TAIPEI -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's ongoing anti-corruption campaign and efforts to bolster his power have alienated him from many and won him numerous enemies, the exiled Chinese dissident Yang Jianli told the Nikkei Asian Review earlier this month during a visit to Taipei.
"Xi has alienated almost everyone in the party, though he has concentrated power in his hand. The more power he concentrates, the more enemies he is making...he is becoming [the] enemy of everyone," said Yang, who is now based in the U.S.
Thousands of Communist Party officials have been arrested and tried amid the crackdown on corruption, a measure Xi has adopted to purge his political foes since he took office in 2012.
Yang, a political activist who was part of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989, said that Xi's efforts to eradicate corruption are not only losing him allies within the party, but are also proving to be widely unpopular with the middle class because the government is partly trying to cut payouts to them as a reward for collusion.
"[In the past the Communist Party] corrupted the elites and changed their loyalties. Elites became defenders of the status quo. That is why China's Communist regime can continue to this day," Yang said.
Yang said that a large number of people joined the middle class by getting government jobs or forging close ties with government officials, so it is in their interest to ensure the continuation of the Community Party's rule.
"But this ruling model is becoming increasingly costly. The government has been collecting more and more taxes from ordinary people while lavishing money, benefits and subsidies on the middle class. That is why Xi must have [the] anti-corruption campaign to reduce [the] costs of his rule," the dissident said.
He said that Xi is facing a deep crisis with the middle class turning its back on him. Further, Yang said that Xi's rumored attempt to extend his term beyond 2022 and stay in office for more than 10 years, an unofficial limitation on the Chinese Communist Party chief's tenure, may give his comrades in the party a legitimate reason to confront him.
"Breaking the norm will become the excuse for his comrades to come on him. He has to find a new mandate for his hold on power," Yang said, adding that the leader might want to relax his tight grip a little.
Yang said that the possible crack in the Beijing leadership may offer China's democracy activists an opportunity, although before that dissidents will need to build a strong unified front. He cautioned that the democracy movement may fizzle out if the opposition ends up with too many fractious factions with divided ideologies, as is happening in Hong Kong.
That is why Yang is trying to build a political opposition team around Liu Xiaobo, the jailed Chinese human rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. Liu is slated to be released from prison in China in 2020.
"Liu Xiaobo is the most recognizable (opposition) leader not only in China but also in the world," Yang said, adding that he also hopes Liu may become China's Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy de-facto leader of Myanmar. "If not him, then who?"