China's President Xi Jinping speaks next to US President Donald Trump NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

The West Is Wrong About China’s President

In the West, government accountability is closely identified with democratic elections. In China, it is a function of how – and how well – the government responds to and protects the needs and interests of the people.

BEIJING – China’s recent constitutional amendment eliminating the term limits for the president and vice president has left much of the West aghast. Critics fear the emergence of a new and unaccountable dictatorship, with President Xi Jinping becoming “Chairman Mao 2.0.” This response is more than a little inappropriate.

Long tenures are not exactly unheard of in the West. For example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has just begun her fourth four-year term – a development that the rest of Europe has largely welcomed rather than criticized.

Of course, a Westerner might argue that Merkel has an electoral mandate, whereas Xi does not. But democratic elections are not the only way to achieve accountability. And Xi’s approval rating, according to almost all international surveys, seems to exceed the combined approval ratings of US President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May. While there may be reason to worry that Chinese politics could change for the worse, the same is true in the United States and the United Kingdom.

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