Government led by Chinese President’s Close Associates Poses Great Danger

There are concerns that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s regime, in which Xi brought in close associates to hold key government posts and no dissent is tolerated, could lead the country down the wrong path. There are undeniable fears that China will pursue a hard-line approach toward foreign countries and destabilize the international situation.

Xi was elected to a third term at the National People’s Congress. He established a long-term regime at last year’s National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, and he has now fully begun his third term in power, holding the highest leadership posts in the party, the military and the state.

Most of the officials appointed at the latest national congress, including Premier Li Qiang, have personal connections with Xi. Former Premier Li Keqiang, who is close to former President Hu Jintao, stepped down before the age of retirement, and former Vice Premier Hu Chunhua, a younger leader, has been put in an honorary position, so forces that could put the brakes on Xi have disappeared from the center of the government.

The collective leadership system, which was introduced in response to Mao Zedong’s personal dictatorship and out-of-control actions, can be said to have become a mere formality, with power concentrated in Xi’s hands. At the National People’s Congress, senior officials repeatedly praised Xi, acting like the congress was a contest of loyalty.

Xi has emphasized that he will not repeat Mao’s mistakes, but the reality appears to be that Xi will only hear information that suits him.

The more powerful a leader’s authority becomes, the more difficult it is to correct course when an incorrect judgment is made. The zero-COVID policy that Xi stuck to as a symbolic demonstration of the superiority of the Chinese regime dealt a heavy blow to both the domestic and global economies.

The danger of a country of iron-fisted rule behaving recklessly, and the magnitude of its impact, is evident from the example of Russia. No forces in Russia worked to stop President Vladimir Putin, who has established de facto lifetime rule and neutralized opposition forces, from his decision to invade Ukraine.

Xi, who has established long-term iron-fisted rule, has set a goal of building China into a powerful country with socialist modernization that can rival the United States. Any moves to pursue its national interests and reorganize the international order centering on China could lead to a clash with the United States.

The fact that Xi has not ruled out the armed reunification of Taiwan is the greatest concern. In his closing speech at the National People’s Congress, the president said complete national reunification is a common desire of the Chinese people. This is a far cry from the will of the people of Taiwan, who wish to maintain the status quo in Sino-Taiwan relations.

Heightened confrontation with the United States and military threats against Taiwan would increase tensions in the region and have a negative impact on the Chinese economy. The powerful authority that Xi has established should be used only to raise the standard of living of the people, reduce inequality and deal with the declining population.

Japan and the United States must improve deterrence and enhance their ability to respond to any contingency so that Xi will be discouraged from attempting to change the status quo by force.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 14, 2023)