Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Xi Jinping is Leading China towards a Hybrid Authoritarian State
BANDO Kenji / Senior Editorial Writer, Mainichi Shimbun newspaper

January 26, 2018
China’s President Xi Jinping is on course to be reelected at the National People’s Congress in March, kicking off his second term at the helm. The doctrine that bears Mr. Xi’s name, the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, will be written into the national Constitution, following its inclusion in the Constitution of the Communist Party of China. Let us examine the direction in which China is headed under Mr. Xi’s leadership, now that he has gained authority comparable to that of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

As it turns out, his vision is that of building a hybrid authoritarian state – a political system governed by the Party elite with undertones of traditional Chinese elements, which will harness information technologies such as the internet and artificial intelligence (AI) to maximize efficiency. The Chinese Dream pursued by Mr. Xi is to create an advanced nation under this political system that rivals the United States.

Although concentration of power in Mr. Xi’s hands may seem to bolster his dictatorship, the deep-seated view among intellectuals in China rationalizes the move as a means to break through the difficult phase, including structural reforms. Tighter controls are being placed on freedom of speech on the internet, and greater pressure applied to activists and lawyers championing human rights. Yet, there is a subtle difference between the Chinese system and Stalinist regimes that suppress human rights.

The Chinese elite consists primarily of the 90 million members of the Communist Party and also includes lawyers and the media. The Party demands that they strictly toe the line and will not tolerate criticism. Meanwhile, the legitimacy of Communist Party rule is to be maintained by raising the quality of people’s lives. This is the direction of reform envisaged by Mr. Xi. Even in an oppressive, controlled society, it may be possible to limit discontent among the people, as long as living standards continue to rise. One example is Singapore, which has succeeded in becoming an advanced nation while maintaining an authoritarian regime in terms of its politics.

Naturally, the circumstances surrounding a large, populous nation such as China are different from that of a small island nation like Singapore. However, it seems as though China is seeking to become a “Singapore of 1.4 billion people” by utilizing the benefits of the information revolution, such as Big Data and AI. China is emerging as a global leader in applying IT to new businesses, such as cashless settlement based on electronic commerce and smartphone payment, and bicycle sharing. It is also expanding its administrative services by processing applications and accepting tax payments via online networks. In the years ahead, China is expected to make active use of Big Data to predict consumer trends and exercise control over its people. If it is deemed useful for improving efficiency and nurturing new industries, China is likely to step into domains that democratic countries would hesitate to enter due to privacy concerns.

While China may appear to be a “nation state” on the surface, in reality it has not completely dismantled its feudal class system, in which family registers are maintained separately for the cities and farming villages. Meanwhile, ethnic minorities such as the Mongols, Uighurs and Tibetans do not necessarily hold a shared identity with the state. By modernizing its ability to govern, Mr. Xi seeks to use the power of the Communist Party to integrate the nation. The aim is to ensure that the Communist regime is recognized both inside and outside the country as the immutable national polity of China.

China will continue to pursue economic development as its top priority. It is likely to do what it can to avoid any confrontations with the United States – a superpower, and seek to maintain regional peace by remaining on good terms with its neighboring countries. However, China’s global interests have expanded in line with its development. It also harbors a growing desire to venture outward, as demonstrated by its “Belt and Road” initiative of developing an extensive economic region.

Frictions with countries seeking to maintain the existing order, such as Japan and the United States, are unlikely to disappear any time soon. And as China seeks to protect its sprawling global interests, it will certainly continue to build up its arms. Regardless of its intentions, in reality the very presence of an expanding China has become the driving force that is changing the existing international order.

We should not underestimate the governing capabilities of the Communist Party, which has managed to grow over the years, despite the weighty issues it has faced. There are brains such as Wang Hunin, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and head of policy research, who has risen to the top leadership by formulating national strategy under three successive leaders – Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping.

Sun Yat-sen, who overthrew the Qing Dynasty in the Xinhai Revolution, envisaged the political system in post-revolution China progressing from military rule to a political tutelage phase that would pave the way for the ultimate establishment of a constitutional democracy. Sun felt it would be difficult to immediately implement a US-style democracy, because the Chinese masses were undereducated and still influenced by several thousand years of despotic rule. His idea of a political tutelage phase was similar to one-party rule by a political party created by the elite. It also strongly reflected China’s political tradition, in which the elite governed in accordance with Confucianism. Elitist politics was renounced by Mao Zedong, but today’s system of Communist Party rule bears a close resemblance to the political tutelage phase envisaged by Sun. Mr. Xi also emphasizes the need to give modern meaning to Confucian traditions including the teachings of Wang Yangming. We should keep in mind that Mr. Xi’s political ideal lies along the extended path of Chinese tradition.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

坂東賢治 / 坂東賢治/毎日新聞専門編集委員

2018年 1月 26日










一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Xi Jinping is Leading China towards a Hybrid Authoritarian State