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Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen behind a statue of late communist leader Mao Zedong GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images

China’s Big-Data Big Brother

The Communist Party of China's decision to abolish presidential term limits has raised the possibility that President Xi Jinping, the country's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, will rule indefinitely. And the cult of personality Xi is creating will be bolstered by the most powerful surveillance state in history.

LAHORE – The Communist Party of China’s (CPC) decision this week to eliminate presidential term limits seems to open the door for President Xi Jinping to be not just “Chairman of Everything,” but also “Chairman Forever.” The move has been met with dismay around the world, but it has also intensified an ongoing debate among China experts over whether the biggest threat to China is too much executive power, or too little.

Where one stands on that question seems to depend largely on whether one is a political scientist, an economist, or a technologist. Many political scientists and legal scholars, for example, argue against the change, because they consider the model of collective leadership that the CPC established after 1979 to be one of its biggest successes. That model’s term limits and system of peer review for high-level decision-making has provided the checks necessary to prevent a repeat of Mao-era catastrophes such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

In fact, the post-1979 dispensation has often allowed for a genuine battle of ideas, particularly between the statist Young Communist League and coastal elites who favor more economic liberalization. China may remain a closed society in many ways, but its top policymakers have shown an open-minded willingness to experiment and learn through trial and error.

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