Xi’s era beginsChinese President Xi Jinping unveiled the makeup of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party with himself at the helm and without any apparent successors after his second term ends in 2022. The Communist Party on Tuesday approved an amendment in the party constitution to include Xi’s name and his doctrine — an honor only the party founder Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, architect of China’s opening policy, have been granted.
He further cemented his political hold by seating his allies on the party’s top decision-making politburo. He also left room for maintaining power beyond his second five-year term by bypassing the usual ritual of naming a successor.
Xi’s mighty power can bring about both positive and negative repercussions. He could keep policy consistent over the next five years and pursue his aspiration of building China up as a superpower. Xi wants to ensure no one is left behind in the country’s transition towards the “new era.” To ensure the country achieves its goal, he is considering the need for stronger-than-ever leadership. By not naming a successor, he could spur competition among aspiring talents for leadership.
Then, there is the downside of the oversized power of a single man. The concentrated power of Xi could undermine political stability in the country. China’s political upheavals historically stemmed from power struggles among political rivals. The purging of the heirs Liu Shaoqi and Lin Biao unleashed the Cultural Revolution and decade-long turbulence in Mao’s age. The discharge of potential heirs Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang also triggered student and liberalists’ protests and the Tiananmen Square massacre. In order to avoid chaos, Deng restored the politburo system based on collective leadership.
China survived in a rare single-party system because of the check-and-balance mechanism in the party. Thanks to political stability, the economy has roared since the 1990s. Xi has broken the legacy and could stoke instability in the world’s second most powerful country.
Internal fragility can rock the surface. Any instability in China could have massive ramifications in the region. North Korea is getting closer to perfecting nuclear weapons. Japan is marching towards remilitarization and arms buildup. China is becoming more aggressive and assertive. The world around us is fast changing. We must rigorously examine our strategy and survival plan.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 26, Page 38