Xi's Jiang Eulogy Lauds Leadership Of Xi

(MENAFN- Asia Times)

China buried its late leader Jiang Zemin on Tuesday with solemn pomp, and provided current ruler Xi Jinping an opportunity to praise not only Jiang's leadership but his own.

In short, President Xi's hour-long eulogy for Jiang was a paean to their joint emphasis on boosting China's economy and on exclusive Communist Party rule.

The speech, delivered at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, was broadcast on state television. And in case the large audience of dignitaries and soldiers in attendance didn't get the message, People's Daily, the Party newspaper, not only praised Jiang but also called on the country to“rally” around Xi.

That particular emphatic may stem from the week-long civil turbulence brought on by Xi's anti-Covid lockdown policies. People are tired of it, and protests have roiled several cities. Nonetheless, Xi neither mentioned the Covid crisis nor the lockdown issue.

Perhaps no one might dare to make a fuss on a day of national mourning. But just in case, police had blocked access to central Beijing, and Tiananmen Square, in front of the Great Hall, was empty. The government had issued orders local authorities nationwide to organize citizens to watch the funeral proceedings on television.

Permission to stand along the road to Babaoshan cemetery, a resting place for Party elite near Beijing, was by invitation only.

The tight controls were a kind of homage to past protests in China under Communist rule. Funerals and memorial gatherings for Chinese leaders have opened opportunities for common people to voice displeasure with the government.

For instance, in April 1976, a Tiananmen Square commemoration in honor of Zhou Enlai, premier under Mao Zedong, turned into a mass protest in opposition to the Gang of Four, notorious promoters of the chaotic Cultural Revolution. The army broke up the protest and emptied the square of memorial messages and wreaths.

But the event set in motion a power struggle that climaxed with the rise to power of Deng Xiaoping, himself a victim of Cultural Revolution persecution.

Or take a protest in 1989, when former Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang died and a huge student demonstration erupted in praise of him outside his funeral in the Great Hall. Deng had fired Hu two years earlier for pushing generational change to oust old Party leaders and for downplayed accusations he was promoting so-called“bourgeois liberalization,” a charge leveled against him by anti-reform Party members.

The 100,000-strong protest demanded free speech and independent journalism. Young artists constructed a 10-meter-high foam and papier-maché statue called the Goddess of Democracy, and erected it in front of the entrance to the Forbidden City, facing a portrait of Mao.

Deng replaced Hu with Zhao Ziyang, another liberal-minded Communist Party leader. But Zhao sympathized with the students and Deng ousted him, too. He then unleashed the People's Liberation Army to empty the square. The soldiers killed hundreds of protesters.

For his stand, Zhao spent 16 years under house arrest. When he died, there was no state funeral, just posthumous humiliation. It took 14 years of negotiations between his imploring family and the implacable government to arrange for his ashes to be buried at Babaoshan. No government official attended the burial.

His replacement was Jiang Zemin.

In his eulogy on Tuesday, Xi made only an oblique reference to the Tiananmen massacre –“rough waters” navigated by Jiang, who triumphed through“upholding the rule of socialism while persisting in opening up and economic reform,” he said.

Not un-coincidentally, Xi repeated the People's Daily demand that Party members“rally” around his government and“strive in unity to build a modern socialist country.”

Presumably, Xi had no need to worry about dissent, at least on Tuesday. He was surrounded by like-minded associates.

One possible critic, ex-Party leader Hu Jintao, was not invited to the funeral, though he attended a closed viewing of Jiang's corpse the day before. He already had been humiliated in October – on TV – when he was unceremoniously evicted from the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

Covid policies

Attention will likely now turn to what to do about a looming growth in Covid cases. In the middle of the Party Congress, mass quarantines were declared out of fashion. Several cities immediately ended restrictions on movements.

China now faces several problems within a population that is both insufficiently vaccinated and where natural immunity is low.

Some official missteps make a massive outbreak likely, experts say. Zero-Covid encouraged even vulnerable elderly or unhealthy citizens to forgo vaccines or boosters. The Chinese government, dedicated to the unproven efficacy of lockdowns, also curbed vaccination campaigns in favor of testing and mass isolations.

While quarantine camps and testing booths are numerous, critical-care facilities are in short supply. Government drug manufacturers failed to produce booster shots that could curb outbreaks of fast-mutating Covid variants. Initial vaccination rates of the elderly were high, but only 40% of Chinese over the age of 80 have received a booster dose.

Moreover, China's homegrown vaccines are less effective than foreign counterparts, according to doctors in Hong Kong.

In any event, China's government had also stopped major vaccine and booster campaigns about eight months ago. Herd immunity, in which people who have caught the disease and recovered are immune for a period, is also lagging.

“China's policy created a feedback loop: Suppression of the virus reduced the impetus for the elderly to get vaccinated, which kept the immunity low, further necessitating the no-tolerance approach,” wrote Yanzhou Huang, director of the Center for Global Health Studies at Seton Hall University in the US state of New Jersey.

China keeps many data secret, so the population has often been left in the dark over the dangers of an infection surge. The government's reluctance to provide data detailing the efficacy and possible side effects of its vaccines created an information vacuum in which unfounded worries could flourish.

There is yet no national plan for suppressing new infections. In cities that have lifted restrictions, people who become ill have been advised just to stay home.

It also appears that no one was willing to warn of a potential Covid surge before the Party Congress – and especially not to suggest that zero-Covid might have been a policy mistake. Xi has not admitted to any errors in his 10 years in power.


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