A week ago in this newsletter, I wondered if a critical essay about Xi Jinping that was circulated widely marked peak Xi, or the zenith of the Xi Jinping cult. It appears I am not the only one:
- “We may have reached peak Xi Jinping,” says author Richard McGregor to Bloomberg TV. His view is similar to mine: There’s no open rebellion against Xi nor is his power under any immediate threat, but we are seeing “the start of people beginning to articulate a pushback against Xi.” (You can listen to a Sinica Podcast with McGregor here.)
- “Five months ago, when the Communist Party of China freed President Xi Jinping from term limits, the conventional wisdom was that his dominance within the Chinese party-state was so strong that his authority could not possibly come under attack. How things have changed.” That’s how Minxin Pei sees it, in an essay titled China’s summer of discontent.
- “With a slowing economy, continuous health scares and tanking stock market, is Xi’s power in China starting to wane?” That’s a question Bloomberg TV asks and tries to answer.
- “‘It’s the hardest time for Xi since he assumed power,’ said Zhang Lifan 章立凡, a Beijing-based historian and prominent critic of the Chinese Communist party,” according to Tom Mitchell of the Financial Times (porous paywall). Mitchell says there is “a growing chorus of sotto voce criticism that Mr. Xi should not have so casually discarded Deng Xiaoping’s strategy of ‘hiding your strengths and biding your time’ during his first term in office, when he made clear his determination to replace the US as the region’s leading military power.”
- Xi Jinping’s roommate “from the days when the president was an adolescent toiling in an impoverished village in northwest China has said hype over their former cave home is doing the Chinese leader no good,” according to the South China Morning Post.
- Four sources “close to the government” told Reuters that the trade war with the U.S. “is causing rifts within China‘s Communist Party, with some critics saying that an overly nationalistic Chinese stance may have hardened the U.S. position.”
The Economist sums up some of the discussion in an article titled How to read summer grumbles about China’s swaggering leader (porous paywall). It concludes: “One Western expert reflecting on this febrile summer wrote an essay asking whether we have reached peak Xi Jinping. Nobody knows. But China may have reached peak boasting.”