to take frank advice. You keep bad people close, yet distance yourself from your virtuous ministers. What “big philosophy,” what “big era,” what “big realization,” what “big actions?” How boastful! What blatant lies! If Chairman Mao or Comrade Xiaoping were still alive, you would have been placed in Qincheng Prison long ago! The Diaoyu Island War is lost, the economy is in decline, commodity prices are unstable, and the people’s thoughts are wandering. Rumors and danger convulse the land! The death of the nation must have its demon! You are the bane of the Chinese people!

Xi Jinping: (Sighing) You all want to make me a scapegoat!

A commotion backstage.

Wang Qishan: (Asking as though he already knows the answer) Who’s outside?

Shouted from backstage: The Central Security Regiment is here!

Wang Qishan: (Asking as though he already knows the answer) What is it you want?

Shouted from backstage: The Central Security Regiment wants an explanation from Xi Jinping!

Wang Qishan: (Quietly snaps his fingers) President Xi, there has been a mutiny. What are we to do?!

Xi Jinping: (Not yet calm) You can know a person’s behavior and appearance but be blind to his true nature. Qishan, I was wrong about you!

Wang Qishan: Politics is nothing but trickery! The defeat of the army is like a mountain collapsing! The trend is clear. Qishan is for the nation and the people. It must be this way!

Xi Jinping: (Smiling) You wish to appease 1.3 billion people with my head?

Wang Qishan: The public good comes above all else; the king’s personal interest is not what matters. This is historical logic! Your myriad mistakes–in your personal work, in shouldering responsibility, in your sentiment, in your goals, in your philosophy, in presiding over a time of decline, in results, in actions–have shaken the foundation of this country!

Beat.

Wang Qishan: (Resolutely) I firmly request that President Xi comply with the wishes of the Party, the people, and the Party members, by taking the blame and resigning!

All: (Resolutely) We firmly request that President Xi comply with the wishes of the Party, the people, and the Party members, by taking the blame and resigning!

Wang Qishan: The Chinese people have arrived at their most critical juncture. Everyone must let out their last roar of defiance!

Xi Jinping: (Shaking his head) No, no. This is no small matter. We must seek the opinion of the people.

Li Keqiang: (Presents a thick dossier) President Xi, the four direct-controlled municipalities of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Chongqing; the 23 provinces of Heilongjiang, Liaoning, Jilin, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Shandong, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Anhui, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Fujian, Guangdong, Hainan, Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Qinghai, Gansu, and Jiangxi; the five autonomous regions of Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Tibet, and Guangxi; and the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau; one after another, are all sending in their petitions, urging to take the blame and resign!

Xi Jinping: (Shaking his head) No, no. This is no small matter. We must seek the opinion of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Zhang Dejiang: (Presents a thick dossier) The Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress has passed a resolution urging President Xi to take the blame and resign!

Yu Zhengsheng: (Presents a thick dossier) The 13th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference has passed a resolution urging President Xi to take the blame and resign!

Liu Yunshan: (Presents a thick dossier) The intelligentsia are sending in petitions urging President Xi to take the blame and resign!

Zhang Gaoli: (Presents a thick dossier) The Communist Youth League Central Committee, National Federation of Trade Unions, and the National Women’s Federation have all passed resolutions urging President Xi to take the blame and resign!

Xi Jinping: (Shaking his head) No, no. This is no small matter. Our brothers and sisters in Taiwan would not agree.

Wang Qishan: (Raising a diplomatic cable high in the air) Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has sent a special cable, urging President Xi to take the blame and resign! Or else, Taiwan will immediately declare independence! Tsai Ing-wen is a hauty woman–she has sent a special envoy to deliver a dress and cooking utensils, for you to dress up as a woman, get in the kitchen, wash your hands and make some soup!

Tian Zonghua: (Aside) According to the traditions of historical TV dramas, Xi Jinping has refused three times, and now has no choice but to accept!

Xi Jinping: (Resigned to defeat) Qishan, it has already come to this. I agree to take the blame and resign! I agree to accept my dress and cooking utensils, to dress as a woman, take to the kitchen, wash my hands, and make soup!

Wang Qishan: (Gaining an inch, taking a mile) You start war with ease, and then lose to Japan! A loosed arrow never returns! The sword is out of its sheath. Japan has not been killed, so you must be the one to die! If the country is defeated, the emperor must die. It has been this way since ancient times.

