For 35 years or so—from the time Mao died and Deng Xiaoping launched his reforms in the late 1970s until Xi assumed power in 2012—China avoided many of these pitfalls and defied the law of political averages by building what scholars have called an “adaptive authoritarian” regime.While remaining nominally communist, the country embraced many forms of market capitalism and a number of other liberalizing reforms.In the place of a flawed but highly successful system, he is erecting a colossal cult of personality focused on him alone, concentrating more power in his hands than has any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.
In the last 40 years, China has racked up a long list of remarkable accomplishments.
Between 19, the Chinese economy grew by an average rate of 10 percent a year, producing a tenfold increase in average adult income.
(Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images) In the last six years, a staggering 1.34 million officials have been targeted, and more than 170 leaders at the minister or deputy minister level have been fired (and most were imprisoned).
Meng’s plight, like that of Bo Xilai—the powerful Chongqing party boss brought down in 2012—shows that no one is immune from Xi’s purges.
Rather than let one person exercise supreme authority, as do most dictatorships, Deng divided power among the Communist Party’s general secretary (who also gets the title of president), the premier, and the Politburo.
Deng hoped this system would ensure that no one person could ever again exercise the kind of control Mao had—since his unchecked power had led to vast abuses and mistakes, such as the Great Leap Forward (during which an estimated 45 million people perished) and the Cultural Revolution (during which Deng himself was purged and his son was tortured so severely he was left paralyzed).
As Minxin Pei, a China expert at Claremont Mc Kenna College, explains, the collective leadership model Deng designed helped weed out bad ideas and promote good ones by emphasizing careful deliberation and discouraging risk-taking.
Since assuming power in 2012, Xi has worked to dismantle China’s collective leadership system in several ways.
On balance, however, Xi’s campaign will have disastrous long-term consequences for his country and the world.
Xi’s efforts may boost his own power and prestige in the short term and reduce some forms of corruption.