Opinion | Xi Jinping’s Strength is China’s Weakness

“SYDNEY, Australia – President Xi Jinping has accumulated legions of powerful critics in China since he took office in early 2013. There are the once-powerful officials who have been felled by his sweeping anti-corruption campaign. There are the economists who resist his statist instincts. There are the academics who have objected to his authoritarian measures, such as his decision to abolish presidential term limits. Yet, the latest meeting of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, held in late October, suggests that Mr. Xi is stronger than ever. Unlike any Chinese leader since the C.C.P. took power in 1949, he has no identifiable rivals and no likely successors. Some of Mr. Xi’s detractors have fallen silent; others have come on board with his program, reluctantly or after taking an intellectual leap. Those who dared to keep criticizing him have been punished. Mr. Xi’s ascendancy is remarkable on many counts, especially considering that at the beginning of the year the new coronavirus took hold in Wuhan, then quickly spread elsewhere in China and to the rest of the world. “

“. . .   Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader from the 1970s through the late 1980s, had said that China should become an advanced state by 2050. Now that timetable has been accelerated. The new target for completing the “socialist modernization” of China — code for building it into a wealthy and powerful country on par with the United States — set out at the recent plenum is 2035.

Mr. Xi will be 82 then, but he could quite conceivably still be in office, or at least in power behind the scenes.

According to the conventions of Chinese politics, Mr. Xi already should have named his successor and be preparing to step down at the next party congress, scheduled for late 2022. He has not done so. Instead, he has removed formal constraints on the length of his tenure, such as term limits.

And here lies the paradox of Mr. Xi’s rule. Now that he is so firmly in charge of the party, with no clear rivals and no known succession plan, he is also setting the stage for a full-blown crisis of leadership in the future. The greatness of Mr. Xi’s power is its greatest weakness.”

Source: Opinion | Xi Jinping’s Strength is China’s Weakness – The New York Times, Nov. 9, 2020, by Richard McGregor, Author of “The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers.”