October 18, 2023
SINGAPORE – China’s north-western province of Shaanxi paid tribute to its native son Xi Zhongxun – President’s Xi Jinping’s late father – on Sunday, marking the 110th anniversary of the birth of the revolutionary veteran.
But commemorations of the man who died in 2002 were perceived to be low-key compared with 2013, when family and close friends attended a closed-door event in Beijing to mark the centenary of his birth.
Commemorative stamps were issued, books were published, and a six-episode television documentary was broadcast.
But the event this year was more muted.
“Xi Zhongxun’s commemoration this year was low-key, because its scale cannot exceed that of Chairman Mao (Zedong’s),” a party insider told The Straits Times, requesting anonymity.
China will mark Mao’s 130th birth anniversary on Dec 26.
Also, centennials carry more weight than other anniversary milestones.
It is politically wise, one retired party cadre said, to play down tributes to the late Mr Xi to avoid any domestic rift at a time when President Xi is grappling with a slowing economy and a United States seeking to contain China.
“Commemorations were held in Shaanxi and Guangdong because Xi Zhongxun was from Shaanxi and used to work in Guangdong.”
“It would be ostentatious to hold high-profile commemorations nationwide,” the retired party cadre said.
A headline splashed on the front page of the Shaanxi Daily, the organ of the Communist Party’s provincial committee, read: “A leader of the masses who emerged from the masses.”
The newspaper lauded the late Xi for helping establish the Shaanxi and Gansu revolutionary base, which gave refuge to Mao and the Red Army after the gruelling 1934-35 Long March.
The Long March was the retreat of tens of thousands of Communist troops over thousands of kilometres from South-east China to the north, in order to evade Nationalist forces during the Chinese civil war.
President Xi’s younger brother Xi Yuanping attended a ceremony in Mr Xi Zhongxun’s hometown in Shaanxi on Sunday.
The ceremony was also attended by top provincial officials.
Mr Xi Yuanping is currently the president of the International Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Association.
State media made no mention of President Xi attending any event.
Mr Huang Kunming, party secretary of the southern province of Guangdong, held a study session on Oct 8, tipping his hat to the late Mr Xi, who is regarded as the architect of China’s special economic zones.
The Southern Daily, which is published by the party’s Guangdong provincial committee, credited the late Mr Xi with politically rehabilitating thousands of Guangdong party cadres who were wrongfully purged during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.
Mr Xi Zhongxun was considered a liberal by Communist standards.
When he served in Guangdong from 1978 to 1981 as governor and subsequently party secretary, he spared hundreds, if not thousands, of Guangdong residents caught trying to flee to neighbouring Hong Kong, then a British colony, on grounds that they were merely seeking a better life and were not traitors.
A revolutionary, he fought against the invading Japanese and subsequently Kuomintang troops in the Chinese civil war.
After the 1949 Communist revolution, Mr Xi Zhongxun became China’s youngest vice-premier before being purged by Mao in 1962 on accusations of leading an anti-party clique.
He was demoted and worked as assistant manager of a tractor factory in Luoyang in the central province of Henan.
After he was was politically rehabilitated in 1978, he served as party secretary of export powerhouse Guangdong, and as vice-chairman of parliament and member of the party’s decision-making Politburo.
He died in May 2002 at the age of 88.