Opinion: China is giving Xi Jinping unprecedented power

Delhi, India Published: Mar 01, 2018, 10:53 AM(IST)

File photo: Chinese President Xi Jinping Photograph:( Reuters )

The talks of extension of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s tenure beyond the stipulated limit of two terms as per their 1982 constitution is generating reasonable interest in the diplomatic circles. We Indians, from an open democracy with no such restrictions, have no case to comment on the political philosophies, structures and processes that China wants to adopt. It is purely their call, albeit it has exposed an inherent flaw in their constitutional design.

The sensibility of this proposed change is under scrutiny as President Xi is currently the head of all three apex level decision making bodies, including the communist party, national people’s congress and the military commission. In absence of political opposition in the one-party political system, a division of power amongst these three institutions has some modicum of conceptual debate on national issues, if not an elbow space for a  dissent in a communist structure. With the proposed changes, however, the possibility of prompting by the all-powerful president himself cannot be ruled out. The change is symbolic of giving higher credence to a perceived successful personality over the proven institutional strength of existing governance structures.

What concerns the international community most are the political connotations; China is seen as transitioning to quasi-dictatorial political structures. There are fair chances of enhanced political hubris of China in the absence of internal political opposition. This can get worse with President Xi’s penchant for the conduct of aggressive diplomacy as observed so far. 

Closer home, one cannot forget the Chinese duplicity and high handedness in orchestrating a major incursion across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) into Indian territory while President Xi was on a state visit to India, conveying a coercive politico- military message. Soon, thereafter, the Doklam happened as a sequel. The timings of the Doklam face-off was apparently linked to the domestic political compulsion of President Xi who intended to showcase his firm handling of territorial issues with an aim of enhancing his central position in Chinese polity in the forthcoming 19th Congress meet and the 90th anniversary of PLA. 

However, the Chinese bluff was exposed with firm political handling and Indian military resolve. A repeat of such military incursions cannot be ruled out in the future once Xi is firmly in the saddle for a longer tenure. Open threats of using military force and anti-India rhetoric from their foreign office on trivial issues are part of Chinese psychological warfare to keep India on the back foot. 

Looking at the pattern of political aggressiveness during his tenure so far, Xi seems to have used anti-India quotient in a deft manner, thereby, rallying national sentiments in his favour besides similar other international politically significant initiatives with military signatures. 

It also appears that China is getting worried due to the refusal of India to join CPEC bandwagon which is the key to its success, their biggest political investment in recent times. Fearing an adverse impact on their politico-economic ambitions, they seem to be desperate to tame India through a show of force, a sure shot recipe in their medieval mindset.  Whereas, with the increased political clout and strategic pull of India as well as with the help from the US has put the Chinese under pressure to introspect their conduct.  

Chinese stand down from supporting Pakistan in FAFT and their reported outreach to the ASEAN countries in working out a code of conduct in the South China Sea are indicative of scaling down of their obstinate political posturing. These changes are due to their political compulsions to push through their national agenda as of now. However, their underlying confrontationist tendencies are likely to continue under Xi in order to retain Chinese political position of strength.

Xi happens to be the tallest Chinese leader in the current strategically transitory situation. Moreover, he has developed a working equation and personal rapport with the current world political leaders who are going to be around for some time. From the Chinese perspective, it certainly is a sensible idea to perpetuate the vision of president Xi instead of bringing in a new incumbent in order to ensure political stability. Hence, a case for his continuation as an exception in the Chinese national interests.

While the Chinese proposal has its merits, it is also fraught with negatives that are detrimental not only to China but also to the world in general. Given the current Chinese politico-economic outreach and subtle military signatures beyond their borders. Since human mind has limited cognitive capabilities, depending on one individual as an ultimate arbitrator becomes counterproductive in the longer run. 

Moreover, anti-incumbency is a known phenomenon in any political system which would have no room for catharsis in a single point closed Chinese system, unlike a democracy where there is an option for change. One man show at times may fail to keep pace with the contemporary geopolitical changes due to a rigidity of perceptions, thereby, losing out on political flexibility to adapt to requisite environmental synergies. In the proposed system perception of an individual would have the power to overrule the institutional decision-making mechanism which may manifest into inappropriate synergies.

Now that President Xi is likely to continue in the office beyond the stipulated two terms, he would serve the Chinese interests better if he accords priority to cooperation instead of confrontation. It is  President Xi, who has to take a call with added faith and concomitant responsibilities bestowed upon him by the Chinese people.


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

Lt Gen Rameshwar Yadav

Lt Gen Rameshwar Yadav had been Director General of Infantry, Indian Army. He has been closely associated with force structuring and modernisation of the Army
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