San Francisco, the historical city has become a filthy slum. Residents are becoming increasingly frustrated with the city’s homeless population and rampant drug use. What caused it? In this episode …
The General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping declared in 2015 that big data and AI are China’s most important national resources. He predicted China would catch up …
This is TikTok. It puts the world in motion and sets it to music. You create, you laugh and you share. For much of the younger generation, this IS the world. Owned by the Chinese technology company ByteDance, TikTok is one of the world s most popular social media apps. It has been downloaded more than 2 billion times globally and maintains a total of 100 million active users in the United States.
Given that the app has been around for just over 2 years, how has it become so popular so quickly? As I learned from AI experts, TikTok is designed to be addictive. The first time you open it, it doesn t know what you like. It’ll recommend some default pages. Those pages are decided by your locale. His name is Jack, and he is a former employee of Huawei, China s largest telecommunications company. For security reasons, we ve blurred his face. Jack is a Big Data and AI expert. When you register, it may also ask you to make some simple selections. It can guess what your age is, your gender, and also the version of your phone’s operating system, so it can vaguely confirm your identity.
According to these conditions, it may give you recommendations for what videos you may like. He told me that TikTok s system adds multiple tags to every video clicked on by a user. The more videos you click, the more TikTok knows about you. Through this data collection and their powerful algorithm, they can deliver the exact videos you like. Before you realize the tactics, you are addicted to what they deliver.
The story of TikTok is the story of data, big Data. TikTok collects massive amounts of data from its users. According to researchers, and as reported by Bloomberg, TikTok starts collecting data the minute you download the app. It tracks the websites you’re browsing and how you type, down to keystroke rhythms and patterns. The app warns users it has full access to photos, videos and contact information of friends stored in the device’s address book, unless you revoke those permissions.
The app also tracks everywhere you go using your IP address and GPS coordinates, providing the app with your precise location while working, voting, attending protests, traveling, or simply picking up milk from the grocery store. Are we okay with this? Through my conversations with data security experts and everyday users of social media apps, I came to realize that most adults know that information will be collected about them and will be used by marketing companies to target advertising effectively.
This is true of most social media platforms in America. But for Communist China, data is handled in a very different way. Can you compare Google, Facebook and Amazon’s methods of collecting data with that of TikTok? Google is, as I mentioned, compared to all the others, it actually collects the information more aggressively for the commercial purpose. But, remember its commercial purposes, it does not use that to hack you or do something like that, right? But TikTok is a different story.
TikTok is kind of a dangerous animal, because TikTok collects the data, uses the data to improve their algorithm. This is James Qiu, a former Apple executive. He explains how China collects data differently from the Americans. China, you know that there is no privacy. I mean, who cares? Right? So, the company actually collects every single thing of persons. And, because of that, because they have the capability of collecting all the information from a person and they can actually train their deep learning model to be perfect.
In this case, U.S. companies and Western companies cannot compete with them. The privacy law said if one company has 10 different apps, the information collected by each app can only be used by each app. You cannot combine them and interrelate them and then synthesize new data out of them. Okay. So, that is significantly restricted. But for a Chinese company, there is no such a rule. That’s why they can build a better recommendation algorithm, this is a very dangerous company. When it collects your data, they know who you are, they know what you like and dislike. They can actually manipulate you.
Narration: In other words, while TikTok does aggressively collect its own data, its powerful algorithm may not be built solely on data collected within the app. TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, has been proven to be a data vacuum entity, amassing a large amount of user data, not only from its three popular apps but also from its many tech partners.
Narration: According to James, the intention of the TikTok s algorithm is to encourage a compulsive use of their app. Once it becomes a compulsion, users are more likely to be manipulated. Messaging hidden in seemingly harmless videos goes well beyond making money. TikTok represents a model the CCP is using to influence the world. Retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Robert Spalding explained to me the CCP s grand vision for Big Data and AI:
So Kaifu Lee says that China seeks to become the Saudi Arabia of data. So, think about the entire world’s data and collection of that data as being tantamount to having power over the world. This is the way that the Chinese communist party sees the global internet. Globalization is connected to this… That’s why Xi Jinping goes to Davos and says, We must work together. We must continue globalization. We must continue this global connectivity Because it enables him to take the data into China behind the great firewall and create this huge data ocean that then their artificial intelligence can learn from.
So, this is their goal, because they know that they can use that, just like TikTok is used as a platform to influence. They can use that to influence not only their own people, to basically not know the true history of China, but also to influence the rest of the world. This is the power that, quite frankly, we built. Silicon Valley built this power. We built it and made hundreds, trillions of dollars. The Chinese Communist Party saw that and said, not only do we want to have control over that economic engine, we want to have the ability to influence socially and politically as well.
Thanks for everyone’s help, support and care. His name is Han Kuo-yu, Taiwan s Nationalist Party of China s presidential candidate for 2020. While initially popular as a candidate, he ultimately lost to the incumbent, President Tsai Yingwen, largely due to Taiwan’s overwhelming rejection of the Mainland Chinese government that was backing Han.
While Han s loss was due to the Chinese Communist Party, his initial rise was their doing as well. The key milestone of Han’s political career was his victory in the Kaohsiung mayoral race. Han was largely unknown through the first four months of the election season. A day after formally announcing his campaign, however, a Facebook fan group was formed. The page promoted Han through talking points and memes, consistent sharing of fake news about his opponent and public shaming of his critics. By election day, Han had more than 66,000 members on the fan page and received a surge of fan posts just hours before being elected in a landslide victory.
Dr. Puma Shen, Assistant Professor at National Taipei University, did a study on Han’s sudden rise to popularity. First, China created many websites that published and shared a large number of articles on Han-Kuoyu and fake news on Han s opponent party: The Democratic Progressive Party. They then generated a massive amount of search requests on Han Kuo-yu. They literally overwhelm the system with their requests. By doing so, google’s algorithm worked to push Han related news that the CCP generated to the first two pages.
According to Dr. Shen s research, a significant percentage of the fans on Han’s Facebook group were not from Taiwan. They were from Mainland China. To further demonstrate China s involvement, Dr. Shen s group tested Han’s name on the internet for the final two months of the campaign. They found that Taiwan was just 16th on the list of countries searching for information on Han.
Jack told me the CCP is obviously behind the efforts and this is how they did it. A large number of search results can come from people s natural behavior, and it can also come from bots automatically publishing articles. They can come from IP addresses inside China, from IP address in Taiwan, or IP addresses from any other country. In this way, Taiwan may have less searches than other countries.
According to the Financial Times, key governmental departments in Taiwan receive tens of millions of hacking attempts each month. Then between 2015 and 2017, that number tripled. These attacks, intended to steal sensitive governmental data and personal information, were primarily perpetrated by China. Does the CCP have enough resources to do things in America that s similar to what they do in Taiwan?
