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China’s Surging Authoritarian Nationalism Under Xi Jinping

March 11, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

The announcement that Chinese President Xi Jinping was seeking
to eliminate the limit on the number of terms he
could serve is that latest in a series of ominous developments
during his presidency. Although China has been a one-party state
since the Communist revolution in 1949 that brought Mao Zedong to
power, it has not had the characteristics of a true personal
dictatorship since Mao’s death. Indeed, over the past two
decades, the individuals who have occupied the post of president
have been more akin to corporate chief executive officers, with
other leaders of the Party elite acting as a board of directors
exercising some check on that official’s power.

From the beginning of his tenure, Xi’s leadership has been
different in both tone and substance. Under the guise of combatting
(the very real) problem of corruption, he quietly but
systematically purged officials that he suspected still might
be influenced by his predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, or
who displayed independent, maverick tendencies. There has been a
troubling hardline ideological aspect to his rule as well. Xi
initiated a campaign to revitalize the Party, aiming at achieving a
renewed commitment to Maoist principles. Pro-market
academics also felt the chill of the new political environment,
with several prominent reformers, including
economist Mao Yushi
, the 2012 recipient of the Cato
Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty,
being effectively silenced.

The consolidation of Xi’s personal power, especially if it
continues to exhibit neo-Maoist characteristics, not only has
worrisome domestic implications, it has worrisome implications for
China’s external behavior. Since the onset of the
country’s market-oriented economic reforms in the late 1970s,
Western – especially US – policy has been based on two assumptions.
First, economic reforms would lead to a more open, tolerant
political system, perhaps ultimately culminating in a full-fledged
democracy. Not even the bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown
caused that assumption to waver much; proponents of the thesis
regarded the episode as a setback, not a definitive defeat. Second,
a less autocratic China, fully integrated into the global economy,
would become, in the words of former Deputy Secretary of State and
President of the World Bank Robert Zoellick, a “responsible
stakeholder
” in the international diplomatic and economic
system.

The failure of liberalizing political trends in China to rebound
after Tiananmen Square, despite the passage of nearly three
decades, raises serious doubts about the first assumption. That
was true even before Xi’s efforts to narrow further the
diversity of permissible views. Those moves, combined with his
aggrandizement of personal power, call the entire Western thesis
about economic liberalization creating irresistible momentum for
political liberalization into …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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