Professor Rory Truex: "Xi for life? What does it mean for China and the World?" | Talks at Google
I studied. Chinese politics, and I teach courses on Chinese politics so I am, grateful for this opportunity today, to get to speak to you about, events. Unfolding. In China this past year so often when we talk about China we. Talk about it through the lens of China u.s. the, trade war these sorts of things but, actually in, China and mainly on China and domestic politics, this has been a seminal. Year in, part because of this man Xi Jinping and so today I wanted to really just focus on giving you a briefing. I thought that would be the most helpful thing to give, you a sense of what's, unfolding, this past year and what we can think about will happen moving forward. So. I wanted to start as I mentioned I teach courses on Chinese politics so I wanted to start with an exam question. Which. I can see there was a little in little enthusiasm, for that but. Here. We go bear with me. So. This past fall, I taught a course on Chinese politics and for the final exam I asked the students to identify a year. A critical. Year in the development, of China in. Particular China's, political development, so we have this concept in political science something. Called a critical juncture which is a kind, of a jargony, way of saying and that is a turning point a year where certain. Events unfolded, certain decisions, were made that. Changed the trajectory of history, and, so if we look back at the last 70. Years of the, rule of the Chinese Communist, Party certain years come. Quickly to mind which I'm sure many of you are familiar with the first is of course 1949. 1949. Is the establishment, of the, People's Republic of, China this is a picture of Mao, Zedong standing, in Tiananmen Square. Declaring. The establishment. Of the People's Republic and, for. The first time in decades the. Territory. Of mainland China is, consolidated. Under the rule of a single government so this was a heady time for China and signaling the beginning of mouse mouse, rule, another. Year which is of course very important, is 1917. 1978. The beginning, of so-called reform, and opening-up if. Your does, anybody here speak Chinese or study Chinese some. So. I remember when, I started taking Chinese I took Chinese 101, in one of the first words we learn is guy Guk -, which. Means reform, and opening-up and it's I swear. 50%, of our lessons were about reform and opening-up so it's a it's an important year and this, for. Those of you who are less familiar with this signal is the beginning of China's economic miracle. So, dong Xiao ping comes into power and takes a much more pragmatic stance, with respect to economic policymaking. Basically. Undoes the the command part of the Chinese economy and. Results. In an influx of trade and foreign direct investment, in the so-called, 30. Years of 10%, economic, growth this is the beginning of this era this is him visiting the US and. He's wearing a cowboy hat this is one of the famous images, of reform and opening-up. Another. Year is, of course 1989. 1989, is the year of the Tiananmen Square movement, and the tienamin square massacre, and.
This Is the year where we learned that the Communist Party was. Willing to do whatever it took to stay in power and was not amenable to the idea of political reform and, this is the year where we saw them willing, to use live ammunition on, student, protesters. And, finally, what I'm gonna argue today and what, I argue I am. Starting. To come up with this argument it's not fully developed but I what I argue, is that potentially, 2017. And 2018. Have, the capacity, to be one of those years so. It's difficult to know we haven't seen history unfold quite yet we haven't seen the trajectory, moving forward but. There have been a number of developments in the last 12 months that signaled this might be a turning point for contemporary, China in particular, this is the year where Xi Jinping the current general secretary, of the Chinese Communist Party has fully, consolidated his power, signaled. The start of a new era under his, rule that could last well beyond. His expected, time and power so. Today I wanted to give you a briefing as to what happened this. Past year why I think this might be a critical year and then, some trends think about moving forward some things that might be be