Gao Yu: Princelings Are Xi’s Greatest Challenge

Gao Yu: Princelings Are Xi’s Greatest Challenge

Outspoken journalist and commentator Gao Yu was detained in April just days before she was to attend an event marking the anniversary of the 1989 protests. Two weeks after her detention, Xinhua reported that Gao was detained for “leaking state secrets,” and her confession was shown on CCTV.

The document Gao may be accused of leaking is a April 2013 Chinese Communist Party internal communique known as “Document 9,” which warns of the dangers of “promoting Western constitutional democracy” and calls for renewed vigilance in the “ideological sphere.” A crackdown on human rights activists, Internet commentators, and other liberals soon followed. Document 9 was first published in September 2013 by Mingjing, an overseas Chinese publication to which Gao frequently contributes.

Late last year, Mingjing also published Gao Yu’s remarks from a seminar held in New York in October attended by academics, journalists, and former officials. She asserts that Xi Jinping, far from being aligned with the “princelings” surrounding him in the central government, is maneuvering to establish his power independently of them. CDT has translated the transcript of her remarks:

A moment ago, Li Weidong gave an analysis of China from a macro perspective, an assessment of China in the context of multi-dimensional global change. I’m going to talk specifics—about how the Communist Party changed around the time of the 18th Party Congress.

Let’s first establish where China is today. Since Xi Jinping took over, why has the entire academic community felt so let down? Why have nearly all of them broken off from him? I say, this is because Xi Jinping is the bitter fruit of Mao Zedong’s 30 years of communism and Deng Xiaoping’s 30 years of crony capitalism.

Why do so many people feel that all their hope for him was in vain? How come no one saw Xi Jinping for who he really is?

After Xi Jinping was crowned prince in 2007, he formed three investigation groups. These three groups all had different members, and they did not communicate with one another. They were tasked with identifying what could hinder Xi Jinping’s rise and exercise of power. Shockingly, the three groups arrived at the same conclusion. According to their findings, Xi’s biggest threat were his “brothers”—the princelings and the offspring of important Party figures. So once Xi Jinping became a Standing Committee member, he transferred Bo Xilai to Chongqing. He had his reasons for this. But he had no idea that Bo would become such a galvanizing figure out there.

Xi Jinping’s relationship with the princelings became very delicate. When Xi Jinping was appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) at the 17th Party Congress, Hu Deping should have been appointed vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Hu had just stepped down as head of the National Federation of Industry and Commerce, and according to precedent, a person in this position should have been promoted to the national-level leadership. But Deng Pufang of the China Disabled Persons Federation took the position, not Hu Deping. Subsequent trends in personnel arrangements continued all the way through to the 18th Party Congress.

Hu Jintao met with Liu Yuan after the “May First” [holiday] of 2012, and the first words out of his mouth were, “During this round of military inspection (at the end of April), you were voted first by the military academies and all four arms of the military. You’ll easily advance to the Military Commission.” But at the 18th Party Congress, Liu Yuan was not appointed. Clearly, this was Xi Jinping acting to stifle the “power of his brothers.” On October 15, a solemn commemoration was held at the Great Hall of the People for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Xi Zhongxun [Xi Jinping’s father]. Considering Xi Zhongxun’s character and his contributions to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), it was a very fitting event. But it was as if they were singing “The Great Ascent to the Palace” at the commemoration. The hall was filled with princelings seated across from the front row of leadership. It would be difficult to say that they were all there to express their “support.”

Now he’s also started to reorganize the big state-owned enterprises, including the oil companies. Basically, Xi Jinping does not trust them; he also has no patience for the thoughts and politics of intellectuals. For a long time, it seemed as if he lacked a solid base. Before he took office, he always played the role of “listener.” Some people said that Hu Jintao “left naked” and Xi Jinping “arrived naked.” This is a misinterpretation. There’s a photo, has everyone seen it? In the photo, Jiang Zemin is inspecting a piece of calligraphy, while he [Xi Jinping] is silently “accompanying” Jiang. This photo explains the mystery of how Xi Jinping was appointed crown prince. When he served as provincial committee secretary of Zhejiang, Jiang had only to go to Shanghai, and Xi would have to visit him every week.

