"These actions are about strengthening the legal system, purifying the market environment and protecting consumer rights but they also show how China doesn't need these foreign enterprises any more," says Bao Dike, managing editor of the PKU Business Review. "It's not just that we don't need foreign companies to provide jobs and tax revenue, it's also a fact that these foreign companies are occupying the market that belongs to [Chinese] state and private enterprises."
The group of international business leaders that lined up at the State Guest House in late October to pay homage to President Xi were all members of the advisory board of the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management.
This extraordinary who's who of global industry shows just how important the Chinese market has become to many multinational companies and how the balance of power has shifted markedly in favor of the mandarins who control access to this market.
Conspicuously absent from the event were Tsinghua board members Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK, and Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.
Mr Cook was forced to issue a humiliating public apology and a promise to improve customer service policies in April following an intense campaign of criticism from state media.
In March, Volkswagen recalled 380,000 vehicles in China after state television said they were unsafe. In recent weeks several state media reports have targeted Samsung for its smartphone warranty policies and Starbucks for overcharging for its lattes.
(Read more: Xi confident about China's healthy economic growth)
Since KFC was the target of state media stories last December alleging food safety problems, sales at its parent Yum Brands have slumped by over 10 percent this year.
"The government is very aware of the enormous value of the Chinese market for multinationals and it is becoming more ruthless in ensuring that the money is kept in the family rather than letting outsiders grab the fat profits that are available now," says Kerry Brown, professor of Chinese politics at Sydney University. "Politically it is also a very easy populist move to beat up on foreign companies; much easier than taking on big Chinese companies and their powerful domestic backers."
In the government investigations of the pharmaceutical and milk-powder sectors, Beijing appears to have adopted a traditional strategy known as "killing the chicken to scare the monkey".
By pursuing foreign companies the authorities are sending a message to entire industries that they intend to clean things up in order to provide quality products at reasonable prices in industries about which the public is concerned.
By forcing multinationals to lower prices and improve their offerings they are hoping to raise the bar for domestic competitors as well as provide concrete examples to the masses of how their lives are improving under the new administration.
The series of government investigations has been accompanied by a boisterous wave of media campaigns targeting popular global companies for alleged violations of consumer rights.
(Read more: China's manufacturing activity picks up pace)
These have often been led by the largest state media outlets, particularly state broadcaster China Central Television, and have been juiced up with inflammatory accusations of racism and disdain for Chinese consumers.
"We are actually witnessing two different things: one is the exposing of foreign companies' bribery and bad behavior in China and the other is CCTV's ridiculous populist reports that are not necessarily directly ordered by the top leaders," says Li Huafang, an independent economist and popular newspaper columnist.
"I actually think the new administration wants to strengthen regulations for both foreign and domestic businesses."
Mr Li and many other analysts believe that what appears to be a concerted and organised campaign of economic nationalism is more likely just fallout from Mr Xi's much broader domestic political agenda.
By this logic, companies such as GSK, KFC, Mead Johnson, Apple and Starbucks are collateral damage in the new president's campaign to consolidate his power, shore up Communist party legitimacy and avoid political instability.
The two sides of this campaign are Mr Xi's ruthless handling of any perceived challenges to continued one-party rule and his efforts to address the main complaints of his citizens.
In that sense, it is not contradictory for Mr Xi to personally praise global capitalists while some of their businesses are targeted under his watch. That is because those attacks are not an end in themselves but rather a side-effect of his primary goals.
(Read more: China's economic growth more like 4%: Marc Faber)
The rough treatment of some foreign businesses "stems from Mr Xi's need to establish his authority, to impose his will; this is a very common tactic among new rulers", says Wang Lixiong, a prominent political writer. "We need to wait until he has consolidated power to see what his real intentions are."
One popular interpretation of Mr Xi's conservative lurch is that he is consolidating power by adopting what is described in China as a traditionalist "leftist" approach in preparation for an eventual move to the more liberal reformist "right".
But so far there has been nothing to suggest he will eventually shift direction.
"I don't see any evidence from his background or persona or from the way that the current system is structured to suggest that Xi is moving to the left because he wants to move to the right," says François Godement, professor of political science at Sciences Po and director for strategy of the Asia Center in Paris. "We've really had all indications to the contrary and this seems more like wishful thinking."
The good news for international companies is that, for now, many of them are still being formally welcomed by Mr Xi.
As long as they can show that their investments and operations in China support or at least do not get in the way of efforts to garner support for the party and its leadership, they will probably be allowed to stay and even thrive.
But "increasingly multinational companies will in all sorts of subtle and not subtle ways be made to adapt their behavior to meet the political and economic needs of the party", Mr Brown says. "It is quite a rational response for the government in Beijing to leverage this great prize which is their domestic market."