China and the Cult of Xi

“China and the Cult of Xi”, published at The National Interest on July 12, 2018

The glorification of Xi Jinping is getting so out-of-control it might even be too much for the Chinese Communist Party to handle.

Social-media protests were sparked around the country after a woman was arrested in Shanghai for vandalizing a roadside propaganda poster. She broadcast herself on Twitter splashing Xi’s face with a bucket of black ink.

In China today, it is almost impossible to walk a few hundred meters without passing by a propaganda mural about “socialist values” or one featuring President Xi’s face. Other Chinese citizens, similarly concerned about Xi’s consolidation of power, have defaced propaganda and posted photos of themselves protesting Xi in solidarity . This comes four months after overseas Chinese students posted “ Not My President ” signs following Xi’s reform of the constitution to allow himself to serve for life.

Discomfort with the cult of Xi is present among the public and even the party to some degree. Local governments as well as the central government struggle over how far to go in advancing Xi Jinping’s image as a strong leader of a renewed China without crossing into dangerous territory evoking Cultural Revolution-style excesses.

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