Jiang Zemin for the gallows & Xi as supremo — what does it portend?

In August last year, there were newspaper reports that the former President and Chinese Communist Party party boss in 1989-2002, Jiang Zemin, and his two sons were “placed under control,” meaning a sort of house arrest, with restrictions on their freedom of movement. They are charged with corruption. That was a preparatory stage to what has just happened — Jiang has been formally arrested as prelude to a kangaroo court imposing a death sentence, possibly by firing squad.

This development has not no far been reported by any media outlet anywhere but was intimated to an acquaintance by his high-placed Chinese contacts. House arrest followed by formal arrest, court, and death is a pattern last suffered by the former party security chief, Zhou Yongkang. President Xi Jinping has thus succeeded in dismantling the parallel power structure Zemin had set up overseen by Zhou, by finally getting rid of the principals in it.

If true, Zemin’s elimination altogether from the scene, suggests that (1) politics in autocratically ruled China is a zero sum game: If you lose it you also lose your head, (2) this event together with the earlier removal of the two vice-chairmen of the powerful Central Military Commission controlling the Peoples Liberation Army — Guo Boxiong and especially Xu Caihou, who were supposedly responsible for denuding Xi’s predecessor in office, Hu Jintao, of any real power, marks the emergence of Xi as the Jefe Maximo (maximum leader in Latin American parlance) who has suppressed all resistance to his authority and rule in China. It will mean a China hereafter moving as per Xi’s dictates. Is that good or bad for India?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the impression of considerable personal warmth in his relations with Xi (manifested during the latter’s state visit to India in 2015). Modi obviously believes that Xi is a reasonable man he can do business with. Except, and this is the Damocles’ sword hanging over Xi, that a future successor could do to him what he is doing to Jiang and his cohort, and accommodating New Delhi on a slate of issues that require resolution, ranging from delineation of the disputed border to Beijing’s vetoing India’s entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group and the UN Security Council, could give his potential adversaries a reason to hang him. So, like his predecessor Jiang (when he arrived in Delhi in 1996) for whom he proved the nemesis, Xi will be more inclined to take than to give and on territorial matters to concede not an inch of China’s real estate claims in Arunachal Pradesh.

But Modi seems partial to hugs and embraces as mean of preempting resistance. It won’t work with Xi, as is already evident from how firmly Beijing has held on to its line on all issues, most recently on India’s membership in NSG. Both National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar were deployed to cajole and convince Zhongnanhai but returned home, as the Chinese spokesman revealed, after being heard out. MEA Minister Sushma Swaraj’s take that China is not opposed to India’s entry per se says more about New Delhi’s cupidity than to Beijing’s resolve. Modi will obviously converse with Xi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

But Modi (and the Indian government) will once again discover the fact that Beijing is stirred into respecting it when an opposing country shows fight, such as Vietnam, not when it seems willing to cut a deal.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, China, China military, domestic politics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Latin America, society, South East Asia, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, Vietnam. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Jiang Zemin for the gallows & Xi as supremo — what does it portend?

  1. andy says:

    The so called forward policy of erstwhile PM Jawaharlal Nehru,however ill conceived ,was probably the last time that India had a proactive policy vis a vis china,resulting in a humiiating defeat in 1962.Since then successive governments have unwaveringly adhered to a pusillanimous policy of china appeasement which has produced zilch as far as strategic value is concerned. The only result of such a policy has been the growth of Chinese contempt for the Indian nation.

    So fearful have the Delhi political circles been of the Chinese ,that they have gone slow in upgrading much needed border infrastructure in sensitive areas like Arunachal Pradesh & across the length of the LAC.In the meantime China has created world class road & rail links right up to the border with India ,wherein they can move whole division strength army units in a matter of few hours,while it would take India at least a couple of days to move even a batallion to forward areas.

    Since 1962 the Chinese have consistently worked on keeping India off balance & boxed in South Asia,to this end they have nuclear armed Pakistan & transferred missile technology to this rabidly anti Indian nation.They have also been Pakistan’s biggest suppliers of cheap arms, the latest being JF17 fighter & proposed transfer of 8 Shang class conventional submarines.As part of their string of pearls strategy they have invested in development of ports & other infrastructure(that could be used in times of war for military purposes) in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Srilanka & of course the $45 billion CPEC projects in Pakistan. The consistent presence of Chinese army personnel in POK, shows they care two hoots about Indian sensitivities.To a large extent China has successfully contained India with such maneuvers.The only border dispute they havent resolved is of LAC with India which is used to keep Indians off balance by repeated incursions.china loses no opportunity to needle India ,whether it’s issuing stapled visas to J & K residents or blocking Indian resolutions against Pakistan based terror masterminds in the UN,the latest action is objecting to India’s entry in the NSG.It would indeed be a miracle of sorts if they back off & let India in to this group.

    The least India can do is transfer the Brahmos missile Vietnam.

  2. &^%$#@! says:

    Assuming the reports about Jiang Zemin are true, I for one do not believe that he will be executed. History has shown that in the post Cultural Revolution era where (for example) Liu Shaoqi was horribly maltreated and died in prison, the PRC does not usually execute its top leadership. At the worst, it is a suspended death sentence, disgrace, and exile somewhere to be forgotten followed/accompanied by a purge of cronies, relatives, etc. Even the Gang of Four were not executed. With the case of Lin Biao, there is much mystery and speculation surrounding the plane crash, and the circumstances surrounding his death But his was more the exception than the rule.

  3. Vivek Jain says:

    India needs to start following a hard stand against China. It has always been China’s policy to give a lollipop to India. Years back the US offered India a UN Security Council seat and nuclear weapons technology which was rejected. Worst decision till date.

  4. India has always been Pusillanimous towards Chinese aggression.Well accepted it is a fact.

    China wanted India to buy its Shinkansen reverse engineered Bullet Train.But Modi very rightly decided to buy Original high Quality Japanese Shinkansen. No point wasting resources on reverse engineered Chinese bullet trains, which would break after using it once or twice !!!!

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