Xi Jinping had his predecessor, Hu Jintao, former General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party from 2002 to 2012, forcibly removed from the 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress during a live international broadcast on Saturday.
Hu, who’d been sitting at the front of the Congress immediately beside Xi, was dragged out just before the final vote of the session. Hu appeared to ask Xi and Premier Li Keqiang a question, while Xi prevented Hu from taking some papers by covering them with his hand.
One possibility is that Hu said something causing Xi to fear he might abstain or even vote against him, a potentially powerful demonstration of disapproval in the otherwise unanimous vote that finished off the Congress.
More likely is that that this was a planned bit of cruel, bureaucratic theatre of a kind that was typical in the Soviet Union and Mao’s China, in which Xi wanted to deliberately and publicly humiliate his predecessor. Xi represents the faction of CCP leaders known as the “princelings,” direct descendants of Mao’s revolutionaries, and Xi’s ascent has been widely seen as a soft coup, with the princelings wresting control of the Party from technocrats like Hu.
As recently as a couple months ago, China watchers had been optimistic that Xi might relinquish power at the end of his current term, but that now seems quite unlikely.
Chinese state media explained that Hu had been removed because he was “not feeling well,” but that seems dubious based on the footage. Also, curious that everyone is wearing a mask other than Hu, Xi, and the other leaders in the front row.
Michael P Senger is an attorney and author of Snake Oil: How Xi Jinping Shut Down the World. Want to support my work? Get the book. Already got the book? Leave a quick review.
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There’s such an overwhelming amount of theatre emerging from China, that I view anything released with suspicion… I’ll not forget all the footage of people supposedly dropping dead of COVID on the street…
Reminds me of Stalin’s purge of one (of many) of the Old Bolsheviks, Yenukidze, former Secretary of the Central Executive Committee. He was accused of associating with “former princes” as well as “rotten liberalism.” Hu may find himself, like Yenukidze, under indefinite house arrest until an unexpected death, in Hu’s case, from Covid.