Behind the Personality Cult of Xi Jinping

He may be China’s most powerful leader in decades. Here’s what he hopes to gain – and stands to lose.

Foreign Policy
By: Jiayang Fan, Taisu Zhang and Ying Zhu

Since assuming office in late 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has quickly consolidated power. He has launched a sweeping anti-corruption campaign, reorganized the People’s Liberation Army

Chinese President Xi Jinping stands by national flags at the Schloss Bellevue presidential residency in Berlin on March 28, 2014. Chinese President Xi Jinping begins a landmark visit to fellow export powerhouse Germany Friday, the third leg of his European tour, expected to cement flourishing trade ties and focus on the Crimea crisis. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE        (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese President Xi Jinping stands by national flags at the Schloss Bellevue presidential residency in Berlin on March 28, 2014. Chinese President Xi Jinping begins a landmark visit to fellow export powerhouse Germany Friday, the third leg of his European tour, expected to cement flourishing trade ties and focus on the Crimea crisis.
AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

(PLA), and tightened controls over media and the Internet — as well as cultivating a cult of personality. Xi’s name has appeared in ruling Communist Party publications with greater frequency that his two most recent predecessors. References to Xi as China’s “core” leader imply a status similar to that of former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. Songs and videos — some grassroots, some officially commissioned — praising Xi have even gone viral online. In this ChinaFile conversation, experts discuss why Xi has worked to create a cult of personality, and how this may affect Chinese politics in the future.

Jiayang Fan, editorial staff at the New Yorker:

It is evident from his first three years in office that Xi’s top priority is to legitimize his authority and rejuvenate the Communist Party. Therefore, any resources he can marshal to that effect — be it revival of nationalist fervor, the espousal of “red” rhetoric, or songs in praise of his personal and professional conduct — can only further this objective. It is an open question what the precise role his cult of personality will play in the larger agenda but its successful cultivation surely figures as a political gain.

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Promoted By

For years, the Chinese public have been inured to the excesses and incompetence of officialdom. The image of politicians living large on the people’s dime, lawlessly luxuriating in ways that directly contradict what the party preaches, has assumed the cast of dark comedy. In China, both the young and old sometimes will sing me catchy little ditties about the profligacies of guanyuan — officials — and resign themselves to the unbridgeable chasm dividing these guanyuan from ordinary citizens. What’s more, the stiffness of technocrats such as former President Hu Jintao, his stilted manners and near total absence of charisma, has only contributed to the perception of Chinese leaders as necessarily devoid of warmth and vitality.     [FULL  STORY]

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