But the Party rarely executes its own. Zhou was sentenced to life in prison. In his home village of Xiqiantou many share the surname Zhou. Set amid lush fields and fruit trees, Xiqiantou presents a tranquil scene of whitewashed houses with curved eaves and ducks dabbling on the village pond. Zhou Yongkang worked his way up the hard way. Winner-takes-all is a dangerous game.
Everyone now sees that in the Xi era, if you lose, you lose everything. By caging hundreds of powerful tigers at the top of the Party and army, Xi has torn up the rulebook which kept a fragile peace between the red elite after the death of Chairman Mao. Any of them might be making a speech in the Great Hall of the People one minute and dragged off to a cell the next. No wonder China is alert to sudden disappearances. In January a year-old billionaire with connections to many top families vanished from his luxury Hong Kong apartment, accompanied by several unidentified men.
Xiao Jianhua has not been seen since but is believed to be in custody in mainland China - a warning to others that money, connections and a Canadian passport are not enough to protect you from the long arm of Xi. Six months later came the purge of a politician the billionaire knew well, a man many had tipped to rise to the very top leadership in the coming Congress reshuffle. Bribes, abuse of power, exchange of money for sex, leaking Party secrets - the charge sheet against Sun Zhengcai was familiar.
Former politburo member Sun Zhengcai was expelled from the Communist Party. The only person Guo has been careful not to target is Xi himself. Beijing has denied his allegations and Guo himself is now the target of multiple lawsuits. But many Chinese are gripped by his sensational account of the links between politics and business. Some of his allegations seem far-fetched, but the picture he paints is one of pervasive moral bankruptcy. All the senior corruption investigations of the past five years have been conducted in secret.
The Chinese Communist Party remains an opaque organisation, and while pledging to clean up wrongdoing, Xi has shown no inclination to allow the whole truth to emerge in court or any other public domain. Again and again, the Party has discovered that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But Xi is determined that he alone will command the clean-up of comrades and the caging of tigers.
The trouble started when wags on Chinese social media spotted a similarity between a photo of Xi Jinping strolling with Barack Obama and a classic image of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. There was the meme of Pooh gripping the hoof of his friend Eeyore alongside a photo of Xi grimly shaking hands with the Japanese prime minister. Then a picture of Winnie the Pooh in a toy truck appeared online just after Xi had inspected troops from an open-top car. But for Xi as for the Communist Party, ridicule feels dangerous.
China has more than million internet users, more than the US and Europe combined. Xi is keen that China should be a cyber-superpower when it comes to innovation and commerce, but not at the expense of political discipline. Xi has waged two wars at home, one for control of his Party comrades and the other for control of the internet. He has enormously strengthened the so-called Great Firewall of China, the combination of legislation and technologies, supported by legions of professional and volunteer censors, which together enable the Party to control Chinese cyberspace.
Internet service providers and social media sites are forced to censor users, while users are encouraged to censor each other. All are denied online anonymity and those who overstep red lines are jailed.
It is reminiscent of the Mao era, when the Party expected citizens to spy on each other, and kept detailed files on them to instil fear. China has no meaningful privacy protection and every mobile phone is now a potential listening device and censorship tool. But until Xi, the underlying assumption of many communists during the reform era was that a complex and dynamic modern economy would need decentralised decision making and that this would ultimately mean more internet freedoms.
Xi has a different vision - of a China, rich, united and strong under a disciplined one-party narrative. Wherever ideas are formed and transmitted, he has worked to recapture control.
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Cyberspace has seen an even fiercer clampdown. Xi took office in , a year after the internet had played a key role in sparking the Arab Spring. He resolved it would never be allowed to spread protest in China, fearing a repeat of , when the Party sent troops into Tiananmen Square to crush a student democracy movement.
Even when travelling abroad, many Chinese citizens now remain behind the Great Firewall as their service providers enforce Party censorship. Relying on mobile phone data and facial recognition, all enhanced by a massive investment in artificial intelligence and big data management, Xi hopes to command an internal security system unimaginable to his revolutionary or imperial forebears. Just a fortnight before the sensitive 19th Communist Party Congress in Beijing, a think tank on the other side of the world was targeted in a cyber-attack which appeared to originate from Shanghai.
And weeks earlier, a law firm had suffered a similar attack. What connected the two was Guo Wengui, the flamboyant tycoon behind the YouTube diatribes against what he says is the greed, scheming and savagery of some of his former cronies.
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The event was cancelled, and the institute acknowledged that it had faced pressure from the Chinese embassy. But it said the problem was logistics not politics. However, many are intimidated. Both fear and greed are powerful motivators in the context of a rising China, and Xi has been bold in exploiting them, globalising a control strategy of carrots and sticks that works well at home. And money talks. All have since embarked on multiple partnerships with China despite its commitment to perfecting internet censorship. Xi has ambitious plans for control of the internet and that means leverage over foreign companies.
The defendant in this trial was no ruthless Communist Party tiger but a mild-mannered lawyer. His convictions sounded close to the core socialist values endorsed by Xi Jinping, but he was about to go to jail for the audacity of acting on them without Party approval. The charge against him was gathering a crowd to disrupt public order.
His sentence was passed on 26 January Only a few weeks earlier the Communist Party leader had made the short journey from the high-walled elite compound in central Beijing to the mausoleum of Chairman Mao in Tiananmen Square. Mao's embalmed body on display in his mausoleum. He has promised the public that China will be rich and strong. He believes unity and discipline under one-party rule are crucial in achieving that.
Another formative chapter for Xi came with the collapse of communism in the Soviet bloc. His assessment was that Moscow had lost its sense of purpose when it renounced its revolutionary history. If one only sits back to watch, the situation will worsen to the point of no return. Christians, Muslims, labour activists, bloggers, reporters, feminists, and lawyers have been jailed for speaking or acting on their convictions. From banners hung above roads and stations, to TV documentaries, online animations and mobile apps, these slogans are everywhere. Xi talks about Marxism and he talks about markets.
A Beijing billboard advertises the Communist Party Congress. The activist was released in July after completing his four-year sentence. He has not been contactable since. This is the biggest player in the history of the world. China is on course to become the world's dominant economy.
By , it may be three times as large. The past four decades have been an extraordinary journey not just for China but for the man who leads it. Xi was still a teenage cave-dweller reading by the light of a kerosene lamp when a US president met Chairman Mao in Xi is self-assured in encounters with foreigners. He once observed of those who lecture China on human rights: "There are some bored foreigners, with full stomachs, who have nothing better to do than point fingers at us. What more is there to be said?
From island building in the contested South China Sea to new multilateral banks and the infrastructure blueprint of the Belt and Road , he has cast off the old maxim that China should hide its strength and bide its time. But if Xi is to achieve his centennial goals, the real challenge still lies ahead.
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Surface strength hides deep economic problems. Overall growth is slowing and debt mounting.
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If he continues to cage his tigers, clean up his comrades and silence discordant voices, the existential questions may be for others. Join Charlie as he learns an important lesson on how to cope with his own frustration when he struggles with his classmate. May I Sing? Bobbie is well known by her local church and is constantly working on new plays for church groups and choirs. This introduction seeks to accomplish three goals.
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