China’s economy is in a slump. Unemployment is soaring. Endless Covid lockdowns are wreaking havoc on businesses and people’s lives. The real estate sector is in crisis. Relations between Beijing and major world powers are strained.
The list of problems facing the world’s second largest economy goes on. Many of these long-term challenges are only exacerbated under Xi Jinping’s ten years. Still, the Chinese leader’s grip on power is unshakable.
Over the past decade, Xi Jinping has invisibly strengthened his hold since the days of Mao Zedong, the influential founder of the Chinese Communist Party. He is the head of the Communist Party of China, the state, the army, and so many committees that he is called “the chairman of everything.” And now he’s stepping into a norm-busting third term.
But absolute power can often mean absolute responsibility, and analysts warn that the more problems there are, the less room Xi will have to avoid blame.
“I think the biggest enemy of Xi Jinping’s long-term control of China is himself,” said Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London. “The process of unraveling Xi Jinping’s grip on power could begin when he makes a critical policy mistake and wreaks havoc in China.”
Mao’s rule from 1949 to 1976 was marked by ill-advised policy decisions that killed tens of millions and destroyed the economy. After decades of turmoil, the Communist Party developed a system of collective leadership designed to prevent the rise of another dictator who could make arbitrary and dangerous decisions.
China’s next leader, Deng Xiaoping, has set the unwritten rule and precedent that the General Secretary of the Communist Party, the role from which China’s leaders draw real power, resigns after two terms.
From Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping: A History of China’s Leaders
When President Xi took power in 2012, China’s economy was booming as it became more closely integrated with the rest of the world. Just four years ago, China stunned the world with the extravagant Beijing Summer Olympics. But for Mr. Xi, the party was in crisis, overwhelmed by corruption, infighting and inefficiency.
Xi’s solution was to return to authoritarian, individualistic rule. He has purged political opponents with a sweeping anti-corruption campaign, silenced internal dissent, abolished presidential term limits, and incorporated “Xi Jinping Thought” into the party’s constitution.
Analysts say many dictatorships fall into a pattern of abuse of power and poor decision-making when critical advice is not delivered to their leaders. They point to Vladimir Putin’s increasingly costly war against Ukraine as a concern that Xi Jinping’s equally unquestionable power over the Russian president could one day lead to equally dire consequences. ing.
Tsang said Putin and Xi “suffer from the same strongman syndrome problem: they have turned policy advice circles into echo chambers where people are no longer free to speak their minds.” It’s gone,” he said. “We are seeing a big mistake being made because the internal policy debate has been curtailed or really eliminated in terms of its scope.”
No country in recent history has modernized as rapidly as China. The Communist Party claims that its leadership lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and transformed remote villages into spectacular megacities. But that miracle of growth is slowing. And many of the longstanding challenges in China’s economy are only exacerbated by President Xi’s policies.
Xi’s mandate is to strengthen the Party and strengthen its control over business and society. He has launched a crackdown on the once-bustling private sector that has led to mass layoffs. Beijing argues that tougher regulations will limit overly powerful firms and protect consumers, but the measures will stifle private sector firms, send chills across the economy, and raise concerns about future innovation. is causing
China’s once-thriving private sector is suffocating under Xi’s crackdown
Beijing began cracking down on easy credit for real estate companies in 2020, leading to cash shortages and defaults by many developers, including giant conglomerate Evergrande. Housing projects are stalling and desperate homebuyers across the country are refusing to pay mortgages on unfinished homes. It has a huge impact on the economy as a whole.
But during Xi’s reign, nothing has rocked China’s economy and society more than zero coronavirus. In his third year of the pandemic, China has stuck to tough policies. This is despite the rest of the world learning to live with the virus, relying on mass testing, widespread quarantines and snap lockdowns to eradicate the infection at all costs. increase.
The country continues to lock down entire cities over a small number of infections, while sending all positive cases and close contacts to government quarantine facilities. Queues for COVID-19 testing, scanning health codes for tracking and entering public places are commonplace. Beijing claims the policy has prevented China from falling into a medical disaster like the rest of the world, but zero Covid is being enforced at enormous and mounting costs.
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China’s economic growth has slowed dramatically due to persistent lockdowns. The record youth unemployment rate has reached nearly 20% of his. The notebook is shrinking. Heavily indebted local governments are being forced to spend on mass Covid testing. He says it’s better to spend China has yet to approve a foreign mRNA vaccine that has proven more effective against the highly contagious Omicron variant than the inactivated vaccine used in China.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the Chinese government censored and, in some cases, punished doctors, experts and citizen journalists who tried to warn of a deadly virus outbreak in Wuhan.
Nearly three years later, Beijing has doubled as most international experts advise China to find a way to coexist with the virus. Shanghai has been locked down for two months. People struggled to get enough food and basic necessities. Desperate residents broke out of their home confinement and clashed with police workers in rare street protests.
China censored statements on social media when the World Health Organization criticized its zero-Covid policy as “unsustainable.”
Susan Shirk, director of the China Center for the 21st Century and author of a book on Xi’s leadership, Overreach, said that Xi is encouraging his supporters, not his most capable people, so China’s He says the leaders are competing with each other to prove their loyalty to them. As a result, she said, her subordinates would go overboard with their policies in an attempt to please Mr. Xi.
Shark said this worked well with zero Covid because President Xi Jinping ties his leadership directly to strategy.
“A lot of the pain in China’s economy is self-inflicted by China’s leaders,” Mr Shark said.
“So what this suggests, which is a rather disturbing idea, is that the Chinese Communist Party is no longer branding itself as a developmental party, but has economic development as its primary objective. Xi Jinping is in power.”