Xi Jinping wields a level of social control not seen since Mao, posing a direct threat to democratic values worldwide
The trial of leading Chinese pro-democracy activists that opened this week in Hong Kong, is the latest, dismaying example of how China’s president, Xi Jinping, appears hellbent on extirpating every last vestige, squawk and squeak of political pluralism and public dissent. Tales of repression in China are sadly nothing new. What is different, and underappreciated in the west, is the way Xi is inexorably and single-mindedly expanding draconian systems of social control centred on the Communist party and the de facto dictatorship of one man: himself.
China has never been noted for benign or enlightened leadership. Nothing has quite matched the excesses of the Mao Zedong era, although Deng Xiaoping came close in Tiananmen Square in 1989. More recent leaders, such as Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, concentrated on economic development. Hu championed China’s “peaceful rise” abroad through the use of soft-power diplomacy. But Xi, in overall charge since 2013, is something else again – ruthless, relentless and global in his ambition to project China’s power and influence.