The Economist Magazine 8th October 2021 Xi jinping is waging a campaign to purge China of capitalist excesses. China’s president sees surging debt as the poisonous fruit of financial speculation and billionaires as a mock ery of Marxism. Businesses must heed state guidanc e. The party must permeate every area of national life. Whether Mr Xi can impose his new re ality will shape China’ s future , as well as the ideological battle between democracy and dictatorship.
His campaign is remarkable for its scope and ambition. It started to rumble in 2020, when officials blocked the initial public offering of Ant Group, an affiliate of Alibaba, a tech giant. It is thundering onward, having so far destroyed perhaps $2trn of wealth. Didi, a ridehailing outfit, has been punished for listing its shares in America. Evergr ande, an indebted property developer, is being driven towards default. Trading on cryptocurrency exchanges has been banned as, more or less, has forprofit tutoring. Gaming is bad for children, so it must be strictly r ationed. China needs larger families , so abortion must become r arer. Male role models should be manly and c elebrities patriotic. Underpinning it all is Xi Jinping Thought, which is being drummed into the craniums of six year olds.
This comes on top of an alre ady brutal authoritarianism. As president, Mr Xi has purged his riv als and lock ed up over 1m Uyghurs. He polices debate and will not tolerate dissent. The latest campaign will show whether he is an ideologue bent on grabbing power for himself, even if growth slows and people suffer , or whether he is a strongman willing to temper dogma with pragmatism. His vision, in which party control ensures that business is aligned to the state and citizens dutifully serve the nation, will determine the fate of 1.4bn people.
Mr Xi is tackling re al problems—indeed, many of them have parallels in the West. One is inequality. The slogan of the moment is “ common prosperity”, reflecting how Communist China remains as unequal as some capitalist countries. The top 20% of China’s households take home over 45% of the country ’s disposable income; the top 1% own over 30% of household wealth (see F ree exchange). Another conc ern is the clout of tech giants ac cused of unfair competition, corrupting society and having unfettered access to personal data (only the state has that privilege). A third is strategic vulnerability, particularly the thre at that adversaries will obstruct ac cess to commodities and vital technologies. The Economist Magazine 8th October 2021DOWNLOAD NOW