Xi’s ongoing consolidation of power bodes ill for China and the world

The Yomiuri ShimbunWill the the stability of China become impaired with the high-handed politics of Chinese President Xi Jinping accelerating under the one-party rule of the Chinese Communist Party? The future of a different kind of great power is an unavoidable cause of concern.

The meeting of the National People’s Congress of China, the national legislature, has kicked off. The country’s Constitution will be amended for the first time in 14 years.

The constitutional provision that limits the state’s president to “two terms [totaling] 10 years” will be deleted, and the top law will also enshrine “Xi Jinping Thought,” following the doctrine’s earlier entry into the party rules.

With the scrapping of the limits, Xi will be able to assume the reins of government even from 2023 onward, the year when his second term as president is set to end. Without doubt, the concentration of power in Xi will advance further.

While his two predecessors as president — Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao — handed over the post of president to their successors after they had served two terms totalling 10 years, Xi is attempting to change the existing political system. At the party convention last year, Xi also omitted tentatively designating his successor.

Xi’s objective is to make China a “great power” on par with the United States by the middle of this century. He seems to have the idea that in realizing such an objective, it is indispensable to reinforce the president’s leadership ability and to prolong the administration.

Having reflected on the fact that the excessive power concentrated in the hands of Mao Zedong — the nation’s founding father — invited a cult of personality, which brought about such chaos as the Cultural Revolution, China has capped the term of the state’s president, while adopting a collective leadership system.

Military buildup alarming

It is a fact that in recent years, the adverse effects of such a system have become conspicuous. Under the previous Hu administration, the dispersal of authority among the members of the party’s supreme leadership hindered swift decision-making and policy consistency.

It is troubling that the establishment of “Xi’s concentration of power system” and his long-term administration also contain within them the danger of their running counter to the stable governance.

With the key posts within the party and the state government dominated by Xi’s close aides and the like, any dissenting opinions have been contained. Even when Xi makes a wrong decision, it would be difficult to modify the course of action. Given the profound impact China could have on the global economy and security as the world’s second largest power, concern cannot be shrugged off.

Despite the reinforcement of controls of speech under the Xi administration, there have been a series of criticism made on websites run by Chinese providers about the party’s scrapping the term limit on the presidency. This must indicate that public discontent is smoldering over hasty reforms.

At the meeting of the National People’s Congress, this year’s military spending was unveiled. It totals over ¥18 trillion, an 8.1 percent increase from the previous year, even surpassing the targeted year-on-year economic growth rate of “around 6.5 percent.” The ¥18 trillion budget is more than three times as much as that of Japan.

The Xi administration is moving ahead with building up its air and naval forces to counter those of the United States. It will deploy top-of-the-line stealth fighters, while also aiming at building a new nuclear aircraft carrier. It cannot be overlooked that the country is advancing its military expansion policy, while not disclosing the breakdown of the military budget or the actual state of its military equipment.

It is essential for neighboring countries, including Japan, to keep an eye on China’s moves that could escalate the regional tension.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 7, 2018)Speech


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