Three years after China's leadership announced a new wave of market oriented reforms, Barry Naughton is disappointed with the outcome: according to the professor at the University of California in San Diego, China's economic problems got worse under Xi Jinping. In this MERICS podcast Naughton describes Xi as fixated on political control, but not as an economic thinker.
Questions: Ruth Kirchner
International China watchers tend to present Party and state leader Xi Jinping as China’s sole decision-maker, but this view misses an important point. It neglects the implementation of those decisions – a massive undertaking in a country with a population of more than 1.3 billion and wide regional gaps in economic development. The task of specifying and implementing the Party’s guidelines is left to the State Council, China’s cabinet under the leadership of Li Keqiang, the number two within the Communist party structure.
For years China was led by consensus – factions in the upper echelons of power were carefully calibrated to keep a balance. But with Xi Jinping all that has changed, explains Victor Shih of the University of California, San Diego in our latest Podcast. Since Xi’s faction within the Central Committee is still rather small, he established a number of new leading small groups to strengthen his influence on policy making. At the 19th party congress next year Xi could now try to shrink the size of the powerful Politburo Standing Committee to obtain absolute power within the CCP.
Xi Jinping has used military reforms to strengthen his command over the People’s Liberation Army. He also uses personal connections, some dating back to his childhood years, to fill central positions within the military, says professor You Ji of Macau University. Xi also pursues a more aggressive strategy than his predecessors: China now intends to project power well beyond its borders, to catch up with the U.S. and to achieve great power status built upon military strength.
Questions: Ruth Kirchner
For all its problems, China is an incredibly successful country and still has a lot of growth potential, says Richard McGregor, visiting fellow at George Washington University. All gloomy scenarios about economic or political collapse have proved wrong so far. So, what if Xi Jinping succeeds in restructuring the economy and strengthening the Communist Party? China would emerge as a much more powerful country, says McGregor. However, there’s nothing in the party’s DNA that suggests China would be more accommodating internationally or more liberal domestically.