Sunday 25 February 2018

Xi Jinping: ruler for life.

Today's news unveiling of plans to amend the Chinese constitution to allow Xi Jinping (and, not that it really matters, PRC VP Li Yuanchao) to serve more than two terms should not come as any kind of surprise to anyone who has been following the developments of the last seven years in China. Here's what I wrote about his assent to power,then already in process, in 2011:
We may be more than a year away from the beginning of Xi Jinping's reign, but it is hard not to see the same crude artlessness in these arrests [i.e., of Ai Weiwei and others] that Xi has betrayed in many of his public pronouncements. I hope I'm wrong, but I cannot rid myself of the idea that Xi's rule is going to be disastrous for both the CCP and China. It is hard not to think that we are seeing the end of the balancing act that the CCP has so successfully conducted these past 32 years, and the beginning of an unashamed totalitarianism which few in the CCP ranks want, even if their new leader apparently does. The relatively subtle touch introduced by Deng in 1979 risks being undone, if not the economic reforms of that year and later.
We are now seeing this totalitarianism taking form. The weak and nascent organs of civil society (e.g., civil rights groups like Gongmeng) that managed to grow during the early Hu years have been eliminated or co-opted in a process that began even before Xi officially took power, internal opponents within the CCP have been wiped out by an "anti-corruption" campaign the real purpose of which was the elimination of Xi's opponents within the party, Xi Jinping has been declared a "Core leader" and had his ideology enshrined in every communist party document which matters - essentially he has been declared the equivalent of a red god whilst still being early in his reign.

 It is now that the failure to implement any real political reforms during the Jiang/Hu years really begins to bite. Deng merely set aside many of the tools of Mao's dictatorship, but they remained for a later generation to pick up and use. Xi has been compared to Putin, which is a very fair comparison, but even Putin has not yet dared to actually amend the Russian constitution to allow himself more than two consecutive terms, preferring instead to use Medvedev as his puppet president for a term.

 The real question that should be on everyone's mind is: what is it that Xi plans to do with this power? Some leaders would be content merely to continue consolidation of power - gaining power for power's sake - but is Xi one of those leaders, or does he have something else in mind? If instead what Xi wants is to write his name into history, then it is time for people in Taiwan and elsewhere to sit up, take notice, and prepare themselves.