Xi: The rise of the authoritarians
Chinese president Xi Jinping “has joined the planet’s most exclusive club,” said Nic Robertson in CNN.com. China’s Communist Party last week proposed eliminating term limits for Xi, effectively making him emperor for life and enabling him to rule the world’s most populous nation “without recourse to real checks and balances.” Other autocrats who’ve carved out virtually unchallenged power include Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Xi’s power grab has shaken European political and business leaders, said Steven Erlanger in The New York Times. With the U.S. abdicating its global leadership role under President Trump, Europe had hoped China would become “‘a responsible stakeholder’ in the global order.” But Xi’s vision for his nation is internally authoritarian and externally aggressive, and “few still believe China is moving toward the Western values of democracy and rule of law.”
How did so many get Xi’s autocratic impulses wrong? asked Isaac Stone Fish in TheAtlantic.com. The West assumed that China—“like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan”—would one day become more democratic, more open, and more like America as it embraced capitalism, free trade, and modernity. Indeed, Xi pledged allegiance to “reform and opening up” when he laid a wreath by a statue of reform-minded Deng Xiaoping in 2012. But since then, “his China has grown more politically and economically repressive,” using technology to crack down on dissent and monitor citizens. This should not be a surprise. China, let us remember, is a one-party country that still reveres the dictator Mao Zedong and ruthlessly crushed the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy uprising.
In the 21st century, dictatorships are “making a comeback,” said Brian Bremner and Peter Martin in Bloomberg Businessweek. “The global liberal democratic order” that once seemed destined to spread to other nations is in retreat. Even the current U.S. president seems down on democracy, with Trump last week calling Xi’s ascension to permanent power “great,” and quipping, “Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.” China’s authoritarianism is no joke, said Charlie Campbell in Time.com. Xi has brazenly torn up four decades of post-Mao reform, and he will also have “few qualms” about flouting international norms that Beijing perceives as constraining its interests. China’s “lurch toward one-man rule should worry us all.”