Xi Jinping Consolidates Power In China
While Donald Trump continues to create chaos in the United States with every utterance and Tweet, Chinese President Xi Jinping is consolidating his power:
BEIJING — China’s Communist Party formally elevated President Xi Jinping to the same status as party legends Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping on Tuesday, writing his name into its constitution and setting the nation’s leader up for an extended stay in power.
The move will make Xi the most powerful Chinese leader in decades, with ambitions to tighten party control over society and make his country a superpower on the world stage.
The unanimous vote to enshrine “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in a New Era” in the constitution came on the final day of the week-long 19th Party Congress, a gathering of the party elite held once every five years in the imposing and cavernous Great Hall of the People on the western side of Beijing’s iconic Tiananmen Square.
The meeting effectively marks the start of Xi’s second five-year-term as party general secretary, but the chances are now higher that this will not be his last – although in the opaque world of Chinese party politics, nothing is certain.
“The amendment of the party constitution effectively confirms Xi Jinping’s aspiration to be the Mao Zedong of the 21st century — that means a top leader with no constraints on tenure or retirement age,” said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a political expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“The fact that he has become the new helmsman of the ship of state, providing guiding principles for party, state and military, provides the perfect justification for him to stay number one well beyond the normal 10 years,”
The inclusion of Xi’s name in the party’s document makes him only the third Chinese leader to be so honored, with his ideology joining Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory as a “guide to action.” It will now become compulsory learning for Chinese students from primary schools through to universities.
China’s Communist Party imposed a system of collective leadership after the death of Mao, scarred by the madness, cruelty and famine one man had imposed through the disasters of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.
As a result, Xi’s two predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao ruled through consensus — as the “first among equals” at the top of the ladder — and were limited to two terms in power.
Now the party is moving back in the other direction.
Xi’s power is not unlimited, and many of his key policy measures reflect ideas adopted by the party before he took power. Yet the past week has seen an explosion of sycophancy toward China’s leader, after his mammoth three-and-a-half-hour speech kicked off proceedings last Wednesday. This is a personal style of rule, much like Vladimir Putin’s in Russia.
Throughout the week, senior officials lined up, one after the other, to abase themselves, lauding Xi’s profound, courageous, thrilling, insightful masterpiece of a speech, that shone “the light of Marxist Truth” and moved some of them from the bottom of their hearts.
(…)”The introduction of Xi Thought makes the question of succession while Xi is alive a moot issue,” said Bill Bishop, publisher of the Sinocism newsletter. ”So long as Xi has not met Marx, he is the man with an eponymous theory in the party constitution, so no one will have more authority than him,” — no matter what title Xi holds.
Xi Jinping Thought embodies two important principles, experts say: first that the party is in control of every aspect of life in China, from the economy to the Internet, from politics to culture and religion. The party must be more disciplined, and more responsive to people’s needs, but its leadership must not be questioned.
The second is that China is on a path to become a true global superpower — very much on its own terms.
“Under his reign, there is no more hope of convergence,” said Godement, referring to the idea that China would become more open, more ruled by law and more democratic, as it became wealthier, that its interests and political system with ultimately converge with those of the West.
The idea of political reform in a Western sense is now firmly out of the window.
Xi’s message is one of a nationalist, assertive China, one that he says will not threaten the world, but will resolutely defend its interests.
“By the middle of this century or before, China aims to close the gap economically and militarily with the United States, and become the ultimate arbiter in the Asia-Pacific region,” Lam said.
While the two nations political systems, are relatively power in the world, are vastly different, the moves to consolidate Xi’s position in China is in many respects not very different from the moves that Vladimir Putin has made in Russia to consolidate his own power and make it clear that his agenda and the direction that Russia will take are one and the same. Like Putin, Xi is a long-time loyalist who climbed his way to the top of the political heap thanks in no small part to political cunning that most of his potential competitors for power appear to lack. Additionally, both men share a rather obvious desire to enhance the position of their respective nations at the expense of the West in general and the United States in particular in both the economic sense and the extent of influence they have in other parts of the world.
This isn’t to say that the situations in Russia and China are identical, of course, Domestically, Putin and his ruling party at least attempt to maintain the illusion that Russia is some kind of democratic regime via elections and a supposedly free press that, even with the state controls that exist, is far more open than anything that exists in China outside of Hong Kong. Internationally, the main difference between the two, of course, is that Russia has shown itself to be far more willing to use its military as part of its plan to advance that goal than China has, as events in Ukraine and Syria over the past several years have shown quite apparently. China, meanwhile, has used its economic power to expand its influence into areas where Russia is barely even a factor, such as Africa, which it is quickly becoming a competitor to the United States in the quest for the raw materials necessary to make everything from nuclear weapons to smartphones. The main reason for this difference, of course, is that Russia lacks the ability to have the kind of economic impact that China does and that, from an economic point of view, Russia ranks well below its southern neighbor in both economic performance and its ability to use that economic power to advance national interests.
As I noted above, all of this is occurring in Russia and China while the United States is being led by someone who has no idea what he’s doing and whose only demonstrated ability seems to be the ability throw the nation’s political system into chaos, undercut his own agenda, and wreck relationships between the United States and its most important allies. The contrast couldn’t be any more apparent, and one has to believe that Xi and Putin are well aware of it and prepared to exploit the Trumpidian chaos in the years to come. What that means for the United States and the rest of the West down the road is something only time will reveal, but it likely won’t be good news.