That s the scary part. They have been building in the last few decades control over our corporate institutions, our wall street, our investment banks, our political systems, academia, our think tank, our law firms, our PR firms, our consulting firms. You know, what we forget is the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t need to use PLA to do all of these, they can pay Washington PR firms, they can pay Washington consultants, they can pay Washington law firms, and they do.
The Taiwan story took a drastic turn though. Prior to the presidential election, massive demonstrations broke out in Hong Kong against a Chinese extradition law. Those protests, and the CCP s brutal response to them, led the Taiwanese people to reject a future under the rule of the CCP and a president indebted to them. They chose the incumbent President Tsai-Yingwen who, though not popular at the time, is consistently tough on the CCP. It is safe to say, if it is not because of Hong Kong, Beijing would have secured a Taiwanese president of their choosing.
The game to influence a major political election is complicated and can be costly. Sometimes, it takes on the least expected form. This is Christine, an emigrant from China, and a successful real estate agent in the affluent Orange County area of California. Like many among the extensive Chinese diaspora in the U.S., Christine continues to habitually use Chinese apps.
I use a lot of Chinese apps, such as WeChat, Chinese Tiktok Douyin and etc. Because it is very convenient for me to use these apps to communicate with my friends and family in China. WeChat is the world s largest standalone multi-purpose mobile app with a billion active users worldwide, mostly Chinese. Douyin s popularity stems from its short, entertaining videos, much like sister company TikTok. Both are owned by ByteDance but operate independently of each other, with Douyin created for users in China and TikTok designed for international use. Christine says that news about America has been circulating rapidly on these Chinese apps, and they all strike one tone.
Since the Pandemic began, I found there have been a lot of negative reports about America in these apps. Many of them are false, strange reports. They don t reflect what I know about the situation here. I support Trump. But what I saw on WeChat and Douyin is all negative information about Trump. It seems there is more pro-Biden information
out there. America is the biggest threat to global stability and security. Although Douyin uses powerful algorithms to determine your interests and target the recommended content accordingly, algorithms are not the only factor in what Douyin shows to each user.
In China, the most posts DouYin users see are from the Party s mouthpiece – People s daily, simply because DouYin is required by the government to push People s Daily s content to its 500 million active users. As a result of such a powerful promotion, the People s Daily has almost 100 million followers on Douyin today. This is a recognizable and recurring strategy within China. TikTok functions in a similar way to Douyin, only, instead of recommending the CCP s official propaganda, TikTok pushes political content that comes from other app users.
Ethan, a TikTok user from the U.S., told me how it works. Once I started using TikTok, it pushed a lot of anti-Trump or pro-Biden videos to me. But I did not even say or select that I am interested in politics. But after a while, like I used the app for a while, the anti-Trump video became a little bit fewer. I started to see some pro-Trump videos as well. That might be because I did not like or follow any of those anti-Trump videos. But the anti-Trump videos were still like 80 or 60%, around that in the political videos. Recently it changed. It might be because that, I don t even watch those anti-Trump videos. So, right now it is only maybe a quarter or less than that. But there are still Anti-Trump videos pushed to me.
Tiktok has a sophisticated AI model making recommendations to its users. When a user begins to use TikTok without being classified by the system as pro-Biden or pro-Trump. TikTok displays neutral content to the users. I quote neutral since it is based on TikTok s standard. In reality, there are many more pro-Biden content being displayed to the users anyhow. Based on the data collected on the users browsing searching habit, TikTok can classify the users as a conservative user quickly. Then it starts to display a few pro-Trump content to the user while mixing it with various pro-Biden content. When TikTok figures out the user is not very interested in politics, it starts
to display fewer political content.
So the goal of TikTok is to, you know, Number one, do not get this user so upset to the degree that he just won t use TikTok anymore. But at the same time TikTok still pushes pro-Biden content to him in a degree that he can tolerate.
James: That is absolutely right. Do you think TikTok can influence people s political opinions? TikTok has the potential of influence people with the manipulated information. They are good at it. It inherits the AI model of Toutiao which is Bytedance s popular news platform. Toutiao helps the Chinese government monitor and manipulate mass opinions.
So in that sense, do you think TikTok has the potential to influence the American people’s political stance during the election. What TikTok needs to do is to fine tune the AI model using the data they collected from the western country. It is a piece of cake for TikTok. This is what I have learned so far: The danger the CCP poses to the U.S. through TikTok is two-fold. First, it uses pop culture as a trojan horse in order to influence the younger generation. Second, it uses collected American data to perfect its AI model for further manipulation in this country.
On September 28th, Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C revoked the Trump Administration s ban on TikTok, leaving it available for download in U.S. app stores through November 12th. The Trump administration originally demanded that TikTok be sold to an American company or face a complete ban within the U.S.. A
proposal emerged between TikTok, Oracle and Walmart, but despite an early signal of support from Trump, questions over exact ownership percentages and the data hosting arrangement suspended the deal.
I talked to a Huawei expert about this prospect of, uh, Oracle, uh, owning part of the company overseas. you know, oversees, the security operation oversees their coding and everything. And he said, as long as ByteDance is still a main stakeholder there, uh, technician Chinese technicians are still writing the code. There are managers overseeing the daily operation and they are participating in the decision making, risks cannot be eliminated at all. I mean, the Chinese, no matter how good the deal looks like on the surface, do you agree?
By allowing the Chinese communist party to have any interest whatsoever, whether it’s in understanding the technology, or it is in allowing people to actually physically touch the code or the hardware where the code runs, it’s all vulnerable. TikTok s use of a powerful Chinese algorithm, and the resulting collection of user data, has revealed another possibility: the likelihood that apps from China may be operating with secret access keys, master passwords, and secret commands, called backdoors. In spite of that risk, James told me that thousands of Chinese apps are accepted in the Apple and Google app stores every year without a proper vetting process.
So, how does Apple vet Chinese apps that are trying to enter its app store? A lot of Chinese apps actually sneaked into the U.S. app store as if it is native. Right? So that is the first problem. The second problem is when Apple app store checks the apps, it checks very basic stuff. So, basically, Apple published a set of rules, and every mobile app needs to follow those rules. Apple only checks off those kinds of things, but as for whether the app is kind of tracking the customer behavior and you know send the private data into a third party server, or use that for commercial purposes or other purposes, Apple has no way to check it. So, in that sense, every mobile app has a widely open back door that can do whatever they want to.
Silicon Valley may be the country s best line of defense against malicious apps from China. But they seem uninterested in that responsibility. How much control or how much reign does the national security establishment have on the Silicon Valley?
