How Communist Party leader Xi is cementing his power

China's Communist Party has unanimously enshrined "Xi Jinping Thought" in its constitution, putting the party leader and Chinese president on a par with Mao Zedong. As expected, the Central Committee has confirmed the 64-year-old for another five-year term. What are the biggest challenges facing China's "strong man"?

Open/close all quotes
taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Xi not an ideologist

Many are comparing Xi with Mao now but the comparison is flawed, writes taz:

“Mao was a convinced communist. He had taken the teachings of Marx and Lenin to heart and developed them. Mao put his faith in the forced collectivisation of the entire economy and even wanted to split up families in communes. Xi is far removed from such an ideology. Instead he is holding to the policy of opening up the market economy - but at the same time he wants to retain as much control of the political apparatus, the economy, the Internet and the entire society as possible. For him the CPC is above all an instrument for staying in power.”

Contributors (RO) /

What the party leader should fear

China's powerful party leadership will face two major dangers, political scientist Valentin Naumescu predicts on the blog portal Contributors:

“The biggest trap the country can fall into is at home - in view of the huge potential for tensions between the rich and the poor. Roughly 900 million people are estimated to be living under the poverty line. ... Social and economic equality, the Chinese people as a whole own the means of production: all just empty phrases. Basically what distinguishes China from a liberal democracy is the lack of pluralism of political opinion, plus the fact that human rights and the freedom of speech aren't recognised. Sooner or later the time will come when the lack of these democratic aspects will plunge the Chinese system into a huge structural crisis.”

Finanz und Wirtschaft (CH) /

China needs political reforms

Beijing won't be able to maintain its position of economic dominance without political reforms, Finanz und Wirtschaft argues:

“Clearly local capital needs to be invested more effectively in China than it has been in the past. For that, as opposed to the policy in recent decades economic growth must be primarily driven by demand rather than supply. To achieve this more legal security is needed, businesses must have a bigger say in legislation, and creative forces must be set free at schools and on the workplace. All of this is difficult to reconcile with the current authoritarian state model. If China really wants to become a rich nation in the 'new era' ushered in by Xi, political reforms will be required.”

La Stampa (IT) /

The new Mao

British journalist Bill Emmott explains how the Chinese Communist Party is seizing current opportunities in La Stampa:

“This return to rigorous central control reflects a feeling that has spread within the Communist Party and the military leadership: that the corruption, dissent and lack of discipline of recent years have put the one-party rule at risk. At the same time the step makes it clear that China has regained confidence in its role in the world. And this is presumably connected to Donald Trump and the fact that China is the main beneficiary of his presence in the White House. An opportunity that must not be wasted. And a clearly defined and powerful leadership is the best means to take full advantage of that opportunity.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

A break with old principles

The concentration of power in China has reached a sad climax, the Tages-Anzeiger complains:

“After the death of Chairman Mao, Deng Xiaoping declared that the cult of personality and the concentration of power were the biggest threat to the system and prescribed decentralisation, opening, experimentation and collective leadership for China. These principles provided the foundation for the phenomenal success of the economic miracle - and Xi Jinping is now breaking with every one of them. The Communist Party may be putting on a demonstratively self-confident face, but it is also paranoid and nervous. Xi is tailoring everything to his needs: the country, the party, etc. But what will happen if at some point he's no longer there to shoulder the burden?”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Well-pitched one-party rule

Xi is securing his grip on power with pretty words, Corriere della Sera observes after the Chinese president's speech:

“Which of the world's leaders is in a position to promise his people a better and happier life right now? A more beautiful and harmonious country? Xi Jinping. ... For three and a half hours he spoke, with a softer voice than he usually uses, filled with a confidence that is based on figures. Under his government, as the general secretary and president of the People's Republic stressed, China's GDP has risen from 8.2 to 12 trillion dollars. Then Xi announced the targets for 2020, the year before his party celebrates its 100th anniversary, for 2025 and for 2049, the year in which the People's Republic of China marks the 100th anniversary of its founding. ... How can these jubilee goals be met? With more power for the party and for its undisputed and indisputable leader.”

Libération (FR) /

Beijing becoming a threat to our planet

Libération is aghast at the risks China's success entails:

“We are witnessing the unstoppable rise of a formidable regional and global power. Like those stars whose mass is so great that they change the orbits of neighbouring stars by the simple force of attraction, it is disrupting the celestial harmony. Maoist messianism has been followed by a cautious but inexorable imperialism with innumerable channels of influence, bolstered by an increasingly efficient - and aggressive - production apparatus and an inexhaustible source of funding. It is a danger for human rights, and a danger for the stability of our fragile planet. Both fascinated and shaken to the core, the democracies must take all of this fully into account.”

Der Standard (AT) /

China's vassals in Europe

Europe shouldn't be surprised at China's strength, Der Standard rails:

“The states of Europe - EU members included - are throwing themselves at the Chinese when they promise them money and all kinds of advantages arising from their 'new Silk Road' initiative. The leaders of Southeastern Europe take part each year in the so-called 16+1 format in Beijing, where they kowtow like altar boys. Perhaps Xi is right in thinking like a Chinese emperor: the Middle Kingdom rules the world. All other nations are vassals, even if some of them haven't realised it yet.”

Delo (SI) /

Democratic Europe not a good role model

Delo explains why it believes Xi Jinping won't democratise the Chinese system:

“More democracy means less authority. ... The stronger the country's autocracy is, the more its economy grows. ... Asia has long since sensed Europe's fear of its own democracy, which is increasingly manifested in the form of arrogance, chauvinism and even fascism. As a result, China is sticking firmly to its course. The fact that China is willing to give up freedom for the right to develop is partly Europe's fault, which says above all one thing about us. Where did we go so tragically wrong?”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Beijing benefiting from Western crises

Xi Jinping will be able to cast himself as a global statesman at the party conference, Le Figaro observes:

“The Chinese president will even be able to allow himself the luxury of presenting himself as a champion of liberalism and multilateralism. What's more, he can show that he has a long term vision like that behind the modern Silk Roads, whereas the West is playing things by ear. ... The regional and economic ambitions of the Middle Kingdom are alarming. Above all it's annoying to see how successful the undemocratic Chinese counter-model is. However President Xi's 'new clothes' are cut from the cloth of our weaknesses. For him the confused state of our democracies is a blessing. So instead of asking ourselves if we should be afraid of China, we should stop losing time with fruitless zig-zagging and reaffirm our own values.”