Power Trip

China slides back into ‘totalitarianism’ under Xi

He casts a red shadow over every aspect of life in the world’s second-largest economy

Suffocating state control has become China’s mantra under the leadership of President Xi Jinping.

For the past five years, he has rolled back progressive reforms and stifled “opening up” policies as the ruling Communist Party tightened its grip on power.

His “nationalistic” and “patriotic” agenda has also destabilized the Indo-Pacific region, creating economic and military tension with the world’s leading democracies.

To add to the toxic atmosphere, international relations have been ripped up and replaced by the shrill sound of “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy.

“China is turning away from the policies that promoted rapid growth,” Hal Brands at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and Michael Beckley, an associate professor of political science at Tufts University, said.

“Under Xi, Beijing has slid back toward totalitarianism. Xi has appointed himself ‘chairman of everything,’ destroyed any semblance of collective rule, and made adherence to ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ the ideological core of an increasingly rigid regime,” they wrote in a commentary for Foreign Policy.

Sounds bites:

  • Last week, the state announced plans to incease oversight on news agencies, newspapers and magazines, as well as radio and television networks.
  • They are already run by the ruling Communist Party of China.
  • Internet news services will also be brought under Beijing’s control.
  • All live broadcasting will come under the Party’s authority.
  • So will forums, summits and award shows in the field of news and public opinion.

He [Xi] has relentlessly pursued the centralization of power at the expense of economic prosperity

Hal Brands, of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and Michael Beckley, of Tufts University, wrote in Foreign Policy

Delve deeper: Under Party rule, the media and the internet were already heavily censored. Now, all public discourse will be monitored as Xi’s Thought percolates through every aspect of life in China.

Lust for power: “He [Xi] has relentlessly pursued the centralization of power at the expense of economic prosperity,” Brands and Beckley said.

Big picture: In a keynote speech, Xi reinforced his “vision” of “national rejuvenation” on the 110th anniversary of the 1911 Revolution that ended China’s last imperial dynasty. 

What he said: “The past 110 years have shown us that to realize national rejuvenation, the Chinese people must have a strong force to lead us forward. That force is the Communist Party of China.”

Pure propaganda: “Objective economic analysis is being replaced by government propaganda. Xi hasn’t simply stopped the process of economic liberalization that powered China’s development: He has thrown it hard into reverse,” Brands and Beckley wrote in Foreign Policy.

China Factor comment: Xi’s Thought is now embedded in the Rule of Law. What is just as dangerous is his control of China’s military or the People’s Liberation Army. “In the ‘New Era’, the PLA is Xi’s Army,” Elsa B Kania, of the Center for a New American Security, pointed out in a commentary for the Center for Advanced China Research.

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