None, zero. In fact, a Silicon Valley despises the national security establishment. Now there’s a few people that have worked within, um, government, but what happens is many of them are entrepreneurs or people that think outside of the box. And of course, what you find when you come to Washington, D C is it abhores, you know, people that think outside of the box, they want conformity and they want you to be, be bureaucratic. So, they don’t tend to last very long and they don’t tend to make much headway because in order to actually innovate in government, you have to have patience.
You have to be wily and you have to kind of figure out where is the way that you can actually make, um, you know, progress happen. There’s not a lot of people that are willing to do that because they get frustrated by the bureaucracy. In 2017, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, announced a bold plan for Beijing. He predicted that China would catch up with the United States in AI by 2025 and lead the world by 2030. China may have reached that goal earlier than they had planned.
Although America still leads in cutting-edge AI technology, China has surpassed America in AI application. They accomplished this by collecting far more data. More data means better AI. I believe that, in the eyes of Xi Jinping and his colleagues, Big Data and AI are more than just another curious technology. Xi openly stated that Big Data is the most critical national resource for China. Why would he believe so? Likely because the CCP knows exactly what Big Data and AI are capable of, how they can be used to control over their own people and manipulate other countries. Best of all, the Party is confident that their political system guarantees China a reliable advantage
in data collecting and AI application over the free world.
I mean what do you think is the biggest strength America still has today over China? The constitution. I think the constitution, as an idea, as a foundation for how to build a society, a blueprint, if you will, for how to build a human society, where you have human frailty and you have to deal with it, and you have to ensure that the way you deal with that is to ensure that no human or humans can have ultimate power. I think that is the strength of America. Our total existence as a free society, where people are allowed to live as they want and reach their, to present potential is at risk from the tools that we ourselves built. And the Chinese communist party have appropriate and begun to, you know, use extensively to undermine our society.
It has been 244 years since this nation was founded. At that time, a claim was made. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I believe if these claims are true, they must
be true then, true during the civil war and true today.
If you go back to the founding of this country, it wasn’t everybody that decided, Hey, we wanted a free country. It was a few, it was a determined few that were not going to be subjugated, that they were going to stand up for their rights. And they were going to find other people that were like-minded and they were going to work together to build this new land. And those people exist today.
We just have not been fighting to get, so yes, absolutely. We can win. We just have to stand up and fight. Fighting together. Democrats and Republicans. Absolutely.
The Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Congress is going to be held in fall. The fight comes down to whether Xi Jinping will get a third term as the top …
Simone: This is the biggest power struggle that could decide China’s future for years.
Does this mean Xi Jinping was losing power and was forced to admit his mistakes?
The Communist Party’s 20th National Congress is going to be held in fall. The fight comes down to whether Xi Jinping will get a third term as the top leader of the country.
Tang Jingyuan: The second is that Li Keqiang did not wear a mask in public for many times, and he hardly ever mentioned the zero-covid policy in his speeches.
Li Jun: If Sun and Fu’s people dare to stir things up, Sun’s life could be taken.
Simone: The Party’s conclave is three month away, but the real decisions are being made now.
This is Beidaihe, a coastal resort town on northeast China’s Bohai Sea. Its long beaches are known for their shallow waters and fine yellow sand. Because of its proximity to the capital, Beidaihe is commonly used by the Party’s top leadership, past and present, each July to slip away from the summer heat of Beijing to plan strategies. Although those gatherings are held informally, some of the most important decisions such as the appointment and removal of senior officials are decided in this beach town.
This year, Beidaihe is of particular significance since the Party’s 20th National Congress is going to be held in fall when the new top leadership will be elected. Xi Jinping will or will not resume a third term as General Secretary of the Party, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and President of the People’s Republic of China. This will be the pivotal event of Chinese politics for years to come. However, the October conclave is just for show. The real decisions will be made now, including at the Beidaihe meetings.
The most important part of the Beidaihe process is, however, the time leading up to it. That is when the real battles take place. The power balance between different factions hangs on the outcome of these maneuvers. And exactly during that time, multiple indications point to Xi under attack by CCP top leadership for many of his policy falterings, appearing forced to cede some power to China’s Premier, Li Keqiang.
On May 11, the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “China’s Forgotten Premier Steps Out of Xi’s Shadow as Economic Fixer.” It says “Frustrations with Mr. Xi’s leadership are building ahead of the CCP’s 20th national congress.” Meanwhile support is rallying around Mr. Li who has been known for his reform-minded economic approach.
The Journal says supporters of Mr. Li include officials with ties to the Communist Youth League, a once-powerful organization that produced past leaders including former party chief Hu Jintao.
Ten days after the Wall Street Journal was published, a primetime news piece from China Central Television, the biggest government owned TV station in China, appeared to support the journal’s position.
CCTV Anchor: On the 25th, the State Council held a national teleconference on stabilizing the economy. Li Keqiang, member of the Standing Committee of the Polibureau of the Central Committee and Premier of the State Council, delivered an important speech.
Simone: At this so-called “Stabilize the Overall Economic Condition” teleconference, Li Keqiang made a few critical points to over one hundred thousand Party officials at the provincial, county, municipal and district levels.
He first claimed that “In some ways, the challenges now are “greater than when the pandemic hit hard in 2020”. Li said “We are currently at a critical juncture in determining the economic trend of the whole year.” He stressed the importance of coordinating virus control and economic development. He laid out the bottomline: The central government will not help the local government. There is a reserved fund for major natural disasters at the central government’s disposal, other than that, the local government needs to take care of themselves.
What’s the significance of this meeting? How is it related to the power struggle in the party? I spoke with Li Jun, a senior Chinese journalist who had been covering the political affairs of the country in state owned Chinese media for two decades.
Do you think Li Keqiang’s 100,000 people conference tells us that Xi Jinping is losing power and Li is replacing him?
Li Jun: I don’t think Li Keqiang’s 100,000 people conference was an indication that Xi’s lost control of power. The most important reason for this conference is that it had to be done. China’s economy is in great trouble, from years of 5 to 7% of growth to almost zero growth in the second quarter this year according to CCP’s own statistics. The actual situation may be worse.
So under such dire circumastance, Li Keqiang had to have this conference. The second reason is that running the economy is Li Keqiang’s job anyway. It is the premier’s responsibility if the economy is in trouble. The third thing we need to know is that Li Keqiang must have obtained Xi Jinping’s approval to hold such a conference.
I don’t think Li dares to challenge Xi Jinping now because it would put him in a dangerous situation. Meanwhile, I think Xi giving Li the permission to hold such a conference is also to put the blame on Li. Li became a scapegoat for the bad economy. So to sum it up, I think it is far-fetched to say that Xi Jinping has lost power since Li Keqiang held this mega conference.
Simone: However, Li Keqiang’s mega conference isn’t the only thing that led people to think Xi is losing power. One month later, Europe had an unexpected visitor.