Xi Jinping was a worker-peasant-soldier student, a member of the generation that came out of Mao Zedong’s “Cultural Revolution.” Another member of this generation, Chen Ziming, was also a worker-peasant-soldier student, and he also studied chemical engineering. Recently, one of his professors said Ziming had the best grades in their worker-peasant-soldier class, in both engineering and science. So after he graduated, he tested into the Academy of Sciences biochemistry graduate program. Someone then asked this professor about Xi Jinping’s grades in chemistry. The professor said he believes that Xi Jinping’s grades were very poor. This was the biggest difference between these two worker-peasant-soldier students. Some say that Xi Zhongxun never went too far to the left in his life—he had an open mind, and he held a keen interest in reform. So people believed that his son would follow in his footsteps. But don’t rule out a different possibility. Because of all of the obstacles his father hit, Xi Jinping may have been taught: “Learn your lesson, don’t be like your father!” Further, like Weidong said, the two share a spiritual father, Mao Zedong. So how can one be so sure that Xi Jinping will walk along the same path as his father? The throne on which Xi Jinping now sits, his father never did.

At this year’s Yanhuang Chunqiu spring fellowship meeting, Hu Dehua said, “I was in the first year of senior high school during the Cultural Revolution, and didn’t read many books; but he (Xi) and his younger sister were then only in their first year of middle school.” The CCP Central Committee’s Document No. 9 was published around the same time as the February 27 Yanhuang Chunqiu meeting. Here’s something that has never happened before: a group of progressive democracy advocates within the Party became outraged and disagreed with Xi Jinping’s two speeches, but they never realized that Du Daozheng was going to take the lead and say that if the new Central Committee followed what was outlined in the two speeches, the country would be doomed! It was this very spring fellowship speech that led to Document No. 9. The document is absolutely not the work of Liu Yunshan. I heard Xi Jinping personally edited the document. Even Zhang Musheng has said, “How can you be against constitutional rule? Back in the day, Mao Zedong was the head of the Constitutional Government Research Group!” Because of this, it’s difficult to claim that the princelings make up the base of his [Xi’s] power.

The new department heads are another indication. There is a possibility that tremendous change will come one day soon. I’ve heard that his security guards have all been replaced. The head of the Central Security Bureau, Cao Qing, no longer controls Xi Jinping’s guards. Xi’s guards don’t even belong to the Central Security Bureau—they are managed by the Military Commission. In the past, before Beidaihe, Central Committee Director Ling Jihua managed the security detail, and it was all very cordial. Assignments were given with an encouraging tone. But this year, the new Central Committee head Li Zhanshu does things much differently. He uses a disciplinary tone, and the leaders of the Central Security Bureau don’t know what to do about this.

So right now, we are not only fighting against crony capitalism, we’re also fighting against the simultaneous oppression of two different eras of the Communist Party: those of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Even Hitler enacted quite a few domestic socialist policies, and his socialism was successful. The socialism of the Chinese Communist Party is a failure. 35 years into economic reform, and what has now been established is the most unfair of systems: crony capitalism. Xi Jinping wants to change the world in the way that he sees fit. If he had even greater national power at his command, what would he do to the world? It’s hard to say.

Now I’ll talk a little bit more about the Third Plenum. These days they publicly state the following three points: “The Internet is the scourge of the Party, the scourge of the nation. It will be the death of the Party and the nation.” They believe “talking about constitutional rule and universal values is ‘false advertisement,’” and therefore we must no longer sing The Junction of Three Roads, where black beats black–we must work in the light!” “The power of the Internet is increasing. This is a great scourge upon us. We must not deviate from our path, and we cannot lose our place in the battle. We need to be willing to detain, to control, to draw our swords.” After Xi Jinping’s “819” [August 19] speech, 31 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions all drew their swords. Two members of the Military Commission then unsheathed their swords.

