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China censoring discussion of President Xi’s ‘unanimous’ election

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(TibetanReview.net, Mar19’23) – There appears to be something fishy about party secretary Xi Jinping’s “unanimous” election as the president of China and the Chairman of its Central Military Commission which was held on Mar 10. Censors have been strenuously blocking online discussions of the event which took place during the recently concluded session of the National People’s Congress, China’s rubberstamp parliament.

The unanimous vote on the presidency by the Communist Party-controlled legislature formalized Mr Xi’s continued dominance of Chinese politics after he had already claimed a fresh term as party leader in Oct 2022. He will keep holding the three main crowns of power in China — party, military and state — with no rivals or potential successors vying for attention, noted the chinadigitaltimes.net Mar 13.

The 2,952 congress delegates — selected for their loyalty to the party — stood to applaud Mr Xi after they had all voted to keep him as president, the report said, citing the New York Times.

Online discussion of the unanimous vote was tightly censored. Searches for the hashtag #2952#, the number of votes Xi won, returned the following message: “According to the relevant laws, regulations and policies, the page is not found,” the report noted.

On Mar 12 evening, searches for “2952” only returned results from verified state- and Party-affiliated accounts, colloquially known as “Blue V’s.” Searches for the term, “the People’s choice,” which Party outlets used to celebrate Xi’s election, similarly only returned results from Blue V accounts.

Party mouthpiece People’s Daily was stated to have censored its own 2011 essay in which it warned: “If the people’s will continues to be hijacked through ‘unanimous elections,’ it will fuel public resentment.”

In 2003, Xi himself had warned against the unanimous election of cadres, the report continued.

And just yesterday (Mar 12), one netizen’s attempt to turn an image of Xi’s unanimous re-election as President and chairman of the Central Military Commission into a graphic design for a t-shirt landed them in hot water. The Taobao retailer they contacted to produce the shirt said it was “not possible to print,” and the netizen later discovered that their Alipay account had been suspended.

Censors were also stated to have targeted essays about the pivotal early 20th century political figure Yuan Shikai, whose unanimous Mar 10 election as president 111 years before Xi’s had attracted much derision, with Beijing-based historian Zhang Lifan calling it a farce, and “a serious drama worthy of the name.”

The report noted that netizens had been drawing comparisons between Yuan Shikai and Xi Jinping since at least 2018, giving birth to the pun “the second-coming of Yuan Shikai” (二次袁) which is a homophone for “Anime, Comics, and Games” (二次元).

WeChat articles intimating a comparison between Xi and Yuan are said to be tightly censored. Even a “this day in history” article on Yuan’s 1912 election that made no overt or implicit reference to the current era was stated to have been censored after it was published on WeChat.

Despite such tight controls, some Yuan Shikai comparisons flew under censors’ radar. In the aftermath of Xi’s unanimous election, netizens began sharing a 2018 essay from Shanxi Television’s WeChat account on Yuan Shikai’s fondness for Tianjin’s famed Goubili “A Dog Wouldn’t Touch ‘Em” steamed buns. “Steamed Bun Xi” is perhaps the longest enduring of Xi’s many censored nicknames, the report said.

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