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Is Xi Jinping all that powerful?

One can understand that India will not be a priority for Xi, but, can China afford a clash with India, adding yet another headache for its President?

October 1 is going to be a big date for the new Chinese 'Emperor', Xi Jinping. The Secretary General of the Communist Party of China (CPC) will preside over a mega parade from the dais of Tiananmen Square in front of the giant portrait of his illustious predecessor, Chairman Mao Zedong.

"A parade of weapons and equipment including nuclear, hypersonic and stealthy ones were spotted in Beijing during the second rehearsal to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC)," the CPC's mouthpiece, The Global Times, reported.

Hong Kong paradox

More than 100,000 people will participate in the parade and 60,000 will attend the evening gala in Beijing on October 1. 'Uncle' Xi, you may think, is today all-powerful and his dream of rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is coming true.

It could have been, if Hong Kong had not suddenly revolted, if Xinjiang, the Western Muslim province had not become restive and if religious freedom had not been stifled in Tibet. In Hong Kong, defiant protesters "took their campaign against the government and Beijing to Hong Kong Stadium, booing the national anthem and forming a long human chain as the city's soccer squad lost 2-0 to Iran in its first home qualifier for the 2022 World Cup," The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

Citizens of the city, which joined the Middle Kingdom 20 years ago under 'One country, two systems', are now booing their (Chinese) national anthem; crowds started singing Glory to Hong Kong, the anthem of the protest movement, which was started by Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong Administration, when she pushed for a controversial amendment to an extradition law.

It sparked massive protests attended by nearly 2 million people; the organisers, asking for the complete withdrawal of the bill, which was granted, free elections, an independent inquiry into police brutality, the release of arrested protesters and the withdrawal of the government's portrayal of the protests as 'riots'.

Apart from the fate of 'One country, two systems' (closely watched by Taiwan), the continuation of the weekly unrest (and often violence) in Hong Kong, could greatly weaken Xi, whose margin of action is extremely limited. Can he send the People's Liberation Army (or even the People's Armed Police) from the mainland to tackle the students in a repetition of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989? That could end Xi's dream to reunify Taiwan with the PRC.

Murmurs of dissent

Meanwhile, the CPC leadership is divided over Hong Kong: "Some top CPC officials tried to stir things up to force Xi Jinping to make mistakes. They hoped Xi would order firing on people and create another June 4 event in Hong Kong. Some suggested using force and the military, or even having the military take control. All of these schemes were to set Xi up," The Epoch Times reported about the CPC's infighting citing an unnamed informer.

During the summer conclave in Beidaihe, Xi is said to have made three points: No matter what happened in Hong Kong, there should be no blood, guns will not be used and the military stationed in Hong Kong will not be utilised. But "there are CCP spies who came in as protesters, trying to stir things up. The bigger the event, the harder it is to resolve, the better for the anti-Xi group," the informer added. On September 3, speaking to officials at the Central Party School, Xi listed the challenges facing China.

Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan were singled out by the Chinese President: "Cadres must be vigilant to any wind of change. They must know a deer passing by the rustle of grass and leaves, they must know the coming of a tiger by feeling the wind, they must know the arrival of autumn by the colour of one leaf."

Meanwhile, the economy of Hong Kong is taking a hit. The city's Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), maintained by IHS Markit, shows that in August the city's business activity experienced its biggest decline since 2008, falling to 40.8 from 43.8 in July.

Other headaches

It is in this context that the President Xi will preside over the long-awaited Fourth Plenum of the 19th Congress in October, after a prolonged delay of more than a year. The Central Committee, the 202 top members of the ruling CPC and 172 alternate members, will gather behind closed doors.

The debate will undoubtedly be hot; another of Xi's headaches (the 'most serious' according to some observers) is the outbreak of African swine fever which caused the price of pork to rise nearly 50 per cent in a year.

Will Xi be able to tackle all these issues? October will also witness 'Uncle' Xi's visit to India, where he will be meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Mahabalipuram. One can understand that India will not be a priority for Xi, but, can China afford a clash with India, adding yet another headache for its President?

Whether it is over the border dispute or the Kashmir issue, the fire will be doused at coastal Tamil Nadu, at least for some time.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: 150 years on, why Mahatma Gandhi still matters

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