And even if much of daily life in China seems remote from Party statements, its apparatus, reinforced by limitless financial resources and digital technologies, has grown only stronger. In Xinjiang, Xi and the CCP have demonstrated to what extremes they can go to eliminate a potential threat over the horizon.
Elites, even Party elites, are not the whole people, in China or elsewhere. Their very interests make them vulnerable to attacks from a populist base or from a Mao-style political offensive. Economists and retired economic officials, the only circle of expertise that is still allowed to have some public policy debate, currently express their doubts or anxiety: for the past few months, the code word for this has been any mention of "the laws of economics". Li Daokui has expressed the concern that "common prosperity" be interpreted as another Great Leap Forward. In Zhejiang, an emblematic province for the success of private entrepreneurs that is now singled out as a model for "common prosperity", economists express similar reservations, seeking to curb a slide into neo-Maoist politics. On August 26, the CCP’s Propaganda Department released a lengthy laudatory text on the Party’s history. It nonetheless includes the remark that Mao acknowledged his mistakes in launching the Great Leap, a critique of the Cultural Revolution and a reminder that "the Party proscribes all forms of personality cults". Hu Xijin, China’s best known "wolf warrior" propagandist on the international front, has sharply criticized the Li Guangnan blog’s "excesses". At the time of this writing, however, the official social media still display Li’s blog post.
China’s domestic situation must be watched very closely in the year to come, before Xi is elevated to Mao status by the next Party congress.
First, we should not discount the rationality of many of the new rules being introduced. In the past, since Deng’s reign, China has combined arbitrary Party authority with a species of unbridled crony capitalism. But step by step since the mid-1990s, state management, state enterprises, public policies and at least the first steps of a redistributive economy have taken hold.