In mid June, the central government dispatched a special envoy representing Xi Jinping, to Europe for a three-week charm offensive. Wu Hongbo, China’s former Ambassador to the UN was given a clear task: at every stop, Wu conceded China had “made mistakes,” from its handling of Covid-19, to its “wolf warrior” diplomacy, to its economic mismanagement.
This apology tour was made against the backdrop of a dangerously slowing Chinese economy and the quick worsening of the China-Europe relationship partially due to Xi’s support of Putin in the Russia-Ukraine war. Wu made it very clear that Europeans are China’s preferred partners, as opposed to the United States. His bottom line is: China will always be China, a country of growing significance and economic opportunities for Europe.
Xi Jinping’s special envoy went on an apologizing tour in Europe. Does THIS mean Xi Jinping was forced to admit his mistakes?
Li Jun: Are you saying Xi admitted he was wrong? I don’t think that’s what the CCP members do. They would only appear to admit they were wrong when they were in crisis to avoid punishment. In fact, I think Wu’s trip was Xi Jinping’s damage control to head off the crisis before the Party’s 20th National Congress so he could be re-elected smoothly. Otherwise, I don’t believe he would send his representative to court the Europeans or the international community.
In fact, this is not the first time the CCP admitted its mistakes. In the early days of reform and opening up, the CCP invited American politicians to visit China. It conceded that the CCP’s previous path was mistaken. Now we will embark on a path to develop the economy. Only with economic development, we will be able to move towards democracy and freedom.
We truly want to change. But we are too poor, too backward. We made huge mistakes with class struggles. America should give us an opportunity to correct that mistake. You should help us. It turned out the U.S. politicians truly believed China and did its best to help China. But the result is that China becomes powerful and increasingly totalitarian.
The West should learn its lesson. Do not believe the CCP will truly repent. In fact, What Xi Jinping’s real message for the Europeans was: I am seeking re-election at the 20th National Congress. Do not make trouble for me now. Things will be taken care of after I am re-elected. That’s it.
Simone: But there are also analysts who believe there is a fierce power struggle and a tug of war within the top leadership. Tang Jingyuan who is a senior China analyst and the host of the YouTube channel Foresight Jingyuan Tang is one of them.
Jingyuan Tang: Now that the power struggle between Xi Jinping and the opposition is becoming more and more obvious in the Chinese media, we can see it from several aspects: one is that the number of articles touting Xi Jinping has decreased and his absence from the front page has increased;
the second is that Li Keqiang did not wear a mask in public for many times, and he hardly ever mentioned the zero-covid policy in his speeches, although news showing these facts was often restricted;
the third indicator is that when Li Keqiang urged local officials to rescue the economy at his 100,000 people conference, the state media was touting how China’s economy overall was in a good shape.
From these signs, we can see that there is a battle of routes between “zero-covid policy” and “economic development” at the Party’s top leadership. And this fight is becoming more and more intense and obvious. It shows that Xi Jinping’s status in the party has been strongly challenged, and his position might be as unshakable as it seemed.
This will cast doubt on his re-election at the Party’s 20th National Congress.
We can also see that after Xi politicized the Zero-Covid policy by tying it to his status and governance ability. To a large extent, whether or not the zero-covid policy can continue will become the barometer of Xi’s status in the party.
Simone: And the Zero-Covid policy continued. On May 5th, the People’s Daily published an article to reinstate the unwavering execution of the zero-Covid policy to show Xi Jinping has not conceded in this regard.
Since then, despite the public outcry in Shanghai, Tianjin and Beijing which had been hit with waves of omicron, the local governments have been insisting that their cities be locked down when the virus arrived.
Simone: Besides the epidemic control policy, there are other events that are considered to be closely related to the Party’s 20th Congress and Xi’s position at the top leadership. Most notably three high profile corruption cases. The first case is related to a Chinese-Canadian tycoon who was abducted from Hong Kong by the Party apparatus five years ago.
This is the luxury Four Seasons Hotel in Central, Hong Kong. At around 1am on January 27, 2017, billionaire Xiao Jianhua was reported to be taken away by half a dozen unidentified men from the hotel lobby in a wheelchair, his head covered with a blanket. Xiao did not resist.
Since then Xiao had disappeared from the public eye until 2020 when Xiao’s Tomorrow Group confirmed that their boss was on the mainland and cooperating with the government’s efforts to restructure the conglomerate.
The total worth of the Tomorrow Group that comprised nine companies was up to hundreds of billions of dollars. Its business expanded from securities, futures, to state-dominated industries, including banking, insurance, coal, cement, property and rare-earth minerals.
It was widely understood that the Tomorrow Group had close relationships with top Chinese elite families including Jiang Zemin, Zeng Qinghong, Liu Yunshan, Wen Jiabao, Jia Qinglin and most importantly, Xi Jinping.
In fact, it is considered the common vehicle to help these families to make money and white wash their money. Gao Wenqian, a CCP historian, once said that whoever controls Xiao Jianhua will have the upper hand in the power struggle within the party since he would obtain the corruption evidence of these elites from Mr. Xiao.
Xiao’s case was put on hold for 5 years until earlier this month when the Canadian embassy revealed that his case would be put on trial on July 4 without consular access.
Why was Xiao put on trial right now? His charges were reportedly reduced to illegal collection of public deposits. What does this mean?
Li Jun: The Westerners do not know Xiao Jianhua. Who is Xiao Jianhua? He is the one that managed the money for Jiang Zemin, Zeng Qinghong, Jia Qinglin and many other powerful families in the CCP.
We call people like Xiao the White Gloves. He knows many secrets of these powerful families. He also worked with these families to oppose Xi. For example, he was behind the stock market crash in China in 2015, which cost a damage of 2.7 trillion yuan or $450 billion dollars.
He had committed serious crimes, but why was he able to get away with it? Some people say this shows that Xi is losing power and that was Xi’s concession to his opposition. In fact, this is not the case.
I think the reason his crime was reduced to illegally collecting public deposits is because Xi Jinping was trying to show that Xiao Jianhua was very cooperative: “he told us everything”.
These powerful families’ dirt is in my hands. I have reduced Xiao’s sentence to show good will to those families.
That is to say, if these families do not stir up trouble for me before the 20th national congress, I will keep you safe. But if you mess with me, I have your dirt in my hands, I will destroy you under the name of corruption. I think this is what Xi Jinping meant.
President #Biden announced a ‘ #GreenNewDeal ’ and issued restrictions on fossil fuel supplies. This will make America more dependent on solar energy, but it is #China who produces most …
Joe Biden: We are going to invest $1.7 trillion dollars in securing our future, so by 2050 America will be a 100% clean energy economy.
Simone: President Biden announced a ‘New Green Deal’ and issued restrictions on fossil fuel supplies. This will make America more dependent on solar energy, but companies from which country will supply those solar panels?
