Xi’s Leadership Is in Crisis; Now Is the Time to Act

There is a growing body of evidence that indicates the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership is in freefall. If true, this makes Xi Jinping more dangerous as it increases the likelihood of an attack against Taiwan. It also means Xi’s regime, the CCP, is extremely vulnerable to pressure from America, and the rest of the free world, to evict them from power.

The XI and CCP face a deeper problem than the lasting economic downturn in China and myriad of social problems the Chinese regime confronts—problems that cannot be papered over by Xi’s prominence at the BRICS meeting or at any other international fora. The Chinese regime’s problems are multiple and are the result of a fundamental cause—communism. As such, the Communist Chinese regime is illegitimate and is in a lasting and insuperable legitimation crisis.

The leadership is in crisis for two major reasons:

First, it is precisely because the CCP’s ideology is illegitimate. The CCP is an illegitimate polity for China as perceived by the diaspora, free intellectuals and media, and the clear majority of the Chinese people. This is primarily because its ideology, Marxism-Leninism, is divorced from China’s history, civilization, and political culture—the framework for legitimacy for a regime, which strengthens and validates it. The cause of this illegitimacy is the Marxist-Leninist ideology of the Chinese regime. This communist ideology is a bankrupt one that advances a failed model of totalitarian control over the people of China, and which is divorced from the traditional Chinese governing principles. This ideological tension has the potential to cause a legitimation crisis in China that will lead to the Party’s overthrow.

The CCP’s illegitimacy also generates great insecurity for Xi and the current CCP leadership, as well as opening an avenue to the CCP’s fall. Xi is destined to fail so long as China is ruled by an imported Western ideology—communism.

The Chinese people have recognized that to accept communism in China requires the rejection of China’s political principles of unity, dynastic government, avoidance of chaos, and respect for the people as a foundation for China’s polity. A Chinese polity requires the acceptance of the traditional political system and the rejection of imported ideologies.

The fact that Xi as the leader of the CCP, and the Party as whole, has embraced a Western ideology means China is simultaneously incoherent and profoundly insecure regarding their own political legitimacy. At root, the CCP know they are the illegitimate rulers of China. Xi’s rule in China has proven that communism does not have the solution to creating a modern and just polity, regardless of what kind of toadyism American elites like Thomas Friedman suggest otherwise. Grafting a Western imported ideology to define and govern China was certain to generate ideological and political incoherence for the people, despite the elite in America who were captured by such rhetoric and propaganda.

Second, a feature of Communism is that no ruler is secure. Xi is no exception. Xi’s rule is under constant, and great, pressure and might be on the cusp of collapsing. For instance, the public purging of senior officials is well underway. From the humiliation of former communist leader Hu Jintao at the 20th Party Congress in October 2022 that started this public unraveling, to the July, disappearances of foreign minister Qin Gang and the head of the Strategic Rocket Force.  Now, this month the PRC’s defense minister Li Shangfu has disappeared after he abruptly left a meeting with Vietnamese defense officials. Other senior military officers have also fallen victim to accusations of corruption as Xi’s anti-corruption campaign eliminates rivals and deepens his control.

The implications for the world and U.S. national security are dire. As the threat to the CCP regime deeps, Xi’s paranoia will lead to an ever broadening of purges, this placing him more and more at odds with the communist bureaucracy. Inevitably, these actions cannot assuage his fear of assassination or overthrow. Given Xi’s decade long program to “reunify” Taiwan, it seems likely that he may be looking to generate a crisis or war, very likely an attack against Taiwan, to shore up his rule. This means the danger to Taiwan is even more immediate and dire due to Xi and the CCP regime’s instability—as well as America’s forward deployed forces that are undoubtedly on the People’s Liberation Army’s target list.

What Xi’s problems should mean for the Biden administration is that this is the right time to put pressure on the CCP and allow the people of China to evict them from power. Working with the Chinese people and diaspora, the U.S., its allies, and people of goodwill throughout the world should call attention to Xi’s abuses and misrule. Gandhi put pressure on British rule in India through his “Quit India” movement. It is time for the world to say no to Xi and no to the CCP. It is time for a “Quit communism” movement in China and globally. That is the best way to save the Chinese people from tyranny and avoid the path to a major crisis or war on which Xi has placed the world. It would save countless lives of civilians in the region and of American Sailors, Soldiers, Airman, and Marines.

It is likely that the Biden administration will not do this as it would be a heresy to their religion of engagement with the PRC and their acceptance of the legitimacy of the CCP. Thus, the U.S. will incur another missed opportunity at a time of supreme vulnerability for Xi and the CCP.  Such an opportunity is one that the U.S. may not soon possess again, and which might be the best way to prevent an invasion of Taiwan and maintain stability in the region.

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About James E. Fanell and Bradley A. Thayer

James Fanell is a government fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, a retired captain in the U.S. Navy and a former director of intelligence and information operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Bradley A. Thayer is a Founding Member of the Committee on Present Danger China and the coauthor with Lianchao Han of Understanding the China Threat.

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