Xi Jinping Ruling China ‘Forever’ May Not Be So Bad. Or Is It?
Xi Jinping can now stay on as China’s ruler, possibly till his death. How is the world reacting to this development?
On 11 March, 2,958 lawmakers of China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, voted to approve a constitutional amendment abolishing the two-term limit on Presidency.
This move allows Chinese President Xi Jinping to rule the country indefinitely. Xi can now stay on as China’s President till he is either dead, or forcibly ousted from power.
The limit was put in place by leader Deng Xiaoping, in 1982, after Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” and “Cultural Revolution”, left millions dead.
China’s move, however, hardly comes as a surprise to people who have kept an eye on Xi’s rise to power. With that said, the worldwide commentary on Xi essentially locking the doors to power and keeping the only key with himself, has been split.
‘Strongman Politics Dredges Up Memories of Mao’
Charlie Campbell, writes in TIME magazine, that Xi asserting a vice-like grip on the reins of power is reminiscent of the Mao Zedong era.
...China’s return to strongman politics dredges up dark memories of the nation’s tribulations under Mao Zedong, whose ill-fated Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution cost tens of millions of lives. With reverence for Xi a necessary condition for career advancement, there’s very little incentive to voice differing opinions...Excerpt from the TIME article
While adding that China could justify the move for a “stable leader,” given Donald Trump’s ascent to Presidency, Campbell adds...
It may ultimately bode ill for Xi also. For while Mao’s authority owed much to reverence for his revolutionary exploits, and Deng’s leadership was rooted in fatherly admiration, Xi “is much more, if you like, feared,” says Professor Steve Tsang, director of SOAS China Institute at the University of London.Excerpt from the TIME article
‘Weakening Western Leaderships Highlight Need for Strong Chinese Government’
Not too surprisingly, Chinese state-run daily Global Times featured an opinion piece titled ‘Constitutional Changes for Better Governance’ highlighting the “need for stronger Chinese governance.”
...in an unstable world where Western leaderships are being weakened by the erosion of their governance models due to corruption and social inequality, it is an advantage of China that it has a strong government to guarantee the economic and social stability that people need.Excerpt from the Global Times article
The Chinese mouthpiece adds that the “weakening” of the United States’ governance further justifies the revision of the clause placing the limit on Xi’s tenure as President.
When Xi declared at the 19th CPC National Congress that China is “moving closer to center stage and making greater contributions to mankind,” the West interpreted it as a threat when it is nothing more than a factual assertion.Excerpt from the Global Times article
'US Could Benefit From Xi Staying in Power’
Fortune Magazine paints a more optimistic picture of Xi’s ascent to the throne, raising China’s economic initiatives, elaborating how businesses in the United States could benefit, in a commentary titled, ‘Why U.S. Businesses Should Want Xi to Be China’s President for Life’
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Xi’s signature foreign policy program, will likely remain a centerpiece of Beijing’s engagement with the rest of the world for the foreseeable future. This massive and ambitious transnational infrastructure project will take decades, if not generations, to complete.Excerpt from Fortune Magazine’s piece
The BRI or One-Belt-One-Road(OBOR) initiative is likely to rejig the world’s economies, linking China more deeply with the world.
Since the BRI is only in the beginning stages and already fraught with political challenges abroad, Chinese policymakers have likely concluded that keeping Xi at the helm will remove any doubt about China’s commitment to the initiative’s success.Excerpt from Fortune Magazine’s piece
‘End of China’s ‘Collective Leadership’’
Swaran Singh, Professor at JNU, however asks in an opinion piece in Hindustan Times whether the constitutional amendment has effectively focused too much power in one person’s hands, something that Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping had worked to avoid, by pushing for the two-year limit passed in 1982.
Xi not only holds the most powerful position of party secretary general and chairman of the Central Military Commission, but already chairs a dozen other top-level ‘small policy groups’.Excerpt from the Hindustan Times opinion piece
Professor Singh goes on to highlight the fine details, which he says are the “real cause of concern,” in the tale of Xi’s rise.
The real cause of concern should be the methodologies of Xi’s rise and their systemic implications. Xi’s most powerful tool has been anti-graft campaigns that have imprisoned hundreds of thousands officials. Institutions have been replaced by personalities. At the centre of this transmutation lies the end of China’s ‘collective’ leadership, which has been the key to China’s rise since early 1990s.
Xi’s Influence Will Be Felt in More Disturbing Ways
An article in The Economist says that Xi’s elevation as the possible permanent leader of China could benefit the country by providing “stability and clarity”.
The apparent certainty that Mr Xi will be the country’s leader for, at a minimum, another decade, should also give officials and enterprises confidence to make longer-term plans.Excerpt from the article in The Economist
However, the article goes on to add that the near-permanent nature of Xi’s Presidency could lead to an inclination to fall in line with Xi’s policies, even at the cost of citizens’ suffering.
A case in point was the environmental campaign which left thousands of residents of Hebei, a northern province, without heating at the start of winter, after local officials choked off coal supplies to meet pollution targets.Excerpt from the article in The Economist
(With inputs from Hindustan Times, The Economist, TIME, Fortune, Global Times, and the NY Times)
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.