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Common Prosperity and Xi’s Desire to Be China’s “Greatest Leader”

In early November 2021, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) 19th Central Committee convened its sixth plenum, the conclusion of which appeared to pave the way for Xi’s third term. After Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, Xi is the 3rd leader in Communist China’s history to pass “resolutions” of self-endorsement, appointing himself to indefinite leadership, voiding the two-term limit.

Despite some controversy the meeting passed the “Resolution on Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the CCP’s 100 Years of Endeavors.” It also elevated “Xi Jinping Thought,” positioning Xi as the Great Leader of the country. Xi was said to herald “a New Era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.”

Is Xi prepared to hold onto the CCP’s scepter of power for another five or ten years, or even longer?

Xi is close. He has succeeded in removing the two-term limitation from the Party’s Constitution. His affiliates have occupied key positions for the past decade. In terms of competition, a worthy rival or adversary capable of taking his place appears to be non-existent. However, there is one more thing. Considering China’s historical precedents, when embarking on a significant political event or waging a war campaign, it is customary for the top leader to promote a public narrative that justifies the new policy or direction. The real question is, “What is Xi offering China as the justification for his recent actions proclaiming himself to be elevated above The Great Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping?

Cracks in “The Great Leader” Narrative:

Xi’s team offered the following narrative: Mao made China “stand up (站起来),” Deng made China “rich (富起来),” and Xi made China “strong (强起来).”

The question is, when Beijing is facing so many problems both domestically and internationally, on what grounds can Xi claim to have made China “strong?”  On the foreign relations front, China has become increasingly isolated, as the world holds it accountable for the spread of COVID-19, the Uyghur genocide in Xinjiang, years of unfair trade practices, and the decades of theft of intellectual property from foreign countries. On the economic side, China is facing a multitude of dangers, starting with the imminent collapse of the real estate bubble that threatens to wipe out behemoths such as Evergrande which In 2021 had hundreds of billions of dollars in payments due on  debts, resulting in the “Evergrande Liquidity crisis.” This was one of the reasons for a drop in many stock market indices on September 20, 2021.]The Chinese government is reportedly working to restructure Evergrande to resolve the crisis.  The mass exodus of foreign companies coupled with weak domestic consumption has already created a precarious situation without even mentioning the Tang Ping phenomenon. {1} Meanwhile, China’s Premier Li Keqiang reported in May 2020, that China had 600 million people whose monthly income was less than 1,000 yuan (US$154).

On the military side, Xi lacks a war victory to show off his might, since China has not gone to war for over 40 years. Taking over Taiwan by force could bestow him that distinction, but it’s risky. A military defeat would very likely end his political career. He would be better off considering war as an option after he secures his next term.

However challenging it is to convince the general public of Xi’s greatness, it would be foolish to underestimate Xi’s determination to fashion a sufficiently compelling narrative justifying his actions.

The Deeply Rooted Communist Psyche:

What do recedents from Xi’s past allude to, what is in store presently, and what does this imply for the future? To showcase his strength and endurance, Xi told the story of carrying 200 pounds of wheat over 10 miles, up a mountain road when he was a young man in Shaanxi village. {2} To note his determination, we look at how Xi started an anti-corruption campaign to take out Zhou Yongkang and other Jiang Zemin loyalists who were planning a coup to overthrow him after he took the top post. If we wonder about future ambitions, we need look no further than the extensive efforts devoted to clearing out the roadblocks obstructing his extended rule.

Xi’s inspiration likely comes from Mao, who viewed himself to be predestined for global dominion. Mao once claimed in a poem, no doubt referring to himself, that today’s heroes would undoubtedly best the two great emperors of Chinese antiquity; Qin Shi Huang and Wu of Han. The first had united China, while the latter, by 87 BC, had expanded China’s territory extensively .

Born in 1953, Xi was a freshman in middle school at the start of the Cultural Revolution. Starting in 1966, for a period of ten years, the Cultural Revolution put an end to core school programs and higher education, in exchange for communist indoctrination. This explains why many believe Xi to have had little more than an elementary school education. {3} While Xi later received a Bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. from Qinghua University, the question remains whether the degrees were rightfully earned.