worth paying attention to. So. Before I get into what happened this year I want to kind of set the stage to, talk a little bit about how we used, to talk about China and when I say how we I mean mostly the political scientists, community, and when. I say used to I mean not that long ago I mean only a few years ago. We used to describe the Chinese Communist, Party through the lens of almost. An exceptionalism. So, most authoritarian, regimes and the Chinese Communist Party is an authoritarian, regime they. Don't last very long they, live sort of short brutish, violent, existences, and they. Fall from a number of different threats the the two most pressing for threats facing, any authoritarian, leader are the threat from within the threat of a coup attempt, actually. There's some data on this from Ilan cephalic who's a political scientist at Yale and he actually shows that most authoritarian, regimes die in this way they. Die they crumble from within I think, it's roughly 60 to 70 percent of authoritarian, regimes fall to be a coup where, one leader comes in and basically Institute's, a new authoritarian regime and then. The second way they fall is through the threat of revolution. This is the more romantic version of how. Authoritarian, regimes collapse the population, comes together demands. Political, reform and either through some violent, struggle or some broke road broker transition, the authoritarian, regime Falls and is replaced with with something else hopefully democracy. So. This, is how these, are the two problems facing, any authoritarian, leader including, Xi Jinping who Jintao Zhang's men and all the way on back and, the way we used to describe the party, was. Wow this is a regime that seems. To have learned the lessons of history and figured out how, to mitigate some of these issues so. In particular the, key feature of the authoritarian, regime in China was institutionalization. So. One of the difficulties, for any authoritarian. Regime is is how to share power how to keep elites happy how, to transfer, power from one leader to another so. If we look back in the 2000s, there were a set, of institutions. Rules and norms that. The Communist Party had developed, that. Seemed to be solving. This dilemma of of threats from within so in particular, there was a norm that no, leader would stay in office longer. Than 10 years so leaders at the very top including Xi Jinping were expected to stay in office for, two five-year terms the.
Successor, Would. Be anointed in advance usually five years in advance potentially, earlier than that the. Smoothing, the power transition, allowing, that person to develop cachet. Within the system and experience. There. Would be well-established retirement, ages so people would be forced to leave office and wouldn't hang on to long power. Was exercised, not by just one person but collectively, where each leader at the top on say the top I generally, am referring to what's known as the Paul bro standing community the top tier. Of leadership, of the Chinese Communist, Party usually seven to nine liters each, leader would be given a portfolio. And while there would be one most senior, leader they. Would cooperate with each other they would play nice so. These were the key institutions. That, we, look back on under, Jung's a minute who Jintao the two predecessors, of Xi Jinping we. Say these these institutions, contributed, the resilience of the Communist Party so. That's the threat from within the threat from below revolution. You, know the Communist Party is always it's, an authoritarian regime it uses the language of democracy, and claims to be democratic. But. No self-respecting, political. Scientists, would call the Chinese Communist Party democratic, but. Nevertheless in, the 2000s. It looked like the party was starting to develop. Mechanisms. For citizens, to have, a voice, so. These weren't democratic, they were tightly controlled by the party but nevertheless there were channels through which citizens, could voice, their concerns this is everything from a petition, system village. Elections a People's. Congress system which is their legislative, system online, public. Opinion portals, mayor's mailboxes. It's, getting increasingly online. And digital but. There were channel is in place where citizens could funnel their grievances, and the party could, respond.