Xi Jinping: (Bitterly) Qishan, I forged you into a sharp sword to strike political opponents. I never imagined this sword would come back to strike me in the end. Brothers in arms becoming mortal enemies! Justice! Justice!

Wang Qishan: (Looking at the female host) Ms. Tian, you, stand at President Xi’s side.

Tian Zonghua: (With a vague sense of longing, yet a quavering voice) Are you asking me to interview him up close?

Wang Qishan: No. You are the assassin.

Tian Zonghua: (Baffled) I’m the assassin?

Wang Qishan: You are the assassin. Kill President Xi, then finish off yourself! And in doing this, realize your self worth!

Tian Zonghua: (Her whole body shaking) Kill President Xi?

Wang Qishan: (Snaps his fingers softly, a fierce-looking grin on his face) Corday murdered Marat, Kaplan assassinated Lenin, and now Tian Zonghua will assassinate Xi Jinping! Right in the same line of succession! You’ll go down in history!

Xi Jinping: (Pacing in place, helplessly) Ms. Tian, just come stand over here. Don’t you know the saying, “I’d rather see the King of Hell than face Wang Qishan”?

Host: (Taking small, quick steps toward Xi Jinping, tearfully) –“I’d rather see the King of Hell than see face Wang Qishan!”

Xi Jinping: (Looking up, sighs deeply) I’ve stirred chaos, and I only have myself to blame. I have been spurned by the people. I’ve lost all credibility! I’ve gained so much, but in the end I will lose my life! The glamor has dissipated. Bad things happen when one is most happy! No medicine exists in this world that could cure my regret! I just want to be an average citizen again–or even a cross-dressing housewife–but no chance for that now!

Wang Qishan: (Laughing out loud with great satisfaction) Ms. Tian, you’re about to die on the exact same day, month, and year as President Xi! There’s nothing you can do to change it!

Beat.

Wang Qishan: Jinping, why don’t you get on your way. You and I met as commoners. We once shared the same bed and blankets in the caves of Shanbei. We knew one another deeply. I will plan for a grand state funeral for you.

Xi Jinping: (Without a trace of cowardice) Enough, enough, enough! The power lies with me, it is mightier than life itself! Qishan, why don’t you take the both of us.

Wang Qishan: (Sharply) President Xi, to die, nominally, by the hand of a beautiful woman–this is the best possible way for your curtain to fall!

Like magic, Wang Qishan takes out a blinding snow white khata. He leads Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, and Zhang Gaoli toward Xi Jinping and Tian Zonghua.

Wang Qishan: (Each word a crushing weight) Jinping, Why don’t you get on your way. I will plan a grand state funeral for you.

Xi Jinping: (Fearless in the face of death, breaking into a smile) Qishan, you ruthless vermin! We’ll see who ends up on top in the next life!

Led by Wang Qishan, the group encircles Xi Jinping and Tian Zonghua. The lights go out. In the dark, Xi Jinping lets out an anguished scream, then Tian Zonghua lets out a cry of despair. There are sounds of choking and struggle. Then, silence.

The lights come back on. Xi Jinping and Tian Zonghua are gone. Wang Qishan sits ceremoniously in Xi Jinping’s former position. Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, and Zhang Gaoli stand in a line behind him, all with solemn expressions on their faces.

Wang Qishan: (Deeply grieved) The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Central Military Commission, and the State Council hereby announces to the entire Party, military, and all citizens: Our beloved President Xi has been assassinated by female CCTV television host Tian Zonghua! Afraid to face the repercussions for her crime, the murderer has already committed suicide!

A short line of funeral music plays from backstage.

Wang Qishan: (With great passion) The Emergency State Commission, with Wang Qishan as its leader, is hereby established! The commission members are: Wang Qishan, Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, and Zhang Gaoli. At this extraordinary time, we must turn our pain and sorrow into power, continue the will of Xi Jinping, and realize the great ideal of the Chinese Dream!

The national anthem of the People’s Republic of China plays from backstage.

The entire group stays perfectly still, not even blinking an eye, like statues.

Curtain.

Mazhijiaoyang. Written February 9-21, 2015 in New York. [Chinese]

Translation by Little Bluegill.