Young Xi grew up steeped in communist programming, reading the Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung (Mao Zedong) and Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung. Naturally, Mao’s philosophy became deeply rooted in Xi’s psyche. “That’s why Xi Jinping often makes mistakes in public when he quotes traditional Chinese phrases but is fluent when quoting Mao Zedong’s words or poems.” {4} Between his limited education and Xi’s reverence for Mao’s writings, it seems Mao’s personal ambitions and communist ideology sank deeply into Xi’s bones, turning him into a solidly devout, orthodox Marxist believer.

Evidence of Xi’s Communist Complex:

Communism elevates a state planned economy over privately held businesses, favoring State-Owned Enterprises (SOE’s). Cooperatives (供销社) are a signature of a state planned economy, claimed to be “People owned” while in fact run by the central government.  Prevalent throughout China during Mao’s era (from the 1950’s to the 1970’s), Cooperatives were declared inefficient during Deng Xiaoping’s reign, where market economy reform caused Cooperatives to disappear. Since taking office in 2013, Xi had the central government rebuild more than 10,000 Cooperatives which, by 2017, totaled 32,000. Now 95 percent of the towns and villages across the country have state run Cooperatives as part of the local economy. As expected, Xi’s regime has been promoting the expansion of SOE’s, while displacing privately held businesses. {5}

Reinforcing Maoist ideology, Xi launched the campaign “Not to Forget the Original (Communist) Intention and Remember the Mission (不忘初心、牢记使命),” with the highlight of party members renewing their communist vows. He, himself, twice led the Politburo Standing Committee members to renew their vows of devotion to the party. The first was at Shanghai’s CCP’s First National Congress in October 31, 2017. {6} The second time was at the CCP History Exhibition Hall in Beijing on June 28, 2021. {7}

“Common Prosperity” as Xi’s Achievement:

With the strong desire he had to be the “The Greatest Leader” while deeply rooted in the communist complex, one would expect Xi to search the communist doctrine to justify his continued rule. That is perhaps the inspiration behind the recent push for “common prosperity,” with the attempt being to make everyone equally prosperous. China has a big income distribution gap between the rich and the poor. In 2020, China was ranked at 46.5 on the Gini index, indicating a high inequality in income distribution. The wealthiest one percent in China owned about 30 percent of the total wealth in that year. {8} If Xi can shift wealth from the rich to the poor and make the poor feel that they are much better off than before, then he has a shot at claiming he has made China “strong.”

Last August Xi launched the “common prosperity” agenda, gratuitously echoed by China’s  propaganda outlets. The CCP also discussed the “third distribution,” using “charity” (i.e. forced donations) to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. At the same time, the authorities sent a clear message to Chinese companies when it mysteriously disappeared Ma Yun, the founder of Alibaba, while imposing a fine on several large companies for being “market monopolies.”

Right on cue (August 18, 2021), a day after Xi mentioned “common prosperity,” Tencent, the parent company of popular Chinese social media WeChat and QQ, announced that it would contribute 50 billion yuan (US$ 7.8 billion) to the so-called rural revitalization. Other private company owners followed suit. Zhang Yiming, the former CEO of Byte Jump, donated 500 million yuan; Wang Xing of Meituan, donated $2.27 billion; Lei Jun of Xiaomi, donated $2.2 billion; Huang Zheng of Jindo, donated more than $2.2 billion and pledged to donate all net profits the coming year. After Alibaba donated 100 billion yuan, Ma Yun mysteriously reappeared in public, following his lengthy absence.

Common Prosperity seems all the rage among Xi’s associates as well. Zhejiang’s Party Secretary Yuan Jiajun, in a high-profile event led the provincial leaders, to donate a day’s worth of wages, on September 3, dubbed “China’s Charity Day.” {9}

Will Xi succeed in these wealth-sharing efforts to make the Chinese people “strong”? Unlikely.