And. So some of the language we use to describe the party at this time was we. Used to call it responsive, authoritarianism, or consultative, authoritarianism, in general, this is sort of a a kind. Of a more tolerable, form of authoritarian. Regime this wasn't a tin-pot dictatorship, this was a regime that was sophisticated and, institutionalized. And seemed to be trying to mitigate these issues, so. That's how we used to describe it and this argument I should I should cite the the author's his name's Andrew Nathan this was made in 2003, if any of you want to do further reading I'm sure you have plenty of other things to do with your time but, the. Article is called authoritarian, resilience so. Enter Xi Jinping so. Xi Jinping is. The current. General. Secretary of the Communist Party so I I I'm, afraid I'm gonna have to get in a little bit of the weeds here in, terms of the Chinese leadership system but but bear with me so. Any top leader of China today, actually has three different positions so the first is that their general secretary, of the Chinese Communist, Party. That's. The head of the party that's the most important position they. Are also de. Facto president, of the People's Republic of, China which. Is the head of state the, government position the party and the government on paper are separate. Things, in. Reality, they're heavily intertwined and the party dominates the government and actually in my experience, many Chinese citizens have trouble differentiating, the. Party institutions. And the party positions in the government positions, but she didn't pings party position as general secretary his. Government position as the president he also has a military position he's chair of what's known as the Central Military Commission so, he's head of state head of party head of military so. He assumed these positions, in 2012, and, we. Are just finishing up his first term in office and therefore he's expected, to retire in 2020. To 2023. Now. Prior to coming to office I just want to emphasize a couple of things about Xi Jinping's rise, the. First is like many Chinese leaders you might hear of this so-called. China, model this, idea that China is a meritocratic system, and. People are promoted, based on their abilities, and talents and experience, and so forth, that. Is a highly controversial, argument, to make what. I would say is that Xi Jinping like many other Chinese leaders had, a lot of governing, experience, upon entering his. Highest position, so he rose up the ranks from a young age, was. Party secretary, and and mayor and governor of various different parts of China was, involved in the, central party school he, actually helped run the Beijing Olympics so by the time he came general secretary he was highly experienced, the. Second feature of his rise is that he is not what's known as a princeling, so. In the, Chinese politics of princeling is simply a leader whose. Father or grandfather and. I apologize. For using male male, nouns. Here but this is this is empirically. True almost all Chinese leaders are male a. Princeling. Is a Chinese leader whose father or grandfather was, also a leader and so she didn't Payne's father's name is Shi Junction who actually worked with mouths adult before. Being purged during the Cultural Revolution but, Xi Jinping because of this princeling, status an American, Princeton would be like Chelsea Clinton George W Bush that's that's, you can kind of draw the connection, because. Of this princeling, status he. Potentially. Had a more accelerated rise and he had a certain level of prestige within the system early on and.
Then The third thing I would talk about about, his rise is that like, many Chinese leaders prior to him coming to, power we actually didn't know a lot about him. So, one way to rise, up to the Chinese system seems to be to keep your head down, to. Develop relationships, with patrons, who are higher in office than you and not, take any dramatic policy. Stances in mine either direction so. Prior to coming into office we really didn't know a lot about what Xi Jinping was all about and if. You look back at some of the discourse about him into 2012, and 2013 a lot. Of people believed, he. Was China's Gorbachev, so this is a Democrat, in Waiting he's going to be the one who finally liberalized his China and embarks on political reform and. The. Basis for these claims was. In. Retrospect fairly, weak Xi Jinping spent. Time in Iowa this is him as a younger man he spent time in Iowa on an exchange program. So. He spent time in Iowa, his daughter attends Harvard University, therefore. He must get it he must be a liberal, as. It, turns out this conjecture, couldn't, have been further from the truth xi Jinping is a reformer, and I'll, talk more about that later but he is a reformer of the illiberal sort so, he's, moving China in a more authoritarian, direction, not a more democratic direction. So. What, happened in 2017-2018, why, is this years past, 12 months such a big deal well there were really three events, that unfolded. That. Really. Changed, what we thought we knew about Chinese, politics the first occurred. At what's known as the party congress the party congress occurred, last fall it's a meeting of the 2000. Most powerful, members of the Chinese Communist, Party it happens only once every five years and during. This event we, typically, see the unveiling of leadership, new leadership, circles. And. What we were expecting, to see based. On precedent was, that Xi Jinping there, would be a new group of top seven leaders Xi Jinping would still be in power right because he still has one five-year term left but, that there would be a successor, so. We would see two new leaders put, into the top tier of the Chinese Communist Party and it would be generally understood potentially, even announced, that, these people were going to take over from Xi Jinping there would be a new successor, in waiting so, first thing we learned this fall is that there. Actually when this new leaders, this is the event this this image, that I'm showing here that's actually four, out of the new seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, there was no successor, announced. Okay. So. Remember I talked about institutions. This is a big, one having a successor, named in advance, that. One's gone, okay. And, why, is this a big deal well actually for basically, since the Tiananmen, Square massacre the Tiananmen Square incident there has been a successor, in place in the. Chinese political system, so it was known that Johnson min would, transfer power to who Jintao Xi. Jinping came to office as in, the pol bro Standing Committee in 2007. It was known that he would take over for who Jintao, so. Now for the first time we don't have a successor. Which. Means this, can generate instability. Right so if an authoritarian regime we don't know if something ever happened is Xi Jinping if he had a health problem or something like this there. Would be a major public, power struggle, so. That was the event number one event number two is a little, more end of the weeds but I thought we'd we. Could have some fun with it so. This. Is event number two and then I had to write it down because I have trouble remembering. All of the language. But. I encourage you all to memorize, this Xi. Jinping thought on socialism, with Chinese characteristics, for, the new era, this.
