Chinese Politics since Hu Jintao and the Origin of Xi Jinping’s Strongman Rule: A New Hypothesis (Fall 2023)




Le, Lin

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Texas National Security Review



What is the origin of Xi Jinping’s strongman rule? A “victorious Xi” thesis argues that Xi simply won his fight to gain power. But this raises the question of where Xi found the political support to do so. A “collective support” thesis suggests that centralized power was willingly given to Xi by the Chinese Communist Party’s collective leadership to overcome the interest groups that were resisting reform. However, this leaves unanswered why the party oligarchs — who represented these vested interests — would be working against themselves in this way. In addition, such theories fail to explain why Xi took China down a path of Maoist conservatism after briefly flirting with reformism early on. Historical evidence points to a new hypothesis: that there was a “two-line struggle” between China’s conservatives and reformers that spanned Hu Jintao’s two terms and lasted into Xi’s early years. Xi’s source of power was initially reformist, but it was later replaced by collective support from conservatives.

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