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Chinese hegemony posed by Xi’s absolute power

Posted October. 24, 2017 08:03,   

Updated October. 24, 2017 08:07

한국어

The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is closing on Tuesday. The general meeting of the central committee of China, which is to take place on Wednesday, will provide the contour of a new leadership in the second term of Chinese President Xi Jinping. However, it is projected that the successor, who will take office in five years following Xi, will not be nominated at the meeting. Furthermore, the party constitution, which is to be passed soon, is expected to include the “Chinese socialist ideology under the new ear of Xi Jinping.” The fact that his name will be enshrined in the party constitution alone will help consolidate his footing of one-man ruling as the chief architect of China’s new era, putting Mr. Xi in the ranks of Mao Zedong, the founder of the new China, and Deng Xiaoping, who ushered in the era of reform and opening up for China.

Experts say that the consolidation of Mr. Xi’s absolute power will be manifested in the form of breaking the tradition of Chinese leaders skipping a generation to nominate their successor, a principle established by Deng. Beginning the second half of his presidency without clarifying his successor is indicative of a prolonged one-man rule while instigating competition for allegiance among Xi’s potential successors, which will sap the foundation of China’s collective leadership system. Mr. Xi’s consolidation of power is interlocked with the “Chinese Dream,” his vision for national development. The Chinese leader has declared that China will stand tall as a great modern country comparable with the United States and have the world’s best national military in a near future.

Externally, China will likely assume a more aggressive stance. It has been a while since Deng Xiaoping's slogan “hide your strength, bide your time” was last preached. In the opening of the recent national congress, President Xi revealed his plan to build a new type of international relations based on mutual respect, cooperation, and symbiosis, but stressed that “Countries must give up any vain hope that China will swallow bitter fruit that is harmful to its national interests.” A warning that the country’s territorial disputes with Japan and the wrangling over the control of the South China Sea will accompany more frictions.

Mr. Xi’s increasingly tighter grip on power was first recognized by U.S. President Donald Trump, an apostle of “politics of power” in handling international relations. In a recent TV interview, President Trump called for Mr. Xi to play a more active role in tackling North Korea’s nuclear issues, adding that President Xi will be endowed with powers that his predecessors were rarely allowed to have. His remarks are likely based on the expectation that the two countries should work together to lead an era of G2, but there is a grave concern that the world might enter into an era of infinite competition and conflicts between the two superpowers.

Against this backdrop, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led the LDP’s landslide victory in the general elections on Sunday, making strides towards his goal of making Japan capable of waging war by 2020. In fact, the United States and China are weighing the options of risking a confrontation and clenching a grand deal to address Pyongyang’s nuclear ambition. Surrounded by the heads of “strong powers” fueling chauvinistic patriotism and entrenching hegemonic competition, South Korea is faced with a narrow, meandering path ahead. To prevent itself from getting lost in this untrodden path, South Korea will need to take a broader perspective and make a strenuous effort with extraordinary determination.