Is A mouthful, I am NOT a native speaker of Chinese, and my Chinese is probably suspect, but she's and pinkish in should I don't, go to such show Hydra says John that's in Chinese to me it also sounds like a mouthful in Chinese there are native Chinese speakers in the room I heard you before so, maybe. You can tell me if you agree but. Another. Feature of the Chinese political system, is that any elite, leader. Is. Expected. To make an ideological, contribution, to the Communist Party doctrine, so, every leader has their pet phrase Mao. Zedong has, Mao Zedong Thought, dung. Shout ping has dong Xiao ping Theory John's. Immense contribution. Is known as the three represents. John, zoom it should be said that it's not called John's and mins three represents, is just called the three represents. Scientific. Concept of development is who in town and. So now Xi Jinping's, contribution, is known as Xi Jinping thought on socialism, with Chinese characteristics, for the new era this. Phrase, was put into the Constitution, the Charter of the Communist Party itself, and it was done so while, she didn't ping was still in office still in power usually it happens after the fact so if, we dissect this phrase a few things stand, out first Xi, Jinping, his. Name is in it okay. So it's, a named phrase this honor had only been reserved for Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping so. Here we have Xi Jinping placing. Himself on par with those two leaders the. Second. Word I want you to pay attention to his thought souchong, so, remember, there was Mao Zedong Thought and. Dong. Xiao ping theory. So. There. Are some analysts who believe that a thought actually is higher than. A theory. Depends. You're now, we're getting into semantics, but it's, telling that mouths are dong how Mao Zedong thought, so, now we have Xi Jinping thought Mao Zedong thought so and not only is he putting himself on par with Mao and dung he may be only putting himself on par with Mao and above done, socialism. With Chinese characteristics, is an old sort of tired phrase in Communist, Party ideology it's, basically their way of justifying the fact that they've gone a market direction, while still using socialist, language so this is actually not a new phrase, but. The last thing I think is in some sense the most important, is a new era. So. Xi Jinping is declaring, that we are in a new era and he, is at the center and, up. Until this point we have generally thought that China was in the so-called reform, period so beginning in 1978. We have the reform and opening-up, that, was the period we were in xi, Jinping is saying we are in the end of that period we are in a new era and I, am at the center so. That was event number two event. Number three. Occurred. This past March where. We had an amendment to China's, Constitution that. Got rid of term limits for the. Position of the presidency, so prior to this the position of the presidency, which remember is Xi Jinping's government, position, was. Governed by two five-year, term limits and, this. Past spring. Which. Honestly, would have been unbelievable, five or ten years ago that term limit was gotten away with so. The interpretation, of all of these events so again, just to reiterate so, we have no successor, we have Xi Jinping thought in the Constitution, and now we have no term limits, the. Interpretation. Among. The China Studies community and the China watcher community is that this signal is that Xi Jinping is potentially, trying to stay on past, his expected, retirement, in 2022 the so-called XI for life and. I. Titled the talk not XI for life i titled, it xi for life with, a question, mark at the end because. I think it's important for us all to remember that what. We know about elite politics in China is is actually quite little it's an extremely opaque system and so, people, that observe the system were. Left to to, take these very crude signals, and try. To infer what's going on between the party leaders and what's going on in their heads and so I think it's a bit premature to say oh he'll be in there until he's he.
