Xi Jinping rescues HK from Budget story

Xi Jinping’s exciting Emperor-for-Life initiative unleashes the biggest frenzy of China-watching analysis and punditry since they all hailed him as the Great Reformer.

According to one pithy comment here, the aim is to neutralize…

…unresolved tensions between China’s modern, informed, globalized society and its pre-modern, secretive, parochial political system … The CCP … hopes to overcome complexity through the brute application of political force.

More here, here, here and everywhere really, plus there’s Jerome Cohen.

The term-limit thing is not so much a sudden major game-changer as evidence that confirms what was already becoming clear. In 10 years’ time, it will seem obvious looking back.

As anyone should already realize, Xi is putting preservation of the Communist Party’s monopoly of power over continued economic reform. It’s an either-or. Instead of ceding power to the market forces and rules-based systems needed to move onto a higher-productivity economy, he must go with the state controls and planning needed to maintain the supremacy of the Faith. Forget freer allocation of capital or internationalization of the Yuan, or the dream of escaping the middle-income trap.

Concentration of power increases the likelihood of leadership mistakes in domestic and foreign affairs, paranoia at the top and resentment among sidelined factions. This means greater repression and further smothering of what remains of civil society. Overseas, it means China’s image will shift from the cuddly-panda soft-power ‘Beijing Consensus’ thing to a more overtly obnoxious sinister dictatorship.

If a USSR/Cold War déjà vu scenario plays out, the Chinese leadership will probably divert more resources into bolstering its own position – more for poverty alleviation, internal security and the military, at the expense of raucous deal-making and bourgeois consumption by the tycoons and middle-class urban elites.

‘Reforming opening-up liberalizing’ China jumps the shark, and the Western world’s crappy-looking old liberal democracy lives to fight another day.

For Hong Kong, there could – conceivably – be a relatively semi-bright side. The city’s advantage lies in the gap between the Mainland’s restrictions and controls, and its own freedoms and independent institutions. Assuming that Beijing spares Hong Kong the full Mainland clampdown treatment as impractical or undesirable, that gap should widen by default. Possible downside: Carrie Lam becomes Chief Executive-for-Life.

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9 Responses to Xi Jinping rescues HK from Budget story

  1. Two more decades of Xi would be better than another 39 years of Thatcherism in Britain and another 73 years of American hegemony, bombing, invasions, war, terror and economic suppression of the masses.

    You don’t have to be even vaguely Spartist to wish that, surely.

    Remember, it’s not enough to just look. You have to learn how to see.

    Plop, plop!

  2. Chris Maden says:

    It can only end in tears – of those whose lives are ruined.

  3. LRE says:

    “Possible downside: Carrie Lam becomes Chief Executive-for-Life.” — Perhaps the cruelest punishment that could be inflicted on her for the crime of abject spinelessness in the face of adversity.

  4. Stanley Lieber says:

    The upside is that, after whatever cataclysmic whirlwind that’s in store for China has entirely spent its destructive force, then maybe the Chinese people finally will opt to join the ranks of advanced nations and abandon one-party authoritarian rule forever.

    In the meantime, property prices are up!

  5. Joe Blow says:

    Xi’s move is either the beginning or the end of something..

  6. Cassowary says:

    “Assuming that Beijing spares Hong Kong the full Mainland clampdown treatment as impractical or undesirable, that gap should widen by default. ”

    That’s a very large assumption. Has Xi Jinping ever been known to not clamp down on anyone? More likely he’ll keep Hong Kong only as free as necessary to launder his money, and considering we haven’t even reached Singapore levels of repression yet, we’ve still got quite a ways to go.

    Xi’s 64 now, he could be in power for another 20 years if he doesn’t go down in a coup. Joshua et. al will be middle aged by the time he kicks it. Then who knows?

  7. LRE says:

    A big assumption, but there is some sense to it — if you’re cracking down on the mainland economy due to paranoia, you and all your sticky-fingered mates are going to have trouble funnelling all your corrupt cash to Panama or whatever dodgy mattress you’re using as a stash without a couple of front operations like HK and Macau, and the international banks are going to need at least a thin veneer of rule of law to ensure they can get some cash out of the damn place before they’ll help the mass laundering.

  8. Cassowary says:

    That’s why I said “only free as necessary to launder his money”, and that’s not very free. As long as they keep contract law relatively free of corruption, they can do as they like insofar as rigging elections and suppressing political dissent goes. Multinational corporations don’t appear to have much problem with Singapore’s rule of law even though they jail teenagers for being snarky on the internet.

  9. I know one shouldn’t feed the ginger trolls, but one has to ask “better for whom?”

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