Media  Foreign Affairs and National Security  2022.11.10

An open letter to ‘His Majesty the Emperor’ of China

Allow me to express my congratulations to Xi Jinping for his third term in office and ask him a few questions

the japan times on October 27, 2022

International Politics/Diplomacy China

Dear President Xi Jinping,

Congratulations on your third term as general-secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. It has been a while since I last wrote to you and I hope this letter finds your excellency well.

Or, perhaps some critics may now be calling you “Your Majesty the Emperor.” It must not have been easy for you to achieve such a powerful concentration of power by effectively abolishing the long-established system of collective leadership and the age-limit requirements for holding office in your party.

Allow me to express my most sincere respect to you and ask you a few questions. Since the following are of interest to most China hands around the world, I would like you to answer them as candidly as possible. If that is difficult, I would appreciate it if you could at least give us some hints. My questions are all very simple.

What kind of nation do you wish China to be?

You believe that globalism led by the West is now coming to an end with the supposed downfall of the U.S. and Europe. And you also believe that what can replace the existing Western-led system, with its so-called disorder and provide the world with the calm it needs, is a revival of traditional “Chinese wisdom,” combined with cutting-edge science, technology and China’s “positive energy.”

However, in China, as in the rest of the world, the economic bubble has burst, with no immediate expectations of high growth, the gap between urban and rural areas widening and the social security system becoming unsustainable due to a declining birthrate and aging population.

Under such circumstances, how can China alone overcome such economic and social difficulties and create a new, calmer international order?

What is your relationship with former General-Secretary Hu Jintao.

The most memorable moment of the Communist Party Congress this year was that former General-Secretary Hu Jintao either voluntarily left or was forced to leave the meeting midway before the closing ceremony. The Japanese media reported the following:

  • Seated next to former President Hu Jintao, Li Zhanshu, speaker of the National People’s Congress, put what looked like a red cover sheet over the documents placed in front of Hu. Then speaking directly into his ear, it looked as if Li tried to explain something to him while he also attempted to hide the content of the documents. Hu then, though he was unsuccessful, appeared to try and take back the documents.

  • The former general-secretary was then helped to his feet by a staff member, and while being escorted out, he appeared to make a gesture of defiance. Hu said a few words to Xi and then lightly tapped Premier Li Keqiang on the shoulder before leaving.

What did Hu tell you at that time? What did you say in response? I am curious. Although it was tweeted in China that the reason for his removal was because of poor health, from what I saw in the video, especially from Hu’s astonished expression, I don’t think anyone in Tokyo would believe that.

In fact, speculation abounds in Tokyo as to what is behind the incident. Besides the poor health theory, there are numerous rumors floating around. For example, there are some who conjecture that Hu was removed because he criticized the concentration of power in your hands. Others suspect that although a compromise had been reached to retain Li Keqiang and Wang Yang in the new leadership, their names were not on the final draft and Hu, who was first informed of this at the podium, wanted to ask for a reconsideration.

If I may take the liberty of commenting on the rumors, I would say that Hu looked old and frail, but not ill. He may not have liked the personnel changes, but if so, it would have been simpler to prevent him from attending the event from the beginning. I also wonder how the ceremony could have gone ahead without many knowing about the last-minute changes to the new leadership. It is hard to believe that Hu did not know about the final appointments in advance.

I could go so far as to suggest that Hu gave up in the end and went to the closing ceremony. But someone in the new leadership orchestrated Hu’s loss of face by having him escorted out just before the closing ceremony to demonstrate your power.

If that is the case, however, it may not have been a good idea. You could have shown your true strength by paying the highest respect to your predecessor.

What do you think are the lessons of the war in Ukraine?

I believe that the biggest lesson from President Vladimir Putin’s failure in the war is that “dictators often make errors in judgment” and that “errors in judgment by absolute dictators cannot be easily corrected.” Since dictators tend to have a lot of yes-men around them, there is a risk that accurate information may not reach the decision makers.

It is true that a more democratic, collective leadership system takes time and often makes policymaking more complicated and tedious. The good thing about such a system, however, is that it is possible to minimize errors in judgment by talking and assessing new information with others.

I hope that the wise leadership of yours can learn a lot from the mistakes of your trusted friend, Putin.

This will result in the fulfillment of your “China Dream” as more talented minds participate in the decision-making process, providing a better environment for the Chinese people. Other nations around the world will welcome China’s rise and development and your country’s leadership will earn greater respect in the international community, a longtime goal of yours.

Wishing you excellent health and good fortune,

Kuni Miyake