patten146_ Lintao ZhangGetty Images_xi jinping Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The Only Direction for Xi’s Dictatorship

Over the past decade, Chinese President Xi Jinping has exploited Communist Party leaders’ fear of losing control to increase his own power to levels unseen since Mao Zedong. Party members preparing to hand Xi a third term this month are ignoring their country’s own recent cautionary tale about the dangers of one-man rule.

LONDON – After a decade in power, Xi Jinping is all but certain to be confirmed as China’s first three-term president at the Communist Party of China’s 20th National Congress this week. But before they make Xi a potential dictator for life, the party faithful should bear in mind that dictatorships never end well. Despite his iron grip on power, Xi’s is no different.

To see where Xi’s autocracy might lead, CPC members need only look to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s extraordinary recklessness. Alternatively, they may want to examine their own history and recall the murderous mayhem and infighting that characterized the Cultural Revolution during Mao Zedong’s last decade.

Mao’s brutal one-man rule prompted his adroit and wily successor, Deng Xiaoping, to introduce the two-term limit that Xi later pushed to abolish. To prevent a single individual from amassing so much power, Deng devised a system in which the top leader would have to operate under party elders’ guidance and in consultation with a small group of senior advisers and powerbrokers – a cabinet of sorts. But Xi chucked this model and in 2018 had Chinese lawmakers amend the country’s constitution to clear the way for his third term.