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Explained: Who is Cai Xia, the Chinese dissident who called Xi Jinping a ‘mafia boss’

An important Chinese establishment figure for several years, Cai has in recent times become a fierce critic of the country’s authoritarian leadership. On Tuesday, she called the Communist Party a “political zombie”.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 24, 2020 9:00:12 am
Chinese dissident Cai Xia, xi jinping cai xia, china communist party dissent, china dissidents, communist party china, who is cai xia, indian express explainedCai, who has been living in the United States since last year, has been described as an advocate of political liberalisation in China.(Twitter: KenRoth)

Influential Chinese insider-turned-dissident Cai Xia, who in an audio recording leaked in June called China’s President Xi Jinping a “mafia boss”, was expelled from the Chinese Communist Party early this week.

Cai has cited Chinese aggression in Galwan as an example of Xi Jinping’s “ways to divert the attention of the Chinese public”.

An important Chinese establishment figure for several years, Cai has in recent times become a fierce critic of the country’s authoritarian leadership. On Tuesday, she called the Communist Party a “political zombie” and blamed Xi for “damaging the country’s reputation” in a Guardian interview.

Cai, who has been living in the United States since last year, has been described as an advocate of political liberalisation in China.

Who is Cai Xia?

A retired professor of the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party, Cai taught democratic politics to officials who were meant to rise in the country’s power structure. The elite training institution is considered an important part of the Chinese establishment and has previously been led by the country’s founder Mao Zedong, Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao, as well as by Xi himself.

Cai is a “second-generation red”, whose parents fought in the Chinese Communist Revolution, and has risen from the ranks herself, working in the military, in a factory, and then as a schoolteacher before entering academia.

Held in high regard by many in the Communist Party, her tirade against Xi is being considered especially damaging compared to other dissenting voices in the country — her comments are even being interpreted as a sign of Xi’s waning power among Communist Party cadres nationwide.

According to a Taiwan News report, Cai said she had been attacked for her remarks since 2011, and was warned against criticising the Communist Party. She has said that since her departure from China, the Party has been demanding her return.

After the Central Party School revoked Cai’s retirement benefits as well as her party membership, Cai said Thursday that she was “delighted” about the expulsion, and refused to express regret for her defiance.

“I believe I am not the only one who wants to leave this party. More people would like to withdraw or quit this party,” she was quoted as saying by The Guardian. “I had intended to quit the party years ago when there was no more room to speak and my voice was completely blocked,” she added. Chinese state media are now calling Cai a “traitor” and an “extreme dissident”.

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Comments about Xi Jinping

“Under the regime of Xi, the Chinese Communist Party is not a force for progress for China. In fact, it is an obstacle to China’s progress,” Cai told The Guardian.

In an audio recording that was leaked in June, Cai suggested that a seven-member Politburo team should replace the authoritarian leader, who she accused of “killing a party and a country”.

She has also come out in support of Ren Zhiqiang, a Chinese business tycoon who is facing graft charges in the country after he publicly criticised Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

On the country’s Covid-19 response, Cai has alleged that Xi’s “unchecked power” led to inevitable mistakes. “If he knew on January 7, why did it take until 20 January to announce the outbreak? In other words, the fact that people were concealing the news from him is the result of the system,” Cai said. “But when he knew the situation on 7 January, he did not make it public or mobilise resources. So shouldn’t he bear responsibility?” she told The Guardian in June.

Cai has called the enforcement of Hong Kong’s new national security law a “terrible decision”, according to Taiwan News. The retired professor also claimed that there is “widespread opposition in the party” but only few dare to speak as they are “afraid of political retaliation in the form of internal party discipline and corruption charges”.

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On India-China tensions in Ladakh

In the Guardian interview from June, Cai accused Xi of making “the world an enemy” of China, and said that the leader wants to “consolidate his own position and authority.”

“Considering domestic economic and social tensions, as well as those in the party of the last few years, (Xi) will think of ways to divert the attention of the Chinese public, provoking conflict with other countries, for example encouraging anti-American sentiment and the recent clash between China and India,” Cai said.

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