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The Year Ahead 2018

Xi Unbound?

By all conventional measures, Chinese President Xi Jinping has emerged from 2017 more powerful than ever. The question now is whether he can use that power to turn his vision for China – particularly for its economy – into reality.

AIX-EN-PROVENCE – China has defied expectations yet again. President Xi Jinping, the chief of the Chinese Communist Party, was widely expected to face his toughest test so far in October, when the CCP convened its 19th National Congress to choose its next leadership. Though Xi was guaranteed a second five-year term, it was thought that he would run into serious opposition if he refused to appoint a successor. But he did just that – and the opposition never materialized.

The reason is simple: Xi was prepared. Since taking office in 2012, he has carried out a sustained crackdown on civil society, unleashing a wave of repression few thought would be possible in post-Mao China. He also pursued a large-scale anti-corruption campaign, which constrained and even eliminated potential political rivals, thereby enabling him to consolidate his power swiftly.

Early this year, when Chinese security agents abducted Xiao Jianhua, a China-born Hong Kong-based billionaire, to serve as a potential witness against senior leaders, any remaining resistance to Xi’s push for greater authority was decimated. Nonetheless, to strengthen his position further in the run-up to the Congress, a sitting Politburo member who was viewed as a possible successor was abruptly arrested on corruption charges in July.

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