Expanding economic power will be crucial to China, but can the new ‘empire’ thrive?
It was breathtaking even if inevitable. China has abandoned its constraints on one-party rule. In 1980 Deng Xiaoping, the author of the Chinese miracle, wrote into China’s constitution 10-year term limits for its presidents and committed the country to the rule of law. Certainly China would continue as a one-party state, but it would be one that operated within constitutional bounds. Never again would the country suffer the depredations of a despot like Mao. Deng even held out the possibility that by 2030 China might become a democracy with a properly independent judiciary.
No more. Last Sunday the People’s Daily announced that President Xi would be carrying on in office indefinitely. Equally ominously, the constitutional commitment to the rule of law – in any case more observed in the breach – was to be transformed into a commitment to “wielding the law to rule”. No prizes for guessing who would wield that law. A newly drafted first clause in the constitution, in line with the “thoughts of Xi Jinping”, declares that the “leadership of the Chinese Communist party is the most essential feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics”.