Magazine article Variety

XI Tightens Grip; China Falls into Line

Magazine article Variety

XI Tightens Grip; China Falls into Line

Article excerpt

THE APOTHEOSIS OF Chinese President Xi Jinping is well nigh complete. China's justconcluded Communist Party congress, a key political gathering held once every five years, cemented Xi's status as the country's most powerful leader since the Great Helmsman himself, Mao Zedong, with no rivals to challenge him.

The congress also enshrined Xi's authoritarian, assertive approach to policy as official doctrine, meaning that China's ideological and financial clampdown of the past several months is set to become the status quo. Xi Jinping Thought has been written into the party's constitution, an honor not accorded to a living Chinese leader since Mao. In the technology and entertainment space - politically sensitive areas - both domestic players and foreign suitors such as Hollywood will likely have to get used to increased central control by Beijing.

Indeed, some of China's biggest entertainment executives quickly lined up to kowtow to Xi and his agenda for his second five-year term, which he laid out in a speech lasting more than three hours. That agenda includes pursuing China's own system of governance (read: no Western-style democracy), promoting "socialism with Chinese characteristics," easing the vast social inequalities that have arisen over the past 30 years of breakneck economic development and adopting a muscular foreign policy.

"Listening to [Xi's] report, I felt a surge of emotion," Dalian Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin enthused. The property-to-entertainment conglomerate has been severely chastened by Xi's government in the last few months, forced to halt its aggressive overseas acquisitions and unload many of its hotels and theme parks.

Likewise, Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, made it known that he supports Xi's proposals on income redistribution. Alibaba, too, has felt the heavy hand of government direction. Part of Xi's vision of a strong, globally powerful China entails shoring up the country's laggard state-owned enterprises and giving them the chance to catch up to or overtake private companies in some fields. Last month saw a round of government-ordered investments by leading private firms, including Alibaba and Tencent, in state-owned enterprises such as telecom company China Unicom. There have also been new orders to install Communist Party functionaries on the boards of private companies. …

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