Arthur Kroeber

After the closure of the 19th Party Congress this week, analysts try to figure out what happened during the meeting. It’s not about internal party fighting, as some claim, says economist Arthur Kroeber. President Xi Jinping changed the country through his all-out anti-corruption drive, and that started already five years ago, he tells NPR.


In August 2012, Chinese politician Xi Jinping suddenly disappeared for three weeks. China’s 18th Party Congress was weeks away, an event where Xi would be anointed as China’s next leader.

To this day, nobody but key members of China’s top leadership knows why.

“One story that’s popular among the ‘chatterati’ of Beijing is that there was a lot of concern about the Bo Xilai situation and what it meant for the party,” says Arthur Kroeber, managing director of Gavekal Dragonomics.

The year 2012 was a tumultuous one for China’s Communist Party. Top politician Bo Xilai was under investigation after his wife was convicted of murdering a foreigner, and corruption within party ranks was spiraling out of control.

Kroeber says the rumor behind Xi’s disappearance that summer begins with Xi’s going to China’s Communist Party elders.

“And the story goes that he said, ‘Look. We’ve got a serious problem here. This requires very serious measures to rein in corruption and impose more discipline, and I’ll do that, but you need to give me carte blanche to do what I want,’ ” says Kroeber.

If party elders weren’t prepared to give Xi these powers, the tale goes, then he wasn’t interested in the job.

This, of course, is a rumor. But if true, it would help explain Xi’s rise to become one of the world’s strongest leaders.

“I think the evidence that we have is that (building his own faction) … is not his aim,” Kroeber says.

He points to how far-reaching Xi’s campaign has become, permeating every level of government.

“His aim is much broader,” Kroeber says. “He wants to create a system that will survive after him. And in that sense, he is a kind of member of this Chinese elite that has a sense of mission about the country as whole.”

More in NPR.

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