Acquiring Wealth in the 1950’s by Looting :

The CCP’s past is riddled with looting wealth from productive members of society. The implementation of those policies was often followed by tragedy, state terror, and a high body count.  Let’s go back to the early 1950s when the CCP sent millions of soldiers to fight in the Korean War, only to find itself ill prepared and in great need of supplies. The CCP appealed to the general public for donations, expecting wealthy businesses to contribute. The disappointingly meager results fell short of expectations.

To “motivate” the wealthy to generously open their wallets, in the winter of 1951, the CCP launched a campaign against the capitalists known as the “Five-anti” campaign. In effect, the party cooked up the “corrupt capitalist” narrative in order to set an example using a Chinese tactic called “executing one as a warning to the other hundred.”

The man to be sacrificed was Wang Kangnian, owner of a well-known “Da Kang Pharmacy” store in Shanghai. After the military “bought” medical preparations from him, the CCP neglected to pay the bill. After stiffing Mr. Wang a second time, the successful pharmacist declined to provide his services when approached by the country’s military to fill a 3rd order.

By January 1952, Mr. Wang’s staff, mobilized by the authorities, accused him of tax evasion and stealing state money. In February, the Jiefang Daily, Shanghai CCP Committee’s newspaper, ran a series of hit-pieces using trumped up charges as a smear campaign. Mr. Wang was accused of bribing officials and taking the army’s money. Fabrications included claims of him selling military first-aid kits using unsterile gauze, used medical equipment, and counterfeit medicine. According to the propaganda campaign, Wang’s first aid kits were at fault because thousands of wounded soldiers needlessly died of bacterial infection on the front. The fact that Wang had never actually provided these supplies to the military, was irrelevant.

The state-run media stirred the pot, popularizing hatred against the “black hearted” merchants. People denounced Mr. Wang in disgust, after which he was arrested and authorities had a firing squad execute him in February 1953. The CCP’s mission was accomplished; an example had been made.

After Mr. Wang’s arrest, capitalists and industrialists all over the country responded “warmly” to the Party’s call, launching a fervent wave of “aircraft donations.” They donated money for the military to buy airplanes. The amount of the “donations” from Shanghai’s capitalists alone amounted to over 600 billion yuan (the equivalent of US$10 million in 1952), or the value of 404 airplanes. {10} Is this beginning to sound familiar?

The CCP was not satisfied with charitable donations from the wealthy. They wanted all of it: starting with the “Socialist Reform” movement in 1953, with the confiscation of land from the landlords and companies from capitalists. It also confiscated all private property, including houses, clothes, personal assets, etc., to “redistribute” among “The People.” The CCP gave the land to peasants while appointing state officials to run it. After a few years China’s agriculture was plagued by dismal productivity causing widespread famine for decades. Factories were redistributed from the business owners, to the people. The CCP pronounced the workers in charge as the new owners, while appointing CCP managers to run them, and  the state planned economy was born.

To prevent future problems, the CCP killed off landlords, capitalists, and generally anyone who disagreed. Every evening, then Shanghai Mayor Chen Yi while sipping tea, leisurely asked, “How many airborne soldiers hit the ground today?” He meant, how many capitalists had jumped to their death, from the city’s buildings. The CCP had effectively achieved its goal of a wealth takeover, eradicating an entire class of productive landlords and well-to-do business owners.

The Paradox of Xi’s Wealth Redistribution

If present day Xi wants to follow the 1950’s model, he will find an ironic difference. Today’s “capitalists” and “wealthy elites” are party officials, serving the very backbone that holds the CCP power structure together. Over the past decades, we know CCP officials and their families have become the de facto rich in today’s mainland China, . Reports show that former CCP head, Jiang Zemin and his family hold over $1 trillion in assets outside of China. {11} When Xi took down the CCP’s top official, Zhou Yongkang in 2015, Reuters reported a record $14.5 billion had been confiscated from Zhou’s family and closest associates. {12} When Xi took down Xu Caihou, a top military officer of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), authorities found enormous reserves of cash, jewelry, and antiques at Xu’s residence. The cash alone was reported to weigh over one ton and the total loot filled over a dozen military trucks when it was

