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Professor Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies (SOAS) in London, was speaking after Professor Cai Xia, a former prominent academic at China’s Central Party School accused Xi of “killing the country” – and claimed he faced significant opposition from with the Chinese Communist Party. However, while Prof Tsang acknowledged there were plenty who disapproved of Xi, that was unlikely to materialise into anything more concrete, in the short term at least.
Xi is undoubtedly the most powerful leader China has since Mao
Professor Steve Tsang
Prof Tsang told Express.co.uk: “Xi is undoubtedly the most powerful leader China has since Mao.
“He is taking China in a direction and in a way that many within the system are uncomfortable with but few, if any, occupying top positions in the Party or the government would dare to oppose him openly.”
With reference to her unusually candid assessment, which was leaked online in June, Prof Tsang said: “Prof Cai is rare in how open she is with her criticisms.
“There are a few others but they are very few.
“Cai is herself a descendant of a revolutionary elder and thus ‘protected’ to some extent.
“But she was still sacked and lost her pension.”
Prof Tsang explained: “Xi is aware of the discontent within the Party, which is exactly why he habitually nips in the bud any vocal dissent or opposition.
“So far it has worked, as most senior officials or Party leaders feel vulnerable to Xi’s capacity to purge them.
“This is bad for China and for the world, as the silencing of criticisms means policy mistakes are more likely.”
Anyone opposing Xi would face “enormous costs to one and one’s family”, Prof Tsang said.
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He added: “So, in reality, no one will unless most at the top see Xi as fatally wounded politically.”
Asked what it would take to remove Xi, who has has been Chinese President since 2013, and who successfully orchestrated the scrapping of two-term limits in 2018, Prof Tsang said: “An economic catastrophe perhaps.
“Not much of a prospect in the short term, but misguided policies can change the situation quickly.”
Speaking to the Guardian last week, Prof Cai said: “When no one can oppose him, that means that his power is unlimited.
“He has made the world an enemy. At home, all these big issues are left to him to decide. In other words, whether it is a domestic or international issue, it is very difficult for others to restrict him.
“It is inevitable that his judgment and decisions will be mistaken.
“It is a vicious cycle. After a wrong decision is made, the result is not good.
“But those below are too afraid to tell him and wrong decisions continue to be made until the situation is out of control.
“In this vicious cycle, there is no way to stop the country from sliding towards disaster.”
Nevertheless, she insisted opposition within the party was widespread.
Prof Cai added: “Those within the party have experienced the last 20, 30 years and they understand which direction is right and which is a dead end.
“Many of my good friends who saw the news of me being expelled are cheering. They think this is a good thing.”
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