China's Xi hoards power under banner of modernization

China's Xi hoards power under banner of modernization
Chinese President Xi Jinping, standing in the second row fourth from the left, Premier Li Keqiang, standing to Xi's right, and other delegates sing the national anthem at the opening of the annual full session of the National People's Congress, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday.

In Beijing, where the festive atmosphere of the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays is lingering on and fireworks can intermittently be heard, the National People's Congress - the first important political event this year for Chinese President Xi Jinping - opened on Thursday.

It was Premier Li Keqiang, number two in the Xi administration, who delivered on the opening day of the congress a work report by the Chinese government laying out its policy direction for the next year.

However, the congress will essentially be a ceremony that symbolizes the overconcentration of power on Xi, who has ousted political enemies one after another in the name of the anticorruption movement.

Prior to the opening of the congress, a campaign by state media began to promote Xi's new political slogan, the "Four Comprehensives." Launched by Xi late last year, the slogan covers "comprehensively" establishing a moderately prosperous society, deepening reform, ruling the nation by law, and strictly enforcing party discipline. It is a compilation of Xi's theories and practices in the two years since the start of his administration.

Xi has cemented his power base, and aims to establish his slogan as a guiding ideology of the Chinese Communist Party, following former President Jiang Zemin's "Three Represents" theory and the "scientific development" policy of Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao.

The first step to achieve Xi's goal of the "great revival of the Chinese nation" is comprehensively establishing a moderately prosperous society, which means ensuring a baseline for the living standards of the public. To that end, comprehensively deepening reform is essential.

However, comprehensively ruling the nation by law, as touted by Xi, is ruling to protect the one-party regime, and is distinct from the rule of law in a democratic nation. It is apparently a way to enhance the power of the top post and realise a prosperous country and strong army.

Strictly enforcing party discipline also means continuing the anticorruption campaign.

Xi concurrently serves in many top posts within organisations important to the party, which amplifies the concentration of power on him. But an excessive concentration of power on only one leader, not elected democratically, may be dangerous.

The administrations of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao employed a collective leadership system out of regret that the overconcentration of power on Mao Zedong had caused enormous harm. Concentrating power "comprehensively" on one man seems to run counter to his predecessors' approach.

"Xi Jinping: The Governance of China," a compilation of Xi's speeches and remarks since he became head of the Communist Party, has allegedly sold 17 million copies. It could be seen as the initial stages of a movement resembling a "personality cult."

Reactionism, like efforts to return to the days of Mao Zedong, is not appropriate for a supreme leader guiding the world's second-largest economy under a slogan of modernization.

At the congress, Xi's administration will emphasise a "new normal" that acknowledges deceleration of the Chinese economy and tries to maintain steady growth. Its influence on the world economy is unavoidable, including its influence on the economies of developing nations that are dependent on the rapidly growing Chinese economy.

On the other hand, China has approved a sharp increase in its military budget again this year, marking the buildup phase of its military "normalisation."

At the congress, the Xi administration is likely to stress its role as "a defender of international order," from the position of a "victor nation in World War II." However, this fails to convince so long as China continues on a "path toward a strong nation" that could destabilize the Asia-Pacific region.

Countries around China feel great anxiety and threat as the nation tries to unilaterally expand its so-called "core interests" and lead a new international order. They also hope for China to carry out its responsibilities in line with its national power and on the basis of international rules.

How will the world perceive China's future as an "awakening lion?"

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