BACK TO THE FUTURE: China Edges Closer to One-Man Rule.
In unveiling a new top leadership lineup without a potential successor to Mr. Xi on Wednesday, the Communist Party edged closer to resurrecting one-man rule, four decades after the death of Chairman Mao.
The parade of the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee onto a red-carpeted podium in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People was the climax of a twice-a-decade process that placed Mr. Xi on a par with Mao in the party constitution and positioned him as pre-eminent leader even beyond his second five-year term.
Concentrating such power in Mr. Xi—who can now make policy and personnel choices virtually uncontested—draws to an emphatic end an era of collective leadership. It also represents a historic gamble.
Mr. Xi is calculating that strongman rule will make it easier to add China to the ranks of rich, global powers and to project Chinese power globally. An early test of the latter comes in just a few weeks, when U.S. President Donald Trump is due to visit Beijing.
The risk is a political culture that rewards loyalty over initiative, in which it is harder for the leadership to astutely address complex challenges.
There’s also the problem of legitimacy. Democracies and democratic republics hold ritualized revolts every few years, in which the people get to throw the bastards out and put in some new ones. Through that process, tensions are released and at least some legitimacy is restored.
China’s rule-by-communist-conensus allowed for an orderly transfer of power, but never faced any real stresses like mass unemployment or a long an unpopular war. But now Xi is betting that he doesn’t need the consensus fig leaf, or even the appearance of orderliness.
We’ll see how he fares.