Three strong menWith Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin completing political systems that can extend their terms in office, the two communist states are entering a new era of absolute power.
Xi was re-elected as president and chairman of the Central Military Commission in a de facto unanimous vote at the National People’s Congress on Saturday. He earlier removed presidential term limits from the Constitution, the only obstacle to his long-term presidency.
At the Communist Party Congress in October, Xi was already named general secretary of the party, giving him control of the three pillars of power in China — party, government and military — without any constraints.
Meanwhile in Russia, Vladimir Putin was re-elected president with more than 76 percent of the vote on Sunday. Based on the overwhelming support, he is en route to becoming a 21st-century czar. Putin will most likely go down in history as the longest serving ruler of Russia — a whopping 24 years, second only to Joseph Stalin — if he manages to run the nation without a hitch.
With the alarming developments in China and Russia, what American political scientist Francis Fukuyama declared as the triumph of liberal democracy in “The End of History” could turn into an ephemeral mirage.
If authoritarianism takes root in both countries in the long run, it will affect the fate of the Korean Peninsula in a big way.
First, Sino-U.S. and Russian-U.S. conflicts will surely intensify on the international stage. Xi’s “Chinese dream” and Putin’s revival of a “strong Russia” will run on a collision course with President Trump’s “America First” dogma on a plethora of disputes around the world. The three strongmen’s calculations on the peninsula will be more complicated than ever.
With an inter-Korean summit scheduled for April and another between North Korea and the United States in May, China will likely resort to more aggressive strategies to flex its muscle on Korea out of concern that Beijing could be ignored on critical issues involving the peninsula’s fate.
Putin will also likely meddle in peninsular issues to augment Russia’s position in East Asia after conflicts with Western countries over Ukraine. The Moon Jae-in administration must wisely deal with China, Russia and Japan if it really wants to solve this higher-degree equation.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 19, Page 30