Wednesday, December 8, 2021
EditorialsEditorial: The eternal President

Editorial: The eternal President

Published: 22nd Nov 2021 12:01 am

The recent grand spectacle of the Chinese Communist Party plenum that cemented the position of Xi Jinping as virtually the lifetime President has evoked images similar to an Orwellian world: Unbridled power, authoritarian rule, undermining the rights of minorities and dissidents, increased surveillance, rapidly disappearing freedom of speech and growing attacks on journalists, academicians and artists. No politician in the 100-year history of the Communist Party has held as much power as Xi does right now. And China has never been as strong and assertive as it is today – politically, economically and militarily. The plenum elevated the status of Xi by adopting a ‘historical resolution’ authored by him, making him the third leader in history to do so after founder Mao Zedong and his successor Deng Xiaoping in 1945 and 1981 respectively. ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ is now part of the school curriculum and serves as the guiding ideology for the party and the nation. In 2018, China had scrapped the two-term limit on the presidency, effectively allowing Xi, who took over in 2012, to remain in power for life. Capitalist authoritarianism, packaged as the ‘21st century Marxism’, aggressive nationalism and unabashed demonstration of territorial hegemony in the region have marked his tenure so far. The country is firmly in the grip of a personality cult. In public perception, both at home and abroad, Xi is the guarantor of China’s rise and its growing prosperity. When Mao and Deng were at the helm, China was largely insulated from the outside world but today Xi leads the world’s second-largest economy and one of the most powerful militaries.

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Xi’s document identifies curbing inequalities, promoting self-reliance in science and technology and achieving quality development as its goals. With a historical resolution under his belt, China’s most powerful man will be emboldened to push his domestic agenda and also to cut dependence on the United States. Beijing and Washington are already clashing on a plethora of issues, from technology to trade and Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province and has vowed to take by force, if necessary. China, under Xi, has gone from a country seen as a factory of cheap goods and labour in the West to one that is now looking to outshine the US in defence, diplomacy and economy. From a GDP of around $300 billion in 1980, it today has a GDP of over $14 trillion, second to the US. However, on the diplomacy front, China’s image has suffered across the globe, especially since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. For years, Beijing has been quite unabashed in displaying its territorial and economic hegemony, whether it is the military build-up in the Indian Ocean region or its growing influence in Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

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