China: At 70, Xi Jinping is "only at the beginning"

Rarely has Xi Jinping looked so deeply into his soul.

China: At 70, Xi Jinping is "only at the beginning"

Rarely has Xi Jinping looked so deeply into his soul. While one in five young people in China's cities cannot find a job, the head of state and party leader recently called on the younger generation to "eat bitterness" (chi ku) - a virtue particularly cultivated in China, to be able to suffer and endure hardship can.

He recalled his own early days, when he was sent to work in the countryside like millions of others during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Look, it didn't hurt me, but put me at the top of the Communist Party.

On his 70th birthday on June 15, the "Chairman of All" is the most powerful Chinese leader since the founder of the state, Mao Tsetung. His state of health is a state secret, but age plays no role for him in terms of power politics. He disregarded term and age limits, had his leadership role written into the party constitution - so he could rule practically until the end of his life. He has created a "new era" in China, as the constitution says. Now a new world order is to follow.

Strong man

What else shaped him: The collapse of the Soviet Union, from which he drew "profound lessons" for China. "A major reason was that they wavered in their beliefs and ideals." A "quiet word" from Mikhail Gorbachev was enough to dissolve the party. "In the end, a real man was missing," Hong Kong newspapers quoted him as saying. That shouldn't happen to China. The party leader likes to talk about "rough seas" and "dangerous storms" for which everyone should prepare - with him as the helmsman.

Even after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Xi Jinping stood by his friend Vladimir Putin and made a common front against the superpower USA and the Western order that it dominated. Quite a few Chinese follow his propaganda because they fear that "if Russia falls, China will be next," as it is often said.

radical change

Xi Jinping bid farewell to reform architect Deng Xiaoping's (1904-1997) old foreign policy doctrine of "hiding one's strengths and waiting for the right moment". China is bold in the world today and is increasingly perceived as a threat. "Xi Jinping sees China's rise to a world power on par with the United States as a legitimate goal," says expert Nis Grünberg from the Merics China Institute in Berlin. "He has made it his personal task to return to great power status."

Xi Jinping has also abandoned this principle of Deng Xiaoping: "It doesn't matter whether a cat is black or white. The main thing is that it catches mice." It is true that pragmatism in business has not yet been completely written off. But for Xi Jinping, ideology and loyalty to the party are at the heart of everything he does. As early as after the Cultural Revolution, Xi Jinping decided to "be redder than red in order to survive," a friend reported, according to a US intelligence report.

belief in party

"Xi Jinping is a staunch party supporter," says expert Grünberg. "He believes in the unifying power of the party, its ideology and its strengthening power as an organization - the glue that is supposed to hold China together." As the son of Vice Premier Xi Zhongxun, Xi Jinping grew up in the "red nobility". The party as a legitimate leader is anchored in him as a "princeling".

He definitely wants to prevent democratization and the associated loss of power and push for the preservation of party strength. "This explains the enormous focus on ideology and party loyalty that Xi Jinping repeatedly emphasizes," says Grünberg. "The party must strive for social, political and ideological hegemony and ensure complete internal loyalty."

Where is he heading China?

Politically and economically, Xi Jinping is pushing the country to the left, but in terms of foreign and security policy he is nationalistically steering to the right, says Sinologist Kevin Rudd, former Australian Prime Minister and now President of the Asia Society. The grand leader has tightened the party's control over all areas of public order and private life, revitalized state-owned enterprises and reined in the private sector.

With an increasingly self-confident foreign policy, Xi Jinping is fueling nationalism. The party leader was driven "by the Marxist-inspired conviction that history is irrevocably on China's side and that a world anchored in Chinese power would produce a more just international order," Rudd wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine. According to the China expert, Xi Jinping could be "only at the beginning" - even on his 70th birthday.