Keith Krach: China, Inc. controls 80-90% of the market.
Simone: And who is funding China’s renewable energy industry?
Tianliang Zhang: So this company is not a private enterprise but an institution controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.
Simone: So what implications does a Chinese Communist Party-controlled solar industry mean to America’s energy independence and national security?
Keith Krach: That means we lose our energy independence. That also means we will be totally dependent on China for our clean energy. And if we do nothing, it is scary.
Simone: Hello and welcome to Zooming In China. I am Simone Gao. A consortium of renewable energy CEOs have asked President Joe Biden to remove tariffs that the Trump administration had issued on imported solar panels. They argue that the tariffs are an obstacle to the renewables industry’s ability to tackle climate change.
On March 1st, The Biden administration decided to stand behind Trump’s policy. The new administration asked the court to dismiss a complaint from some members of the solar industry arguing that President Trump’s tariffs were unlawful.
However, the bigger question is where the ‘New Green Deal’ policy of the new administration will lead America to? How will it affect America’s energy independence, and if America becomes less energy independent, who will America rely on more for solar energy? And what will be the consequence of that? In this episode of Zooming In China, we will try to explore these questions.
The current tariff imposes a 18% tax on solar cells made outside of the United States, most of which are imported from China. Those cells are assembled into panels and sold by many American companies.
Biden has announced ambitious goals for curbing global warming. In his first few days in office, the president canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, rejoined the Paris Accord, and called for a 2 trillion dollar ‘New Green Deal.’
Solar energy will play a huge role in this initiative. It already accounts for more than 12% of all renewable energy in the United States, and is expected to account for one-half of all green energy by 2050.
But there’s a catch. The global supply chain for solar panels is dominated by Chinese firms, and most of the solar panels sold in this country use imported components. This poses a strategic risk for the United States if it becomes too dependent on its rival for energy.
First let’s look at how China obtained its quasi-monopoly of the world’s solar energy industry in the first place. How did a country known for its lax environmental regulations and pollution become such a key player in renewable energy?
China’s solar energy industry originated in the 1990s as an exports-oriented industry, designed to meet the demands of European countries. Countries like Germany and Italy had passed legislation to encourage the use of solar energy, and domestic manufacturers couldn’t keep up. This was instead outsourced to Chinese suppliers.
Since then the industry has grown precipitously, and China has become the undisputed world leader in solar technology. Longi Technology is the largest solar company in the world, and is responsible for manufacturing 25% of all silicon wafers across the globe.
But Longi isn’t alone. Collectively, the Chinese solar industry accounts for at least 60% of global capacity in every stage of the supply chain, producing more than 66% of polysilicon and nearly 80% of solar cells.
On the other hand, companies from across the world wanted to enter this field as renewable energy was becoming more lucrative. But it’s difficult to survive in this industry. Since 2011, more than 750 solar companies have liquidated or closed, most notably Solyndra, which was backed by the Obama administration. In 2020, the Trump administration was still recovering parts of a $425 million loan that had been granted to a solar company during the Obama years.
The failed project, called Crescent Dunes, used thousands of mirrors in the Nevada desert to heat up steam in a giant tower, and had cost more than $1.1 billion in total.
The solar industry is an inherently risky enterprise that requires enormous investments across many years, as productions aren’t cost-efficient until the project reaches a large scale. Rapid technological changes means that hundreds of millions can go up in smoke as yesterday’s innovation becomes obsolete.
That said, how did the Chinese companies manage to outperform their competitors globally? I asked former undersecretary of State for the Trump administration Keith Krach this question. Mr. Krach was responsible for economic growth, energy and environment during the last administration.
Simone:Thank you Mr. Krach for being with us today. It seems that Solar cell manufacturing is not an easy business, most of the startups don’t make it, there is a constant flux of companies going out of business. What is the biggest reason for that?
Keith Krach: 250 firms that entered the PV industry globally and 150 exited. The bloodletting is worse for second- and third-generation technologies like thin film. 27 of 34 start-ups went belly up.
The reason is simple. China Inc has come to dominate solar cell manufacturing through a 20 year set of systematic non-market state policies, subsidies, slave labor, state financing, IP theft, with unlimited amounts of “capital” thanks to government policy and buying up companies weakened by this strategy.
Free countries companies operate according to free market principles. Chinese state-led companies don’t. There is not a level playing field.
Simone: China’s domination in the renewable energy market presents another problem for the U.S.. Given the difficulty in manufacturing effective solar technology. If a nation loses its competitive edge in the field, it may lose it forever. An illustration example is the story of America’s decline in telecommunications technology.
In 2019, Trump banned US companies from using communication technology that posed a ‘national security risk,’ which included 5G networks produced by the Chinese tech giant Huawei.
The FBI and intelligence agencies warn that the company had ties to the Chinese Communist Party and their products could serve to spy on their customers.
After the ban, US companies shifted their reliance on European companies like Nokia, based in Finland. The row over Huawei raised an embarrassing question, why couldn’t the US produce its own 5G network?
In the second half of the 20th century, the United States was a leader in telecommunication technology, and in 1999 Lucent was the sixth largest US company in market capitalization.
In the 1980s and 1990s China’s IT industry was still primitive and was reliant on imported technology. However, state regulators required foreign companies to share their trade secrets with local firms if they wanted access to the Chinese market, and companies like Lucent agreed to sharing.
At the time, they didn’t see the Chinese IT industry as a threat, but starting in 2002 Huawei and others started to muscle their way into the US market while Lucent still struggled to gain an even footing after the dot-com bubble burst.
US telecom equipment imports rose from $71 to $129 billion between 2000 and 2008, while Chinese exports rose from $19 to $124 billion around the same timeframe. By then, Lucent had been sold to a French company, and Nortel, which was once Lucent’s biggest American rival, had gone bankrupt.
There are some industries that can’t be conjured up overnight, and a year and a half after Trump’s ban on Huawei, there’s no end in near sight for America’s reliance on imported 5G equipment.
What has happened to America’s telecom companies could also happen to its solar industry. It’s arguably already halfway there.
While solar cells might not pose the same cybersecurity risks as 5G networks, there remains the threat that China might choose to embargo the United States over a diplomatic dispute.
Samantha Sloan, vice president of First Solar said this to Politico in an interview: “Solar panels are the next crude oil, and allowing China to dominate solar manufacturing is the equivalent of establishing an electro-state on the lines of OPEC.” In 1973, an OPEC oil embargo caused oil prices in America to quadruple, which led to a severe recession. I asked Mr. Krach what it means if China dominated the solar energy industry
Simone: China is on track to gain a monopoly on manufacturing solar panel cells. Do you think in the future there is a possibility that the U.S. will be dependent on Chinese solar energy and supplies? and if that happens what it will mean to America?
