Rudd: “The strongest Chinese president since Mao”

Xi Jinping, the last party plenum in 2014 with its entrenching of the anti-corruption movement into the fabric of Chinese law, and the restoration of party legitimacy are among the subjects of a remarkable interview of the 26th PM of Australia, Kevin Rudd (who speaks Mandarin). Some excerpts:

“All of us who’ve grown up in study of Western political science assume the $14,000 per capita income threshold; then people demand more liberties, and what you end up with is one form of democratic government or other. Xi Jinping does not have that as his game plan for China. What he is attempting is to defy history. Frank Fukuyama’s point, we end with liberal capitalism is not where China is going. Xi Jinping is seeking to advance a radical alternative.”

On a perhaps unrelated but interesting note, the SCMP reports that Xi Jinping just reshuffled the leadership at China’s version of the Secret Service. The WaPo covers some similar territory:

To mark China’s Spring Festival, Xi made a visit in mid-February to the small northern village of Liangjiahe, where he was banished in 1969 as a raw 15-year-old during the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution, where he worked for seven years and where he joined the Communist Party. His father had been persecuted and jailed in one of Mao Zedong’s purges, and Xi suffered humiliation, hunger and homelessness, sleeping in a cave, carrying manure and building roads, according to official accounts. “Perplexed” when he was sent to the countryside, Xi emerged as if remolded by the painful years he spent there. He learned enough in the village to be able to cast himself as a man of the people. The lessons also made him profoundly distrust those same people.

He is also a president whose worldview, and vision for China, were shaped by two historic traumas. The first was the trauma of the Cultural Revolution, when Mao used the people to tear his own party to shreds, and Xi was caught up in the chaos. The second was the trauma of the collapse of the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, as the public was invited to rise up and the Communist Party there was consigned to oblivion. For if Xi casts himself as the man to save the Communist Party from its demons, he is also a man obsessively determined to retain full control of any reform process, in ways that Mao and Gorbachev did not do.

The twin traumas help explain why he won’t allow the people to drive any process of change. His determination to crack down on corruption, for example, is matched by an equal resolve to exclude the public from participating in that campaign, lest the forces he unleashes spin out of control. “The combination of that domestic trauma, experienced as a young person, and the trauma of the collapse of the Soviet Union, those two traumas, one domestic and one foreign, have really shaped him,” said Roderick MacFarquhar, a leading expert in Chinese politics at Harvard University. “He has seen what happens if you allow too much criticism of the party and the establishment.”

This is a guy who seems almost perfectly ill-suiteded to deal with China’s $30 trillion debt problem, a problem that requires information transparency in markets, and a huge number of legal, financial, and corporate restructuring experts who are, for the most part, both non-political and capable of making important decisions at their level.

One Response to “Rudd: “The strongest Chinese president since Mao””

  1. Neil Says:

    There’s only one way to maintain both centralized control and an ever-increasing standard of living: the government must provide the goods required to increase the standard of living.

    There’s only one way for a government to provide the ever-increasing quantity of goods required for an ever-increasing standard of living:

    Conquest.

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