It takes a good deal of pretense to be considered irreplaceable. It takes an even bigger one to convince 1.4 billion Chinese of such madness.
This feat, Xi Jinping seems to be about to accomplish on the 20thAnd Chinese Communist Party Congress opening tomorrow.
Xi has managed to persuade party members through political persecution, purges, ideological campaigns, through the whole panoply of fun and interesting ways available to a dictator who wants to last.
1. Could an extension of Xi’s mandate be good for China?
It would be possible to find some merit in such an extension of the term if Xi were an enlightened dictator. But he has become a security obsessed dictator. A dictator whose bad decisions have damaged China.
2. What were Xi’s bad decisions?
Xi’s bad decisions became more numerous as he concentrated more and more power in his hands. Therefore, its policy of quarantining entire cities as soon as a few cases of COVID-19 are detected infuriates many Chinese.
With good reason, especially as this draconian policy is undermining the Chinese economy and the global economy. Likewise, the merciless repression of the democratic movement in Hong Kong and the draconian national security law contributed greatly to the election of a pro-independence government in Taiwan.
The irresponsible handling of the early days of COVID-19 and the lies about the contagiousness of the virus have discredited the Chinese government.
The Uyghur genocide is as useless as it is costly for China’s image. Its poor region development policy has generated a pharaonic amount of bad debt.
3. Why is Xi obsessed with security issues?
Xi is driven by fear. He fears that senior Communist Party members will expel him from his post as president. He fears that national minorities will become the fifth column. He fears that Hong Kong democracy will spread throughout China.
He is afraid that other countries of the world will stop cooperating with China, that his army will organize a coup against him, that the Chinese people will stop fearing him and so on.
4. Is Xi sure to keep his job?
Given the growing opacity of the Chinese government, it’s hard to know what’s going on. It would be surprising, but not impossible, if Xi was not reconfirmed.
The issue seems to have been resolved this summer in Beidaihe, the large seaside resort where Chinese leaders spend their holidays together. The biggest unknown concerns the major leaders who will be appointed together with Xi.
Will Xi be able to fire candidates from rival factions, especially that of Jiang Zemin, the former president of China, or will he have collaborators imposed on him who will spare him the enthusiasm?
5. What might it mean to keep Xi as president?
Xi used the momentum that Deng Xiaoping had put China on. When Xi reverts to Maoist logic, he might try to accelerate Chinese expansionism. In the long run he might weaken China. Mao had brought China to the brink of the abyss. Xi could go further and push his country into the abyss.