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China’s Summer of Discontent

Five months ago, when the Communist Party of China freed President Xi Jinping from term limits, the conventional wisdom was that his dominance within the Chinese party-state was so strong that his authority could not possibly come under attack. How things have changed.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Politics has a nasty habit of surprising us – especially in a country like China, where there is little transparency and a lot of intrigue. Five months ago, President Xi Jinping jolted his countrymen by abolishing the presidential term limit and signaling his intention to serve for life. But the real surprise was to come later.

At the time of Xi’s announcement, the conventional wisdom was that his dominance inside the Chinese party-state was virtually absolute, and thus that his authority could not possibly come under attack. Xi is now facing the worst summer since he came to power in November 2012, characterized by a steady stream of bad news that has left many Chinese – and especially Chinese elites – feeling disappointed, anxious, angry, helpless, and dissatisfied with their increasingly powerful leader.

The latest piece of bad news, which broke late last month, was the discovery by government investigators that a pharmaceutical company had been producing substandard vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough, and had faked data for its rabies vaccine. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese children nationwide have been given the faulty vaccines.

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