EMPIRE OF DUST How Xi Jinping’s brutal ‘Covid Zero’ crackdown has left China on brink of disaster & could lead to his downfall
Tariq Tahir, 5:04 ET, Oct 30 2022
CHINA'S ruthless leader Xi Jinping may have left the country on the brink of disaster - potentially sowing the seeds for his own overthrow, experts have said.
Xi may now be "Emperor for Life" as he seized power at the top of the Communist Party - but his dream of making China the world's most powerful country could already be heading for failure.
Xi Jinping has secured a third term as Chinese presidentCredit: AP6
An armed Chinese policeman preventing passenger leaving an airportCredit: Twitter6
The Guangzhou FC will have the world's biggest football stadium if it's ever finishedCredit: AFP6
Some of the millions of unsold homes in China's ghost townsCredit: AlamyHis lust for power and a disastrous Covid Zero policy have hammered China’s once mighty economy leaving its collapsing property market facing a £4.5 trillion debt reckoning.
Experts told The Sun Online that Xi is much like his Russian opposite number, Vladimir Putin - who also has condemned his country to pariah status thanks to his disasterous war in Ukraine.
Breaking the decades-long precedent of limited political terms, the Chinese president Xi has secured another five-years in office, effectively securing power for the rest of his life. But he’s surrounded himself with lackeys terrified to speak out about the disastrous path he’s leading the country down, squandering the legacy handed to him, it’s claimed.
Images of hazmat clad gun-toting lockdown enforcers beating citizens, millions of empty homes, giant unfinished stadiums and desperate young unemployed bear testimony to the state of the country.
All this means trouble ahead for Xi with predictions he’s sowed the seeds of his own downfall - just at the moment he appears most powerful.
“I think the worst enemy of Xi Jinping’s longevity in ruling China is Xi Jinping himself,” Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, told The Sun Online.
In common with, Vladimir Putin Xi suffers "from the same strongman-syndrome problem” with advisers who could save them from disaster “no longer able to speak their mind freely”.
For the first time in 30 years China’s national income is set to grow less than all its neighbours, as it abandons trying to overtake the US to become the world’s biggest economy.
As the rest of the world returns to normal, China has placed 280 million people in Covid lockdown this year, turning the country into a “huge prison” and damaging the economy.
Botched attempts to produce its own vaccine and unwillingness to swallow its pride and import them, leaves draconian lockdowns as the only way to tackle Covid. The lockdown has left desperate Chinese fighting to get their hands on food as drones buzz around making sure they comply with the rules.
But Xi has said there will be no altering the disastrous policy, insisting it was the "people's war to stop the spread of the virus” that had “achieved significant positive results”.
Covid Zero has pushed Chinese citizens to the limits and there have seen protests in cities throughout China, including Shanghai.
And in one extraordinary demonstration in Beijing just days before party Congress was due to open, a brave protester unveiled a banner on a motorway bridge denouncing Xi as a “thief” and “dictator”. A lot of the pain in China’s economy has been self-inflicted by China’s leader Susan Shirk
Keng Deng, an expert on China’s economy and politics, says it “seems likely” that the “economically illiterate” Xi Jinping is hastening the end of Communist Party rule.
“It has turned out that Zero Covid is a perfect excuse to lock the population up without any legal procedure and hence make China a huge prison anytime and anywhere,” he said.
“Covid Zero will 100 per cent continue in the next five years so China's future will be bleak. “Meanwhile, it has become evident that the general population increasingly resists Xi's 10-year-long mismanagement.” Along with Xi’s Zero Covid policy has come his crackdown on China’s once booming tech sector, widely seen as a move to rein in their power but which has led to mass firings.
Susan Shirk, director of the 21st Century China Center, said the main role of the Chinese Communist Party is now to keep “Xi Jinping’s hold on power”.
“A lot of the pain in China’s economy has been self-inflicted by China’s leader,” she said. The result is that one in five young Chinese are now jobless.
Looming into the foreground is a slow-motion crash in the housing market, which accounts for up to a third of its national income. According to some estimates, there are now around 65 million empty properties - nearly enough to give one to every person in the UK - creating vast ghost towns that haunt the landscape.
Developer Evergrande - which has debts of £270 billion - was forced to halt building a 100,000-seat football stadium for Guangzhou FC, which it part-owns.
Construction has recently restarted on what would be the world’s biggest football stadium with completion promised by the end of the year, a promise it’s made before.
The company’s woes have become emblematic of the potential debt tsunami facing China which has been estimated to be £4.5 trillion. The construction frenzy has also left half-built amusements parks and tourist attractions abandoned for years - and a full-scale replica of the Titanic costing £110million has been sitting rusting for six years. Evergrande's problems rattled the Chinese government and it stepped in to prevent a collapse - in the meantime.
But China expert Anne Stevenson Yang said Xi Jinping’s regime has shown little inclination to help homeowners.
A rusting partly built replica of TitanicCredit: Splash6
Police in hazmats move in to arrest a Covid lockdown violator in ShanghaiCredit: ReutersIt’s more interested in protecting state-owned corporations and billionaire owners of companies that prop up his rule, she said. “There’s what they can do and there’s what they will do,” Stevenson Yang, co-founder of J Capital Research, told The Guardian.
“What they can do is to transfer money to households such as by gifting apartments, allowing people to live in places where mortgages are unpaid.
“But that’s not of course what is going to happen. The Chinese political system is not built around individuals.”
Thrown into all this, are forecasts China could lose nearly a billion people with half of those left pensioners. All that means fewer workers generating wealth to pay for more pensioners with resources diverted to support an aging population that's not working.
“That China will grow old before it grows rich and powerful,” said Australian National University researchers Yun Jiang and Adam Ni.
Back in 2015, Xi Jinping laid out his 'China Dream' of a powerful country that would overtake the US as the world's leading nation.
But looking at the targets buried in documents during the recent 20th Party Congress, something that goal has been quietly shelved. "Is Beijing quietly abandoning its ambition to become the world's largest economy?," tweeted Houze Song, from the MacroPolo think tank.
"Based on the 20th party congress report, the answer seems to be yes." This was due partly due to Beijing realising its population is "deteriorating more rapidly than anticipated".
China-born Ming Xia, a fierce critic of Xi, said the Chinese leader has squandered the legacy handed to him and that could lead to him being ousted. “I can predict that Xi will have difficulty using his power to solve China's problems and improve China's economy,” said Professor Ming, from the City University of New York.