By September 15, the Central Propaganda Department called for a meeting with a group of leftists—Kong Dan, Sima Nan, and Kong Qingdong—that turned out to be a snitching session. At the meeting, they came up with a list of 47 “Big Vs.” This list included three longtime leftists: Song Yangbiao, Zhang Hongliang, and Han Deqiang. These three were called the “Shrine Smashers” because they wanted to use Cultural Revolution-style methods to destroy the proverbial Communist Party “shrine.” The rest of the names were well-known rightist public intellectuals, labelled for “harboring evil intentions and becoming alienated from the Party in mind and heart.”

Among all of the issues brought up at the Third Plenum, the ratification of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone has been talked about the most. This area would span 28 square kilometers, within which the RMB would be freely convertible. The effects would be far-reaching. Guangdong would be out of luck. How could they just throw us to the side of the road like that? The largest-scale plans would approve three free trade harbors in Guangdong: Guangzhou, Shenzhen and southern Zhuhai: “Hengqin,” “Nansha,” and “Qianhai.” Chengdu wants to open one, too. Five free [currency] conversion zones, effectively free trade zones—it’s like making five Hong Kongs. This is because the southeast Asian countries have unified and China can’t keep up, can’t get in there anymore, so they have to open these kinds of development zones. But to challenge the position of the U.S. dollar, that would constitute a threat to the national interest of the U.S. So the U.S. will continue pressing China to raise the value of the RMB.

The so-called “liberalization of the private economy” essentially means letting private enterprise into what Li Rongrong called the “seven [sectors] that must be monopolies.” In the financial industry, four private banks will be approved, which will include Zhongguancun Bank and Wenshang Bank. Three have already submitted documentation in Guangzhou: Suning Bank, Tencent Bank, and Mayun Bank. Nationally, over 300 private banks have already submitted registration documents. Private banks will start being approved at the end of the year. State-owned banks will find themselves in dangerous territory—with the approval of four private banks, privatization will mean the privatization of cronyism. It will be exactly like Russia, one hundred percent. But this has all come to be viewed as inevitable. Once the gates are open, state-run banks will be forced to compete.

At November’s Third Plenum, Xi Jinping demonstrated that he will continue Deng Xiaoping’s “two firm hands” policy—liberalization of the economic sector on the one hand, and fighting liberalization of the political sector on the other–making China more chaotic in the end. His method is this: as long as you’re not affecting my ability to be emperor, as long as you don’t interfere with my ability to exercise my power, I’ll let you off the hook. After “819,” the chairman of the China Internet Network Information Office, Lu Wei, called a meeting of all important national figures in charge of the Internet. Surprisingly, he openly revealed his reason for calling them together: “It will be very good for you to stick with me. If anyone’s doing something underhanded or conspiratorial, come out with it.”

Of the Chinese Communist Party’s 90 years, the first 28 years were spent in a power struggle. For the next 27 years, Mao Zedong sat on the throne. Then there were another 30 years of Deng Xiaoping’s so-called “reform and opening”—must they still keep everyone in the dark, including intellectuals? To think that China is about to embark on its second period of reform would be absolutely false—pedantic even. [Chinese Source]

Translation by Little Bluegill.


1. “The Great Ascent to the Palace” (大登殿) is an act in the Peking opera Red-Maned Steed (红棕烈马) in which the hero, a beggar named Xue Pinggui, becomes emperor and metes out justice to the men who had once courted his wife. Back.

2. Hu Jintao is said have a “naked retirement” because he stepped down as chair of the Central Military Commission once his presidency ended. Back.

3. The Peking opera Junction of Three Roads (三岔口) includes a fight scene set in the pitch dark. Back.

4. Gao Yu seems to have misspoke by combining two news stories from 2010. At Davos that year, then-State Council economist Li Rongrong claimed that China’s three oil monopolies saved the country during the 2008 global financial crisis [Chinese]. Later that year, a study came out showing that the employees of seven major SOEs were making 50% of the country’s income [Chinese]. Back.


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