All signs point to Chinese President Xi Jinping completely dominating China in a way no leader has done since the inception of the Chinese Communist Party.
In short, Xi is about to become the Chinese Communist Party.
There were signs of Xi’s desire for dominance early in his presidency.
He initiated an anticorruption campaign that ensnared politicians and business people at the highest echelon of society.
Analysts bristled that he was just simply eliminating his enemies.
Now Xi’s agenda is perfectly clear.
Over the weekend, South China Morning Post reporter Cary Wang delved into the laundry list of government posts and agencies that now exclusively answer to Xi.
Here’s what that looks like:
- Xi’s allies have taken over communications with the US Treasury and Russia, whether it’s exactly in their job description or not.
- Provincial government heads have had to swear to “voluntarily safeguard the core position of General Secretary Xi”.
- In recent weeks state media have started referring to Xi as “the core of the party’s leadership” and have called for all leaders to pledge allegiance to him.
- A bunch of seats in the central governing committees of the CCP are about to open up as leaders retire in 2017, and Xi has already made not-so-subtle statements about loyalty to the current track the party is on (i.e. him).
Which has aided China in continuing to dredge islands, equip them with runways and radar towers.
As of last week China deployed surface-to-air missiles on one of the most central swathes of land in the disputed waters.
According to author and chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor Robert D. Kaplan, “the South China Sea functions as the throat of the Western Pacific and Indian oceans — the mass of connective economic tissue where global sea routes coalesce.”
“More than half of the world’s annual merchant fleet tonnage passes through these choke points, and a third of all maritime traffic worldwide,” Kaplan wrote in “Asia’s Cauldron: The
Territorial claims from Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan, and China; make the South China Sea one of the most disputed territories on the planet. However China claims the majority of the contested region that is home to $5 trillion in annual global trade.
To that end, the tit for tat over crumbs of land in the South China Sea, isn’t for nothing.
In the South China Sea, aggressive actions on China’s side serve Xi in satisfying both China’s ambitions as a regional power, and his own desire to stoke nationalism in the face of domestic difficulty.
As such, these power moves are something people are starting to talk about in US academic circles too. In a recent research paper from the Brookings Institute, Senior Fellow Jeffery Bader explained Xi’s dominance as a way to deal with “the massive disruptions that the economic reform program will bring.”
The country has just begun trying to manage the transition from an investment based economy, to one based on domestic consumption while growth is slowing dramatically in the country. Corporations are unproductive and indebted.
Restructure is necessary, but Xi’s task is to pull off painful reforms without:
- Crashing the economy.
- Creating too much social unrest.
But of course, as Xigen Li, a professor at Hong Kong University warned the SCMP:
“[Xi Jinping] consolidating his own power might increase the efficiency and effectiveness of policy implementation, but it will not necessarily produce positive results,” he told the paper.
The bet laid plans often go off the rails.
In the meantime expect more nationalism in Chinese tabloids like The Global Times, which has told readers to “prepare for the worst” (militarily speaking) over North Korea. This stuff isn’t just noise, it’s Xi speaking.
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