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    Mar
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    Mar
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    What ‘Emperor Xi’ means for China and the world
    What ‘Emperor Xi’ means for China and the world
    POLITICS

    What ‘Emperor Xi’ means for China and the world

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    by
    Viola Zhou
    Viola Zhou
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    Chinese President Xi Jinping can now stay in power indefinitely, after lawmakers nearly unanimously approved changes to the constitution. 

    Over the weekend, they agreed to remove term limits for the positions of president and vice-president.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping drops his ballot during a vote on a constitutional amendment lifting presidential term limits on March 11, 2018.
    Chinese President Xi Jinping drops his ballot during a vote on a constitutional amendment lifting presidential term limits on March 11, 2018. Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee

    Xi, currently heading into his second five-year term as president, is now China's most powerful leader in decades. ​

    What does his leadership mean for China and the world?

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    Inkstone has invited Willy Lam, a veteran China watcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Zhu Lijia, a public affairs professor at the state-run Chinese Academy of Governance, to offer their views.

    What impact will this have on Chinese society?

    Xi has been tightening the Chinese Communist Party’s control over society.

    He’s not just the country’s president. His real power lies in his position as general secretary of the party.

    Since taking office, Xi has increased the party’s presence and influence in local government, private Chinese enterprises and even foreign companies operating in the country.

    He has initiated a crackdown on civil society, academia and online dissent.

    Meanwhile, Xi has also sought to combat pollution and poverty.

    A student in Mukeji village in the western province of Yunnan carries a full basket of textbooks to school.
    A student in Mukeji village in the western province of Yunnan carries a full basket of textbooks to school. Photo: Xinhua/Hu Chao

    Lam: “The Communist Party has been trying to balance two goals: to strengthen the party’s control and to gather support from the lower social classes.

    “Xi will carry on this approach with more control over dissidents and activists, as well as more welfare for the poor.

    “But with power concentrated in his hands, the possibility of Xi making a big error in domestic policies has increased.”

    Zhu: “The party will strive to improve people's livelihood with a more efficient administration.

    “The leadership will push harder in protecting the environment, eliminating poverty and improving social welfare. More money and manpower will be devoted to these areas.”

    How will the domestic economy be affected?

    Xi has pledged to reduce risks associated with the country's high levels of debt.

    He has vowed to further liberalize the financial system and let the market play a more decisive role in the economy.

    His administration is also trying to make China an innovation-driven economy with investments in scientific research and technology.

    Lam: “Xi is practicing economic nationalism. He will insist on more nationalist criteria in granting access to the Chinese market. For example, only those who are willing to share technologies with China are allowed to enter.

    “Reforms, such as a freer floating yuan and lifting capital controls, will continue – as long as they do not directly impinge on the party’s control over the economy.”

    Zhu: “Fighting financial risks is one of Xi’s priorities. The financial regulatory system will be restructured so it is more capable of risk control.

    “Economic reforms will also be carried forward. The market and society will be allowed bigger roles in the economy.”

    What about military and foreign policy?

    With US President Donald Trump speaking out against globalization, Xi has emerged as a defender of what he calls “the common destiny for mankind.”

    The Chinese president has extended Beijing’s influence abroad, especially through his signature infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative.

    Xi has also taken a hawkish stance when handling territorial disputes, which was coupled with sweeping reforms to make the Chinese military more combat-ready.

    President Xi Jinping holds a press conference at the Belt and RoadForum for International Cooperation in Beijing on May 15, 2017.
    President Xi Jinping holds a press conference at the Belt and RoadForum for International Cooperation in Beijing on May 15, 2017. Photo: Kyoto

    Lam: “With his domestic power enhanced, Xi has a freer hand to project China’s power around the world.

    “He will take more aggressive steps to compete with the US. He wants China to become a rule-maker instead of a passive participant in international affairs.

    “Nationalism is also the key pillar of the Communist Party’s legitimacy. Making Chinese feel proud will be a major goal for Xi.”

    Zhu: “China’s diplomacy will be centered on the Belt and Road Initiative, with the goal of building a community of common destiny for mankind.

    “As China’s power grows, it is having a bigger say in the international community. The leadership will try to make this trend continue.”

    VIOLA ZHOU
    VIOLA ZHOU
    Viola is a multimedia producer at Inkstone. Previously, she wrote about Chinese politics for the South China Morning Post.

    VIOLA ZHOU
    VIOLA ZHOU
    Viola is a multimedia producer at Inkstone. Previously, she wrote about Chinese politics for the South China Morning Post.

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