October 27, 2022

Xi Jinping: An Echo of Saddam?

By Robert D. Kaplan

Xi Jinping’s consolidation of power at the recent Communist Party congress in Beijing was accomplished with a Shakespearean twist. Xi’s predecessor as president, Hu Jintao, seated next to Xi, appeared to be forcibly removed from the closing session of the congress by two attendants before the television cameras. Hu had presided over a comparatively open and prosperous political and economic system, when U.S.-China relations seemed stable and improvable. While there may be a mundane explanation for Hu’s removal from the congress, such as a health scare, given the perfectionist choreography of these events, chances are that Xi himself had ordered Hu’s public humiliation.

For both men, absolute power was not enough. Someone had to be publicly humiliated in a dramatic fashion in order to drive the point home.

It recalled to my mind another such humiliation, albeit far more brutal. On July 22, 1979, six days after officially replacing Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr as president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein convened a meeting of Baath Socialist party leaders which he ordered videotaped and which is available on YouTube. Seated on stage, Saddam announced that sixty-six party leaders had been uncovered as traitors and comprised a fifth column. As each name was read out, guards grabbed a baffled man from his seat in the audience and forced him out of the auditorium. At the end of this process, those still seated, white with both fear and relief, spontaneously leaped to their feet shouting undying loyalty to Saddam. Of the sixty-six named, twenty-two were quickly ordered executed by firing squads. Wider purges followed that autumn. The country now was literally Saddam’s. He had achieved total fear.

Read the full article from National Interest.

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Affairs
    • November 18, 2022
    Taking on China and Russia

    Today Washington has chosen, perhaps by default, to compete with—and if necessary, confront—both Russia and China simultaneously and indefinitely....

    By Richard Fontaine

  • Podcast
    • November 13, 2022
    U.S. May Seek to Stabilize Relationship with China at Crucial Meeting

    ABC NewsRadio's Thomas Oriti spoke to Jacob Stokes, Senior Fellow for the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security on U.S.-China Relations, as P...

    By Jacob Stokes

  • Podcast
    • November 1, 2022
    China with Jacob Stokes

    The Chinese Communist Party’s 20th Congress is in the rearview mirror but what lessons can we take from it about the future of China’s domestic and foreign policy. Grant and Z...

    By Jacob Stokes

  • Commentary
    • Just Security
    • October 24, 2022
    Democracies Must Stop Playing Games with Myanmar’s Representation at the United Nations

    Member States that believe in human rights and democracy must take the necessary steps to give back to the Burmese people — from whom so much has been taken — their voice....

    By Kelley Eckels Currie

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia