Missing the Forest for the Xi
For the past month, Western commentators have been wringing their hands over Chinese President Xi Jinping's strengthening hold on power, which contradicts the long-held assumption that China would eventually embrace Western democracy. But just as China's economic-development model has proven the West wrong, so, too, might its political model.
LONDON – In recent weeks, Western media commentators have focused extensively on the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) decision to abolish presidential term limits, which will allow Xi Jinping to remain in power indefinitely. Unsurprisingly, they have generally responded to the news with disappointment and skepticism about the Chinese political model. What is surprising, though, is the claim that China is reneging on some implicit promise to become more like the West.
Many observers assumed that China would inevitably embrace Western-style liberal democracy. But even though I, too, was slightly taken aback by the CPC’s latest decision, I never considered that simplistic interpretation of modern-day China to be particularly sensible.
Now, let me be clear: I am not going to argue that unelected strongman leadership is superior to Western-style democracy. If I believed that Xi was preparing to rule China with an iron fist for the next 20-plus years, I would share the doubts of many other commentators.