Asked by Bloomberg to comment on current trends in the Chinese regime, I offered the following:
I think we now have enough evidence to conclude that the Xi regime is a fundamentally different one from the one he inherited, that of Deng and his followers. Power has been concentrated to the party and to Xi himself, complete with person cult, and collective leadership is in the past. So is pragmatism, now the order of the day is ideology, discipline and national greatness. One visible consequence so far is China’s new aggression in the East Asia neighbourhood, the South China Sea in particular.
I think there are two reasons for this shift. The leaders have long known that they will not be able to rely on economic growth for legitimacy. The justification of party rule therefore becomes more dependent on ideology and a patriotic narrative of greatness. The other reason is that Xi is looking to be a true believer. He seems to believe in the purity of the party, which he is salvaging with his endless anti-corruption drive. And he seems to believe that it is the party’s destiny to be the force that can hold China together and enhance its greatness.