The current president of China, President Xi has since he was elected president consolidated more power than any recent leader. Earlier this year constitutional changes were made in China which removed the 2-term limit for a president, making it possible for Xi to be President for Life. Under Xi China has become more assertive both at home and abroad, embracing both political and economic nationalism. China has been self-confident on the world stage, not afraid pushing back against U.S. with the trade war tensions increasing daily. At home, Xi have been ruthless in his control and response against both real and perceived threats. The Chinese Internet behemoths such as Alibaba (BABA US), Tencent (TCEHY US), and JD.com (JD US), have all been told that Communist Party interest comes before any corporate/shareholder interest. Most recent China’s mass scale “re-education” camps for the Uighur minority in western China to stifle any potential uprising.
With this said, according Professor Minxin Pei rumblings of discontent are slowly increasing in China. He notes in Nikkei Asian Review:
Despite the appearance of Xi’s political dominance, we can hear grumblings about his leadership, in particular his handling of U.S.-China relations. On Nov. 18, Long Yongtu, the former vice minister of commerce who negotiated China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, publicly rebuked Beijing’s management of U.S.-China trade disputes.
Speaking at the 9th Caixin Summit in Beijing, he said China should not have mixed politics with trade, in an apparent dig at Xi’s desire to maintain his tough image even at the risk of trade war. He also pointed out that China’s decision to retaliate against the U.S. with tariffs on soybeans is “unwise” because China needs to import soybeans
It is highly unusual for a senior Chinese figure to criticize other senior members, let alone the President of China. Surprisingly Long is just the latest of senior people within the communist party to be critical of Xi’s politics. Deng Pufang, the son of previous president Deng Xiaping, pushed back against Xi’s politics and pointed out that China, currently is on the wrong path. Most noticeably Deng pushed back against Xi’s aggressive approach and challenging United States. Other senior figures such as chief economist at China Agriculture Bank praised Deng on his remarks about United States. Most of these speeches have as Pei writes been censored due their perceived criticism of Xi.
Deng Pufang, the honorary chairman of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, delivered a speech at the federation’s national conference in mid-September that was immediately censored by the authorities because it was seen as critical of Xi (the speech’s content was leaked in late October)
All of this comes back of China is about to celebrate 40 Years of Economic reform and openness commenced under previous president Deng Xiaping. President Xi have rolled back a vast of these developments. It is not clear if any of these critical and dissenting statements will have any effect, but critical voices are more prevalent than ever before.
Interestingly enough, it at appears that parties in U.S. are open to different path in China. Influential American conservative columnist Bill Kristol, recently floated the idea that U.S. should push for regime change in China.
The trade-war between U.S. and China is escalating. Chinese economy if suffering as a result of this. Senior figures in China speaking out against President Xi’s domestic and international policies. It would not be surprising if Washington would support different approach and leadership in Beijing. Especially if the economic and political costs become too high on both side of the pacific.