Chinese Politics In The Xi Jinping Era

By Phar Kim Beng
Strategic Pan Indo-Pacific Arena
Twitter: @indo_pan

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Cheng Li , is a leading Sinologist with a twist. Based in Brookings Institution, Washington DC over the last two decades. His niche is leadership dynamics in China, with a focus on how they execute their decisions at the very top, indeed, also on how each of them reaches the pinnacle of their power.

Cheng Li had studied Jiang Zemin, Hu Jin Tao, and now, Xi Jinping. Three of China’s last three presidents. Thus, he is not only an expert at understanding the interregnum that follows with each leadership transition, but the continuity and the disruption too; thus giving his analysis a more realistic projection and pattern. Beyond that, Cheng Li is able to provide a comprehensive analysis of the vicissitudes of China’s party system, and predict what is likely to happen as President Xi amasses more personal power, all of which will put the constraints of collective leadership to further tests, even if this system had been used before.

Indeed, Xi is one of the most intriguing and complex world leaders of our time, and China’s political trajectory is crucial to the peace and prosperity of the world. First, President Xi Jinping has outlasted President Barack H. Obama in the US, potentially President Donald Trump on November 3, and has proposed a new “great power relationship” based on multilateralism and mutual respect, proposition that deserves serious consideration given how far China has come along as a major power. Second, President Putin and President Xi now know that they can strategically pair up in transforming the dynamics of world politics at the highest levels. But will President Xi maintain his choke-hold on China even as China’s great power relationship comes to a head, especially with the United States and European Union (EU)? Since becoming General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012, President Xi has surprised many in China and around the world with his bold anti-corruption campaign and his aggressive consolidation of power. Li did not reflect it in the book but up to 91.6 percent of the people, according to A columnist in South China Morning Post in July 2020, appears to approve of the efforts of President Xi in all mannered and shape. Be that as it may, President Xi’s legacy, as Li argues, will largely depend on whether he can encourage more political institutionalization in governing the world’s most populous country, as it becomes increasingly pluralistic.

Overall, Li provides a nuanced account of how the structure and dynamics of party leadership have evolved since the late 1990s, challenging Western conventional wisdom about the Middle Kingdom. His insights into what many China analysts call the “black box” of leadership decision making draws on the meticulous biographical information, which he includes in this volume, on the members of the party’s Central Committee. Li has various tables and charts to detail their family origins, education backgrounds, occupations, career patterns, and mentor-patron ties. Li has helped many to understand the enigma of Chinese leadership.



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