Analysis: Xi has cemented his power in China. Now you’re ready to meet Biden virtually

Senior officials on Thursday approved a resolution on the party’s “major achievements and historical experiences” since its founding 100 years ago. putting Xi on the same pedestal like the nation’s founding father, Mao Zedong, and the reformist leader Deng Xiaoping, who unleashed an economic boom that made China the world’s second-largest economy.
And with this tall stature and undisputed rule within the now-established authoritarian, one-party state, Xi is preparing to sit down with US President Joe Biden in a virtual meeting on monday – the first of the two leaders since Biden entered the White House in January.

By consolidating his position at home and attempting to build bridges with Biden, Xi hopes to pave the way to next year’s XX Party Congress, during which he is expected to claim a third term, extending his time in office by at least another five. . years.

The scheduled talks with Biden come amid increasing competition and rising tensions between the two superpowers on various fronts, as well as deteriorating China’s relations with much of the developed world and a growing list. from your neighbors.

On Thursday, Xi warned Asia-Pacific nations against a return to Cold War-era tensions, in a veiled reference to the Biden administration’s efforts to rally allies and partners in the region to confront the rising Beijing influence.

“The Asia-Pacific region cannot and must not fall back into the confrontation and division of the Cold War era,” Xi told the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in a recorded video. “Attempts to draw ideological lines or form small circles on geopolitical grounds are destined to fail,” he said.

Xi has sought to build national legitimacy around a vision of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” which promises to restore China to its former glories and its rightful place on the world stage.

Since the pandemic, the Chinese leader has doubled down on a narrative that “the east is rising and the west is falling, “promoting an” unprecedented window of opportunity “for China to catch up, if not surpass, the West in national strength.

And the landmark resolution adopted at the party plenary this week has anointed him the only leader supposedly capable of leading China to achieve that ambition.

Under Xi, the meeting statement says, China “has made historic achievements and underwent historic transformations,” solving difficult problems and supposedly accomplishing great things that it says were on the agenda of its predecessors but could never be done.

The statement did not address any of the complex challenges facing the Xi administration, from an impending demographic crisis and a slowdown in the economy to Beijing’s plummeting international image over its harsh crackdowns in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, the military stance. towards the autonomous island of Taiwan. and an increasingly assertive foreign policy.

Instead, he was showered with glowing praise on the perceived progress made under Xi’s leadership, from what he characterized as eliminating poverty and containing Covid-19, to reshaping ideology, modernizing the military, and the rise of China’s global influence.

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In the statement, Xi is portrayed as a longtime leader alongside Mao and Deng, the only other two Chinese leaders to have tabled such resolutions. Under Mao, Deng and now Xi, the Chinese nation has “ushered in a great leap from standing up and getting rich to getting strong,” he said.

“He wants to really highlight his own contribution to the development of the party, which will also seal his legitimate rule over China for the foreseeable future,” said Victor Shih, an expert on elite Chinese politics at the University of California, San Diego. “Then, of course, no one would challenge his power within the party.”

However, the statement also omitted any mention of the party’s past mistakes, including a deadly famine and a decade of political and social unrest unleashed by Mao, disasters caused in part by the fervent cult of personality that surrounded him. .

After decades of collective leadership after Mao’s death, Xi has returned, at least in part, to the one-man rule of the Mao era.

“Now we go back to strongman politics,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University.

“The danger, of course, (is depending) on ​​one person to make decisions, but also depending on their health, their own character to decide about the future of a nation of 1.4 billion people,” he said.

And when there is only one person in power, there is only one person to blame when things go wrong.

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