at last moved. {13}

It is mportant to note that China’s businessmen, however successful they appear, are secondary to those really in charge. How so? Businessmen rely on high-ranking officials within the CCP who offer them favors and protection. After all, they are carrying out the CCP’s will. This grants them an upper hand in business deals. Logically, the wealth under their names is in fact connected to the high-ranking officials’ own agendas … not some privately wealthy tycoon that can be demonized via the Marxist “class struggle” apparatus – or can it? It doesn’t seem that Xi is offering his high-ranking party comrades any protection at all.

Between Xi’s delusions of grandeur, his crowning himself the indefinite ruler of mainland China, his appetite for global domination at any cost, and his looting of the backbone that holds the CCP together in order to remove competition, it is hard to imagine that this can be sustained indefinitely. How long before the boat sinks because of the holes drilled into the deck by the same captain who is at the rudder? Cracks in the façade are beginning to reveal themselves with Xi’s recently failed efforts to levy a new property tax across China. Originally touted as a solution to fix the problems of local government debt and to reign-in the price of real estate, the property tax was originally planned to be piloted in 30 cities by 2021. After meeting with strong opposition from party officials all of whom own multiple residences throughout the country, Xi was forced to yield. In the end, the tax pilot was implemented in only 10 cities. This was not a victory by any means.

Irrespective of Xi’s determination, if he wants to indulge his communist complex, sharing the CCP officials’ wealth with the general public, he will find himself trapped in a paradox. One leader of the CCP against a pack of CCP officials. Where the lone leader that holds dear the utopia of orthodox communist teachings also seeks to redistribute wealth to The People, by looting from the same party officials that have put him in power. The greatest irony of all is that the CCP party officials, themselves, have completely abandoned allegiance to communist ideology, having become as corrupt and money grabbing as the thugs they proport to disdain.

If Xi dares take on that fight, the entire party will gobble him up, without a single bone left. Xi’s only chance to survive the paradox of his creation, is to dissolve the CCP before they take him out. Then what about Xi’s communist complex? As long as Xi stays on the communist boat, his “common prosperity” idea will continue to undermine communist China’s power structure, while his aspiration to be the Greatest Leader of all time, will remain an ever distant mirage.


{1} Tang Ping, literally “lying flat,” is the phenomenon of young people in China exhausted by a culture of hard work with seemingly little reward or advancement; they adopt a lifestyle of defeat by refusing to work at all.
{2} People’s Daily, “Tracing the Original Heart of General Secretary Xi Jinping,” March 19, 2017.
{3} Liberty Times, “不只唸小學!習近平被爆僅受過7年正規教育,” January 3, 2019.
{4} Ibid.
{5} Xinhua, “Ninety Five % of Towns in China Has Cooperatives Again,” January 15, 2019.
{6} Xinhua, “Xi Jinping Led CCP Politburo Standing Committee Members to Renew Their Party Vows,” October 31, 2017.
{7} Xinhua, “Xi Jinping: Remember Party’s Struggle History, Shoulder Historical Mission, and Absorb Power from the Party’s Struggle History,” June 18, 2021.
{8} Epoch Times, “The Path for Grassroot Level People to Advance Is Almost Sealed,” November 17, 2021.
{9} Sina, “Party Secretary Led the Donation – Donating One Day’s Salary,” September 3, 2021
{10} The Chinese University of Hong Kong, “The Truth of Wang Kangnian’s Case.”
{11} Epoch Times, “Jiang Zemin’s Family Stole Huge Amount and Hid Them Overseas,” June 2, 2019.
{12} VOA, “Media Reported on Zhou Yongkang Family’s Wealth,” April 25, 2014.
{13} Epoch Times, “How Corrupt Was Xu Caihou, Former Central Military Commission’s Vice Chairman?” November 13, 2021.