Leadership concerns: Citizens dealing with Xi’s third term
While Xi looks seemingly in full command, some people in China express pessimism about the country’s future, while others initiate a rare global movement to oppose the Chinese leader.
WASHINGTON: Since Chinese leader Xi Jinping secured a precedent-busting third term and promoted his loyalists to top leadership positions in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the world has been trying to make sense of the potential impact of this new era on China. While Xi looks seemingly in full command, some people in China express pessimism about the country’s future, while others initiate a rare global movement to oppose the Chinese leader. For some Chinese citizens, Xi’s rule over the last decade has seen commodity prices soar while wages remain stagnant. Youth unemployment rate also reached 19.9% in July, the highest since China began to release the figure in 2018.
“I feel like the value of money has been shrinking for me over the last few years,” said a 30-year-old man surnamed Chen, who lives in eastern China. “Many college graduates are unable to find jobs, which forces them to prepare for the national exam for civil servants. The constant job search has made me really exhausted and wages are generally low,” he told DW, adding: “As authorities continue to tighten control over freedom of speech, I have stopped sharing posts online and have chosen to remain quiet as much as I can.”
Chen is not the only one feeling pessimistic about their prospects under Xi’s third term. Lin, a mother of two in central China who only wants to be identified by her last name due to security concerns, told DW that while Chinese citizens at the grassroots level support Xi’s anti-corruption campaign and his initial efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus, citizens who pay attention to politics are still disappointed and concerned about Xi securing a third term as leader.
“Especially when he stacked the top leadership with his loyalists, some of us worry China may return to the era of Cultural Revolution,” she said, adding that she doesn’t see the government showing any sign of addressing the long list of economic challenges and pivoting away from the zero-Covid strategy, which has seriously affected the Chinese economy.
Both Chen and Lin are part of a growing number of Chinese citizens who have started planning or thinking about leaving China. A specific phrase — “run xue,” or run philosophy — has become trending on Chinese internet since the pandemic started, with inquiries about how to move abroad dominating conversations.
“I learned some basic Japanese before, so I want to run to Japan,” Chen said. “But with a lot of economic pressure, I might need to take out loans in order to be able to leave China within the next year. I’m a bit confused, anxious and concerned about my future.” As for Lin, she was already thinking about emigrating to other countries prior to the 20th Communist Party Congress, but since Xi secured his third term, she is now determined to send her two children abroad. “From my perspective, sending them abroad is to choose a better environment for them, instead of just letting them experience life in other countries,” she said.
“When a country is no longer governed by rule of law, those with the means should consider leaving. With Xi Jinping securing his third term and his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, I’m worried that China might become the next Russia,” Lin stressed. While some are actively looking to leave China, others say they feel a sense of powerlessness after the party congress.