Keith Krach: They are already a monopoly. China Inc controls 90% of the market. All top 10 companies are Chinese except First Solar in US with 2 % and a Korea 5% Chinese manufacturers have diversified some production within Asia to avoid tariffs, but Chinese factories still produce 60 percent of the world’s PV cells
Here is what it means. According to Some experts solar could account for 70% of our energy needs by 2050. That means we go from energy independence to being totally dependent on china for the majority of our clean energy. And that’s scary.
Simone: right, you just said the U.S. still has a tiny industry that produces solar energy component, do you think they can effectively compete with Chinese manufacturers in the coming years?
Keith Krach: There are 3 big problems with status quo.
A. Makes more expensive to finance. China’s Inc.’s subsidies, whether flowing or serving as backstop, will make an investor seek a higher return as compensation.
B. Stifles innovation. Given the climate challenge. PV is too important a technology to fail. There is a real chance that the industry’s system of innovation will not be able to meet the challenge. PV solar appears to function much more as a barrier than a bridge for next -generation technologies to gain a foothold to establish their own experience curves.
C. China Inc strategically owns the beginning of the supply chain particularly polysilicon and the vast majority of it is produced in Xingjiang.
Simone: Talking about Xinjiang, Its official name is Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. It is the largest province-level division of the country and is home to a number of ethnic minority groups. Reports from the World Uyghur Congress submitted to the UN in 2018 suggest that 1 million Uyghurs are currently being held in the re-education camps. Officials from both the Trump and Biden administration have declared that genocide has been happening in Xinjiang. So where is Xinjiang in China’s green energy production landscape? And who is really running China’s green industry?
Today, when we talk about China’s renewable energy industry, we can not skip the Golden Concord Holdings Limited, or GCL Group. A conglomerate that specializes in renewable energy, GCL Group ranked number 3 in a 2017 list of top 500 global new energy enterprises.
On the surface, GCL is a privately owned company, but it actually has deep ties with the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army.
On its website, it says “Dating from 1990, GCL has been following the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party or CCP and leading green growth with the red genes.” In the organization, there are 12 CCP committees, 5 CCP branch committees, 120 CCP divisions and 3,000 CCP members.
Zhu Gongshan, Chairman of the company, also serves as a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a central part of the Party’s United Front system.
In 2011, by partnering with the Poly Group, GCL-Poly became the world’s largest polysilicon manufacturer. The Xinjiang base is its new production center, and is planned to have an annual output of 100,000 tons of high-purity polysilicon, the largest in the country. By October 2019, it already had a 60,000-ton polysilicon production capacity. The cost of producing Polysilicon in that facility fell below 40,000 yuan, or around $6,000 dollars, per ton.
Simone: How did the cost of Xinjiang’s polysilicon production drop so much? China expert, Dr. Zhang Tianliang told me this.
Tianliang Zhang: There are two reasons why Xinjiang has become a manufacturing base. We know this industry consumes a lot of energy. It may take three years for a solar panel to generate the energy that was consumed by its production. And Xinjiang Zhundong has the largest coal mine in China so far. Just this Zhundong coal mine contains 7% of the whole country’s coal reserves. It can also provide high Calorific Value coals by Open-pit coal mining. This can tremendously cut the production cost of solar panels.
Secondly, the labor cost in Xinjiang is also very low. The average salary may be just a half or a third of that in Shanghai. It is about $700 a month in Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang. Workers in the United States or Europe cannot compete.
Simone: This is what Mr. Krach think about Xinjiang’s facility.
Simone: Talking about Xinjiang, we know that Xinjiang has become the biggest manufacturing base for polysilicon. And there are many reason for that, but the two big reasons are, One, there happened to be a big coal mine near the facility so they get cheap coals to produce polysilicon. And two, Xinjiang’s labor is very cheap, we now know that Xinjiang’s cotton production uses concentration camp labors. We don’t know if that is the case with their polysilicon production as well. But do you think the world should be concerned about these factors?
Keith Krach: Well, you have your facts right Simone. And this is troubling for a number of reasons. I would turn the question around and ask what does this mean for freedom, human rights, and environmental protection. Consider that Xinjiang represents about 65% of China’s solar manufacturing capacity.
In 2016, only 9% of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon came from Xinjiang. But by 2020 it provided about 45% of the world’s supply. Media has reported about forced labor on a population of about 13 million Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, including ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs, and others. Current Sec. of State Blinken reinforced Secretary Pompeo’s labeling the treatment of Uighurs as genocide.
We all want to take action on climate change. However, we must remain true to our values and stand up for human rights. Everyone likes cheap goods and services. Yet, there have been multiple times when free nations and consumers decided that the relative savings or corporate profit was outweighed by the cost to society. Consider the case of “blood diamonds.”
As Supreme Court Justice Brandeis noted, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” The public will turn away from infected Chinese solar if there is greater transparency. The U.S. was a leader in fostering the solar industry. We can resume that role and will be competitive once we ensure a level playing field.
Simone: Now, let’s go back to the GCL group, it has close ties not only to the Party, but to the military as well.
In 2020, GCL partnered with the Poly Group again. By receiving Poly investment’s gigantic funding, the two entities were set to pioneer cutting-edge photovoltaic and semiconductor technology.
Who is behind Poly Group, you might wonder.
Tianliang Zhang: China Poly Group is among the 102 biggest central state owned enterprises in China. It was set up on the basis of Poly Technologies, Inc., an arms-manufacturing wing of the People’s Liberation Army of China. Now it is primarily engaged in representing the Chinese defense manufacturing industry in international sales. The two founders are Wang Jun and He Ping. Wang Jun is the second son of Wang Zhen, who was a founding general of PRC, and was vice premier and vice president in China. He Ping’s father in law is Deng Xiaoping. It is not a private enterprise, but an institution controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.
Simone: President Biden wants to reduce the consumption of traditional energy sources that come from fossil fuels and has issued restrictions on things like fracking and the Keystone XL oil pipeline. In the future, if the US is dependent on Chinese solar energy and the Communist Party decides to embargo America, What will happen? Here is Keith Krach again.
Simone: Do you think America’s existing ‘strategic’ energy reserves are enough to counter a serious major energy embargo?
Keith Krach: It is a good question. Many wars have been lost won because of oil. As under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment. I looked at those three responsibilities as an optimization equation that maximize national security by optimizes economic growth, energy security and the health of the planet. This is a delicate balance to ensure that our grandchildren can enjoy the same prosperity and freedoms that we have. We must not lose sight of that.
Keith Krach: In terms of strategic energy reserves, it can only last so long. So the big question is to get that delicate balance and optimizing that and that requires a lot of analytical thinking and a lot of analysis.
Simone: So what is the way going forward?
