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February 27, 2018

CHARLIE CAMPBELL: China’s Lurch Toward One-Man Rule Under Xi Jinping Should Worry Us All.

The move is the culmination of a series of power plays by Xi over recent months, including having his eponymous political thought enshrined in the national constitution, and failing to appoint any potential successors to China’s apex executive body, the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC). But the timing of the announcement before Xi has even officially completed his first term in office has stunned China-watchers and raised serious questions concerning the governance of the world’s number two economy going forward.

“This is a very significant move towards China transforming into a one-man system,” says Jude Blanchette, a Beijing-based researcher on Chinese politics for The Conference Board analysis firm. “It’s hard to overemphasize what a big deal this is for the future of China and the world given China’s importance to the global economy and global institutions.”

Xi’s consolidation of power domestically comes as he has also announced his intention to be more assertive internationally. His signature Belt and Road Initiative — a trade and infrastructure network tracing the ancient Silk Road though Eurasia and Africa — stands to radically boost China’s geopolitical clout at a time when the White House under Donald Trump has questioned key alliances and the very international institutions that have been the foundation of American hegemony.

Leave aside the anti-Trump talk, which is based on old campaign promises that (thankfully) never materialized.

But the author of this piece is also mistaken about why we ought to worry.

Dictatorships trade the superficial instability of democratic republics, where ritualized revolutions — in the form of elections — make for institutional stability, and allows for overhaul without violence. In its place, dictators bask in superficial stability, immune from electoral whims. But when the would-be electorate gets fed up, violence is often their only outlet.

Just ask the Ceaușescus.

Or, to keep the people distracted, the dictator might embark on a war of foreign conquest — which almost always ends poorly for the would-be conquerer.

This is the road Xi has chosen. We’ll see if he (or China) likes where it leads.