How will Chinese president use his enormous power?

Whither will China go when a system concentrates power in the hands of an individual and forces absolute loyalty to him? President Xi Jinping must confront his nation’s issues and exercise self-restraint to prevent the abuse of his power.

Xi began his third term in power after being reappointed general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, breaking with the customary limit of two five-year terms and a retirement age of 68.

The limit of two terms covering 10 years for the country’s presidency had already been eliminated through a 2018 amendment to the Constitution. The party congress, which was held through Saturday, also paved the way for Xi to continue to hold the highest posts in the party and the military, effectively for life.

At a press conference, Xi stressed that he will put his utmost efforts into building a great modern socialist country. This idea of a “great modern country” means a national power that can rival the United States, a goal that Xi hopes to achieve by the middle of this century.

Xi probably believes that he must continue to lead in order to achieve this goal.

The appointments to the party’s supreme leadership make it clear that Xi is not thinking about grooming a successor. Although close associates of his were promoted to the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, there were no appointments of younger people to lead the next generation.

The resolution on revising the party’s charter clearly stated that both Xi’s distinctiveness among China’s leaders so far and his guiding thought have been established. Loyalty to Xi has become obligatory, meaning that not obeying him will result in punishment.

This appears to be a reenactment of Mao Zedong’s cult of personality and deification. The tragedy must not be forgotten of the tens of millions who starved to death as a result of the failure of Mao’s Great Leap Forward economic policies and the indiscriminate suppression of people deemed to have strayed from Mao’s doctrine during the Cultural Revolution.

Unlike the Mao era, China today is a major power. Any policy error will have a negative impact not only on China but also on the international community. In fact, Xi’s adherence to his zero-COVID policy has slowed China’s growth and has become a risk factor for the global economy as a whole.

China faces many issues, including widening inequality and an aging society with a low birth rate. Xi should use the power he has concentrated in his hands to solve these problems.

Behind Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin had established a system to maintain his grip on power and neutralize opposition parties and the media. This is a clear indication of a dictatorship run amok.

China’s repeated threats against Taiwan and incursions into Japan’s territorial waters under Xi, who is committed to making the country a stronger military power, are dangerous signs. Japan needs to further strengthen its security cooperation with the United States to prepare for contingencies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 24, 2022)