Keith Krach:Government does have a role to play in ensuring clarity and to allow for free enterprise to flourish. Increase public investment in R&D is absolutely essential. I am free trader and Believe America’s free market system is the best in the world. But when somebody comes into the market and doesn’t play by the rules the market is no longer free. As I said in my Senate confirmation hearing when I was asked about what my strategy would be dealing with the China challenge, I said it would entail harnessing three of America’s biggest comparative advantages—uniting and mobilizing our allies, leveraging the innovation resources of our private sector and amplified democratic values. When we do that Chyna cannot compete.
I believe strongly in the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of the American private sector. However, the U.S. government along with other free nations, must ensure there is an opportunity to compete. We believe in and enforce transparency, human rights and environmental standards. Free nations must demand that the energy transition is not done on the backs of minority populations in Xinjiang when a genocide is going on.
The case of PV manufacturing is not over. Nor is it unique. The threat of Chinese innovation mercantilism hangs over other, less-mature sectors, such as batteries, electrolyzers, and carbon capture devices, with the potential to reduce global carbon emissions. Policymakers should adopt measures that counter China’s policies and raise the odds that alternatives to the dominant designs in PV and other key climate and clean energy technologies get a fair chance to succeed in the coming decade. Innovation and deployment of these technologies are both important goals for public policy.
Simone: Do you think the Biden administration would go on this path?
Keith Krach: I think everybody understand the importance of energy security and how that’s tied with national security. But here again, it is an optimization equation. …
Simone: As the Biden administration presses forward with its green energy policy, it will have to deal with the dilemma of increased reliance on China-sourced solar components. Demand for solar energy will only increase if fossil fuel faces more restrictions.
Although US solar-cell manufacturers do exist, they’re responsible for a minority of the solar panel market in America. Whether that industry can survive, and thrive, will remain a critical strategic issue for America, and the world, in the coming decades. Thanks for watching Zooming In China. I am Simone Gao and see you next time.
There seemed to be real chemistry between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian leader Putin which resulted in the close relationship between the two countries. But the Ukraine war has …
Simone: There seems to be real chemistry between these two men. Which results in the close relationship between the two countries.
Wang Yi: Sino-Russian strategic cooperation has no end, no restricted area, and no upper limit.
Simone: But the war shook things up.
Qin Gang: The cooperation between China and Russia is not restricted, but there is a bottom line.
Simone: Will this friendship cost Xi Jinping his third term as the supreme leader of China? Or will we see a China-Russia alliance overthrowing the so-called American hegemony after all?
Simone: Narration: Cooking pancakes together, laughing and giving each other compliments.
This is Xi Jinping and Putin at the seafood market during the 4th Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia’s largest city in the far east of its territory. The city was ceded to Russia by China in 1860 and has remained a sour spot for the Chinese people since then.
But this history did not affect the affinity between Xi and Putin. The harmony between them seemed real, particularly compared to this.
This was Putin treating Obama to a traditional Russian breakfast in 2009 at Novo Ogaryovo, Putin’s residence near Moscow, captured by the Euronews. Putin seemed unhappy and uninterested in whatever Obama had to say. The chemistry between the two is non-existent, in contrast to that between him and Xi Jinping.
But after Ukraine, things are somewhat different. I believe both Xi Jinping and Putin probably felt betrayed by the other party to some degree. On March 23, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said this when being interviewed by the Phoenix TV.
Qin Gang: The cooperation between China and Russia is not restricted, but there is a bottom line. This bottom line is the principles established by the UN Charter. It is the basic norm of international law and international relations.
Simone: This is a walk back from Beijing’s previous declaration that Sino-Russian strategic cooperation has no end, no restricted area, and no upper limit.
Wang Yi: Sino-Russia strategic cooperation has no end, no restricted area, and no upper limit.
Simone: This change reflected Beijing’s awkwardness in responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Prior to the invasion, Putin went to Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, a much needed vanity support for China and Xi Jinping. As appreciation for Putin’s support and a will to strengthen the Sino-Russian relationship, China signed an estimated total of $117.5 billion in agreements to purchase Russia’s oil, natural gas and food over the next two decades.
Simone: In retrospect, what would make this $117.5 billion purchase agreement weigh heavier is whether during that time Putin told Xi his real plan in Ukraine, that is, Russia was going to invade Ukraine. China expert Jiang Feng told me, based on his own observation in four areas, Putin did.
Jiang Feng: Politically, on February 21, the torch of the Winter Olympics was extinguished, and on the same day, Putin delivered a national video speech declaring the recognition of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, as independent states. Some careful netizens found that Putin accepted the opinions of a senior official, while his watch in this video shows the earlier time, indicating that this so-called live video has been recorded long ago. Because the whole world knows that as long as the independence of these regions is recognized, it means that Russia has torn up the Minsk agreement and is ready for military intervention. In order not to give the West and Ukraine more preparations, Putin used the recorded video as a live broadcast. In addition to military considerations, Putin deliberately postponed the release time, let Xi Jinping finish the Winter Olympics to satisfy his will of political show? Is it an appointment? Be my guest!
Militarily, The Times reported on April 1 that according to an intelligence memorandum provided by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), China (CHINA) carried out a large-scale cyberattack on Ukrainian military and nuclear facilities in the prep stage before Russia invaded Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Security Service said hackers coordinated by the Chinese government carried out thousands of attacks on more than 600 websites, including Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and other agencies, which began before the end of the Beijing Winter Olympics and peaked on Feb. 23, the day before Russia invaded Ukraine. If cyberattacks were taken as part of the war, the Chinese and Russian armies would have acted simultaneously at the first time of the war.
Economically, on February 24, the Russian army officially invaded, and on the same day, the Chinese General Administration of Customs announced that China would import all-territory Russian wheat. Because there are normal testing procedures to comply with regulations, it is not difficult to see that this all-territory wheat import operation was planned earlier. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Ukraine and Russia are major wheat exporters, with Russia and Ukraine together accounting for 23 percent of global wheat trade in the 2021-22 sales year. Chicago Exchange wheat price up 1.5 percent, its highest level since 2008. On the first day of war. China acted ahead of time, took advantage of the price, and achieved an important strategic layout before the inevitable global food crisis.
None of these three said preparations will be accidental, they are strategic actions that require time to prepare and require the coordination of a considerable numbers of departments. Therefore, it can be concluded that Putin has already informed Xi Jinping of the timetable for the war against Ukraine, and even, from the point of time when Xi Jinping ended the Olympics and Putin declared the independence of Donetsk, the timetable for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was probably jointly formulated by these two dictators.
Simone: The Wall Street Journal reported on February 16 that right after Putin boarded the plane back to Moscow after meeting with Xi and attending the Feb. 4 opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics, China’s seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, China’s final arbiter of power, had closed door meetings for days. According to people with knowledge of the matter, one topic of intense discussion was how to respond to the Russian-Ukraine crisis and back Moscow without hurting China’s own interests.
