Xi Jinping's China
The Chinese leader, Xi Jinping recently succeeded in abolishing the presidential term limits. This will pave the way for him to stay in power in years to come. With 2,958 ballots in favour, 2 against and 3 empty ballots, Xi Jinping’s victory proves the power he has over the Chinese parliament and the threat of an even more oppressed China. With this rise to power he is widely considered the most influential Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.
Coming from a political family himself, his father was a high member of the communist party until he was purged and imprisoned during Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution. Xi Jinping was struggling at the beginning of his career due to his heritage, but in 1974 managed to start out as a local party secretary in the Hebei Province. He climbed the hierarchy to become the President of the party and consequently, the country in 2012.
As president, Xi has pursued what he describes as the “Chinese Dream” where he strongly highlights the “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”. By pursuing this plan, he enacted reforms to combat slowing growth. One of his main policies was to privatize many of the state-owned companies with the goal of increasing their efficiency. He also ran a strong campaign on corruption that was widely criticized by the international community due to apparent human rights violations and through which he strengthened his power rather than fight the country’s corruption.
Through his terms China has become more censored, in February 2016 he stated, “All the work by the party’s media must reflect the party’s will, safeguard the party’s authority, and safeguard the party’s unity” thus emphasizing that the media must align itself with the party’s decisions and so its leadership. This has led to much controversy and debate - fuelled even more by recent protests, resulting in the government censoring internet searches such as “disagree”, “protest” etc.
Xi Jinping has also worked on his base of soft power - especially with his strong economic aids in Africa and other developing areas of the world. He has made China an International player, stating, “Pursuing protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room. While wind and rain may be kept outside, that dark room will also block light and air.” China today is the biggest economic player in Africa, offering advantageous contracts in construction and energy sectors, leaving countries with debts they can’t afford, thus strengthening China’s grip on the continent. The most crucial example of China’s power is its first overseas military base in Djibouti, housing around thirty thousand men. They have so far invested over $900 billion just in Africa and are also pursuing construction contracts in Pakistan and Columbia.
Another very important field of the Chinese Dream is the increase of its technology and sustainability. For now, China positioned itself in front of the United States in what seems to be the next most innovative technology: Artificial Intelligence. At the same time, working on fixing its significant problem with pollution.
Xi Jinping’s policies have been compared to Deng Xiaping’s as he had also “opened” the Chinese economy and shifted it from Mao’s protectionism. Over Xi’s terms China has grown and, economically speaking, improved. Yet with his recent “coup”, criticism has risen in China through university protests and statements by important figures. Li Datong, who before becoming the face of the liberal opposition to Xi’s power grab was a newspaper editor, stated: “This could destroy China and the Chinese people. So, I cannot stay silent. I have to let them know there are people against it, and to do so publicly.” Li Datong’s statement is becoming one of many as more political and non-political figures are taking an active role in the opposition.
Xi Jinping’s power will definitely be at risk in the coming years as each downturn that China may face will be blamed on him. Many suggest that since we now know China’s ideology and trajectory, it will be safer to do business with it. From an economic point of view, Xi Jinping might not be a threat, but regarding democracy in China, the grab on power is definitely a step backwards.
WRITTEN BY RUGGERO CALAMAI FOR BESA
PLEASE DIRECT ANY INQUIRY TO AS.BESA @UNIBOCCONI.IT