MERICS Web Seminar: After Xi - scenarios for China’s leadership succession
After nearly nine years in office, Xi Jinping now stands as the overwhelmingly dominant figure in China’s political system, having gained command of the military, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) apparatus, and diplomatic and economic policymaking, all while sidelining or locking up rivals to his leadership. His drive for power, however, has destabilised elite political consensus and dismantled powersharing norms that evolved since the 1980s. By removing de jure term limits on the office of the presidency — and thus far refusing to nominate his successor for this and his other leadership positions — Xi has solidified his own authority at the expense of the most important political reform of the last four decades: the regular and peaceful transfer of power. In doing so, he has pushed China towards a potential destabilising succession crisis, one with profound implications for the international order and global commerce.
There are various scenarios for what happens after Xi, ranging from a peaceful transfer of power to a split at the top if he is forced out of office in a coup or by illness or death. These scenarios and their implications for the West are the subject of a recent joint report by Jude Blanchette, Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Richard McGregor, Senior Fellow for North Asia at the Lowy Institute. In this web seminar they presented their findings and discussed them with Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) analysts Katja Drinhausen and Valarie Tan.