The Journal argues that Ukraine is an important member of Xi’s signature Belt and Road initiative, the vast infrastructure lending and construction program designed to put China at the heart of trade from Southeast Asia to Europe.
State-owned Chinese engineering, power and construction companies in recent years have invested billions of dollars in projects in the Eastern European country.
The war in Ukraine will hurt the Belt and Road initiative significantly plus supporting Russia will further alienate the West which already sees China as its number one rival.
Simone: For this reason Xi Jinping, who has been on the forefront of championing Putin for years, is under tremendous pressure for what has turned out in Ukraine. Some say this will even impede his bid for a third term as the General Secretary of the Party this fall because the support he gave to Putin is now seen by many as being reckless and harmful to the country. So what lies ahead for the Sino-Russian relationship? Will Xi Jinping abandon Putin? One observation I would like to make is that the formation of the Sino-Russian partnership is not merely out of convenience, that is, the common goal of countering the United States. It formed, as we indicated before, because of how Xi Jinping and Putin perceived each other, as a person and as a statesman.
Simone: Xi Jinping chose Russia as the destination of his first visit abroad after assuming office as General Secretary of the Chinese Communisty Party. Since then, Xi has met with Putin 38 times, more than he has with any other world leader. When Xi visits Russia, Putin usually receives him at the Kremlin. According to Russian media, this is a very high courtesy as for some time Novo Ogalyovo, on the outskirts of Moscow, was the official residence of Putin where he usually received foreign guests.
But all activities related to the visit of the Chinese President were arranged in the Kremlin. This Xinhua News video report captured the spirit of the welcoming event well.
The official ceremony was held in the most famous George Hall in the Greater Kremlin. The ceremony was grand and luxurious, just as the resplendent George Hall itself.
During Xi Jinping’s 2013 visit to Russia, he attended 20 formal events in a day and a half, including a visit to the National Defense Department, which no foreign leaders have visited.
Xi Jinping was reported to have called Putin a good friend, an old friend, and a true friend.
He even said to Putin: “I feel that our personalities are quite similar.” to which Putin smiled knowingly.
Jiang Feng: If I remember correctly Xi said that in the first year in office, year of 2013. Xi was right, they are energetic, and physically muscular man. Putin has been a KGB front-line intelligence officer with military literacy, and Xi Jinping is willing to show off his military general family origin and service as a secretary of the Central Military Commission, that will make him have a unique control over the army compared with his former CCP leaders. You know the funny thing is, Xi Jinping’s words became a prophecy that they two were not only similar when their energy was good, but also similar when their bodies were not good at the same time under great pressure. Because the news came out, and watch tv, the two people need a doctor at the same time. Of course, Xi’s mentioned character, I am afraid to say that the political character is more described. Both Putin and Xi Like to dream. Putin dreams of great Russian rejuvenation, and Xi dreams of China’s rejuvenation. In addition, in terms of greed for power, Xi Jinping revised the constitution in 2018 to give himself the opportunity to stay in office, while Putin amended the constitution in 2020 to keep himself from retiring for a lifetime.
Simone: Besides similarities on personalities and political aspirations, the two men learn from each other, though Xi learned more from Putin. When Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, Putin had been in power for more than a decade. Russia in 2000 and China in 2012, when Xi took office, had many similar problems. But under Putin’s 13 years of ruling, Russia has transformed from a weak, chaotic, and corrupt post-Soviet society into an economically viable, stable and less corrupt state although the price is the vanishing of personal freedom and the rise of an autocratic rule. But for Xi Jinping, this is not a drawback but an advantage. When we analyze Xi Jinping’s policies, strategies in dealing with political opponents and dissidents, we see a striking resemblance between him and Putin.
Simone: When Putin first took office, he waged an anti-corruption campaign that targeted political rivals. This campaign helped him gain popularity among the Russian people and paved the way for his continued rule. In 2004, Putin was reelected to the presidency by a huge majority.
Xi Jinping copied this playbook almost word by word. He waged the biggest anti-corruption campaign in the Chinese Communist Party’s history after he took office. The initial goal of this campaign was to eliminate the power and influence of his political rivals who allegedly intended a coup to remove him from the top leadership; it expanded to include more and more old and new political oppositions, and recently was even used by Xi’s opposition to weaken his power as well. The campaign persisted for almost a decade and is still going. More than 100,000 officials have been indicted for corruption and more than 1.3 million lower-level officials have been punished.
Like Putin, Xi Jinping gained popularity among the ordinary Chinese people because of the anti-corruption campaign.
Simone: Xi Jinping also borrowed Putin’s tactic of grabbing power. Putin established a vertical power structure. He weakened local power to give himself sole authority over most decisions. Putin felt Yeltsin’s ten-year experiment with decentralization had caused disobedient local government and chaos. His closely-knit vertical power structure ensures all strands of power lead back to himself. This gave him the freedom to reform as he saw fit. Thanks to oil price rise and other factors, during Putin’s tenure, the Russian economy flew and the society was significantly stabilized which further solidified his rule. Xi Jinping was deeply inspired by this approach.
Simone: He admires a centralized, stabilized and orderly society, thus he centralized his power unprecedentedly. Despite being the supreme leader for the Party, the military and the state, he deprived the functions of many government agencies and established many working groups. And he appointed himself as the director of most of these groups. For example, the Central Leading Group for Cyber Security and Informatization, the Central Leading Group for Finance and Economics, the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reform, the Central Leading Group for Taiwan Work, and etc. Xi was given a nickname: The Chairman of everything.
After the 19th National Congress, Xi Jinping had established himself as the most powerful ruler since Deng Xiaoping. “Xi Jinping Thought” was written into the party constitution, which means that Xi had the same footing as Mao Zedong.
Simone: There are other similarities between Putin and Xi Jinping. For example, they both suppressed media and political dissidents. For a Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping’s suppression of free information is expected. But he did more than his predecessors. China in general is more ideologically rigid under Xi Jinping than under Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin. Despite the similarities, there is one big difference between the two men.
Simone: Xi Jinping is the leader of the biggest Communist country in the world, a true follower of Mao Zedong, and a world apart from this…
Putin is Russian Orthodox. His mother secretly baptized him as a baby during the Soviet years, and she regularly took him to services. According to Putin, shortly before an official visit to Israel, his mother gave him his baptismal cross, telling him to get it blessed. Putin said he never took it off since.
Can these two men with vastly different metaphysical views be true friends?
Jiang Feng: To be friends? Even when China and Russia have the same political system in history, that is, in the Soviet era, when beliefs and values were the same, the two regimes cannot become true allies.
The Zero-Covid policy was met with stiff resistance from the Shanghainese when China’s largest city became a hot spot for the new Covid variant Omicron. Meanwhile China’s economy was hit …