Keyu Jin: What Does Xi Jinping Want?
Xi Jinping has emerged from the recent 19th National Congress as China's most powerful leader since Deng Xiaoping. But power in any political system is a means to an end, and for Xi that end is a smooth transition into modernity that cements the Communist Party's authority and ensures his own legacy as modern China's most significant leader. -Watch video
Xi Jinping has emerged from the recent 19th National Congress as China's most powerful leader since Deng Xiaoping. But power in any political system is a means to an end, and for Xi that end is a smooth transition into modernity that cements the Communist Party's authority and ensures his own legacy as modern China's most significant leader.
BEIJING – Most Western media have characterized the recent 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) as a pure power play, with President Xi Jinping entrenching his position. But the accumulation of political capital in this case is a means to an end. For Xi, that end is a smooth transition into modernity that cements the CPC's long-term authority and ensures his own legacy as modern China's most significant leader.
Xi knows that if China is to continue to thrive in a fast-changing world, he will need to manage deftly a major social and economic transformation, while, even more important, improving state governance. And, in order to secure the long-term survival of China's one-party system, he must reform state and Party institutions; indeed, political reform is, for Xi, a prerequisite for economic reform. (And yet, he will carefully avoid what he considers the mistakes of the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev .)
Xi's motive in pursuing modernity is not, as many in the West have wrongly inferred, to establish China as a superpower on par with the United States; on the contrary, Xi views his current challenge and mission as being primarily domestic. He is motivated by the knowledge that success in this area will define his place in history. That, not the amount of authority he wields today, is his primary concern. Assuming otherwise sells Xi – and his political ingenuity – short.
Now firmly established as China's most powerful leader since Deng Xiaoping, Xi can shape his legacy according to his own vision. Because his predecessor Hu Jintao lacked sufficient political capital to do likewise, China followed a largely passive path for a decade, pursuing conciliatory diplomacy (which enraged its citizens) and economically conservative strategies (which included suspending necessary reforms).
No one, however, should mistake Xi's enhanced powers for a personal dictatorship. His choice of members for the Standing Committee of the Politburo, China's highest authority, was an accommodation to the reality that there are limits to his power. Only half of the men named to the committee were his true confidantes.
The legacy that Xi seeks comprises three key components. The first is alleviation of growing social tensions. Beyond improving the provision of public goods, his promotion of the so-called China Dream of national rejuvenation has been aimed, in part, at encouraging people to seek fulfillment beyond material wealth.
Second, Xi wants to strengthen the CPC, not by force, but by reform. Over the last five years, Xi has led an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign, which has brought down one million Party officials, from low-ranking bureaucrats (known as “flies”) to the highest-level officials (“tigers”), throughout the country.
Such a large-scale campaign, as some observers have portrayed it, was not a political purge in disguise. Rather, Xi knew that widespread corruption was undermining the CPC's legitimacy in the eyes of ordinary Chinese. Only by cleaning up the Party's behavior could Xi reestablish its credibility.
Now, Xi is ready for Act II of his CPC revival: improving state governance. Xi is well aware that a case-by-case approach will not address the root causes of widespread corruption. For that, the entire system needs an overhaul. As he put it, “The Party needs to govern itself.”
The first step is to improve the legislative framework. For many years, the lack of accountability and transparency, and of clear decision-making processes, has impeded reform. Now, China needs institutionalized mechanisms for enforcing the rule of law – one aspect of Western political systems that Xi admires – among CPC officials, though the idea that the judiciary could be independent of the Party remains farfetched.
But even the best-designed system cannot work if there is a dearth of competent personnel to run it – a limitation highlighted by Xi's push for economic reforms in his first term as president. That is why Xi is placing a strong emphasis on cultivating a new generation of highly educated, loyal, and, most important, incorruptible Party leaders. A key challenge here lies in stemming the migration of China's top talent to the private sector.
The third component of Xi's legacy is also the most important – and already effectively secured. At the 19th National Congress, CCP delegates agreed to add “Xi Jinping Thought” to the Party's constitution, alongside “Mao Zedong Thought” and “Deng Xiaoping Theory.”
Now that Xi's eponymous political ideology, which proposes an alternative to liberal democracy, is part of the school of thought around which the CPC coalesces, challenging Xi is tantamount to challenging the Party's very belief system. In short, Xi has made himself virtually unassailable – his rare political skill elevating him to the status of secular deity.
The fact is that, as a leader, Xi has a lot going for him. He is well-educated and experienced in international affairs. He has weathered serious challenges and experienced firsthand the consequences of political and economic policies gone awry. He has a vast political network, thanks not only to his own deftness, but also to his family: he is the son of a comrade of Mao. And he now stands alongside Mao, as well as Deng, in modern China's political pantheon.
But Xi is not Mao, and he will not govern China as Mao did. Instead, he will learn from Mao's mistakes, so that he can lead China effectively into the next phase of its history – and secure the legacy that he so prizes.
Keyu Jin, a professor of economics at the London School of Economics, is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and a member of the Richemont Group Advisory Board. Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.
This commentary was originally published by Proyect-Syndicate.org, 11/03/2017.
Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Petroleumworld and its owners.
Link to original article.
All comments posted and published on Petroleumworld, do not reflect either for or against the opinion expressed in the comment as an endorsement of Petroleumworld.
All comments expressed are private comments and do not necessary reflect the view of this website. All comments are posted and published without liability to Petroleumworld. Use Notice:This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues of environmental and humanitarian significance. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.
All works published by Petroleumworld are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.Petroleumworld has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Petroleumworld endorsed or sponsored by theoriginator.Petroleumworld encourages persons to reproduce, reprint, or broadcast Petroleumworld articles provided that any such reproduction identify the original source, http://www.petroleumworld.com or else and it is done within the fair use as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Internet web links to http://www.petroleumworld.com are appreciated.Copyright© 1999-2017 Petroleumworld or respective author or news agency. All rights reserved.
We welcome the use of Petroleumworld™ stories by anyone provided it mentions Petroleumworld.com as the source. Other stories you have to get authorization by its authors.
Internet web links to http://www.petroleumworld.com are appreciated. Petroleumworld welcomes your feedback and comments, share your thoughts on this article, your feedback is important to us!
Petroleumworld News 11/06/2017
We invite all our readers to share with us
their views and comments about this article.
Send this story to a friend Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
By using this link, you agree to allow PW
to publish your comments on our letters page.
Any question or suggestions,
please write to: email@example.com
Best Viewed with IE 5.01+ Windows NT 4.0, '95,
'98,ME,XP, Vista, Windows 7,8 +/ 800x600 pixels