Until For the rest of his life although Donald, Trump actually congratulated. Him on being. It's. Just I went. 20 minutes without bringing out Donald Trump, so. My. Own interpretation so, one. Possibility he's, intending to stay on that's one possibility a second possibility is he. Is using these moves to further consolidate, power and create uncertainty so. One feature of the Chinese political system is if you anoint a successor, you. Actually are creating a rival and you're, creating a new base of power and instantly that person, who's the successor, in Waiting becomes quite powerful, and you're. A lame duck for. Five years and so maybe by not anointing his successor, and singing that he might want to stay he's, just maintaining his own bargaining leverage so. That's one other interpretation. That I think is important to think about either, way my own feeling, is that whether, or not he stays in office or retires, it. Actually doesn't matter as much as you might think because, if he does install a successor, he. Will likely try to install, a a Lackey of his own so he will install someone who is loyal to him and he, will rule from behind the scenes when. This is also common in the Chinese system dong Xiao ping continued, to rule, despite. Not actually having highest level titles so so power in the Chinese system is some. Sense about tiles, but and, many others it's actually about personal relationships within. The system so. Either way I think one takeaway I want you to come away with from the talk today is that we are likely in an era where Xi Jinping is going to be at the center of the Chinese political system, not just for the next five years but likely for the next 10 15. Possibly. Even 20 years of. Course it's a bit difficult to predict so. What, do we know about Xi Jinping so if we're in his era we've gotten a chance to watch him in office now for five years so what is he actually about what is he what, does he care about what makes him tick if. I had to describe him in three, words I would use the following I would say he's nationalist, he. Is authoritarian. And he's, populist, it's, that combination so, nationalism. One, of the key phrases of Xi Jinping thought and I encourage you to go study Xi Jinping thought, is. This. Idea of the coal so-called China dream or Chinese dream depending, on how you see it translated, jungle among in Chinese the. Chinese dream, dates. Back to this idea of national, rejuvenation. There is a narrative in the Chinese political system that China was once a great nation, that status. Was robbed of, it. By foreign, imperialist, powers, beginning, with the opium war there. Is a century, of humiliation, where. China is repeatedly. Infringed. Upon by foreign powers and only. When the Chinese Communist Party comes to power in 1949. That's, the establishment, of a new China and China, has stood up and, so. Xi, Jinping's China, dream is an extension of that narrative and the basic dream. As it has been articulated, is that China will once again become, a strong powerful, and prosperous nation. One. Of the most. Cliche, things you can say about China is that it is a collectivist. Culture, this, is a a, pet. Peeve of mine it's, it's a very simplistic way of thinking and it's in some sense Orientalists, way of describing China. But. In, this instance I think it's important, to emphasize that this China dream people. Americans, here that's may think oh that's the American dream that sounds pretty good it's actually quite distinct, so this this is an image of one of the propaganda posters of the China dream, and, you'll see in Chinese, it's a jungle among China dream and under at what a Hmong means my dream so. We literally have the individual, being, placed subservient, to the nation and to.
Be. Working under under, the a dream is for an individual Chinese citizen it's about achieving the goal the collective, goal of national rejuvenation. So this isn't about I'm gonna work hard and better myself like. The American dream this is a collective, dream this. Nationalism. Has. Been ramped up in recent years and. It. Seems to me that increasingly. The party is relying on nationalism, as a source of legitimacy so, under the Mao era the source of legitimacy was, ideology. And Mao himself. Under. The reform period under dung shopping, and his successors, the source of legitimacy was, performance, so, we're going to deliver goods. Economic. Growth public good provision and so forth now, economic, growth is slowing in China it's, down to roughly 6% and, so. A new source of legitimacy seems, that nationalism, will be the source of that and. We see Xi Jinping being, increasingly and assertive, on the international. Stage you, might have heard about the, South China Sea China's, territorial, claims there his, willingness to to, build Islands, and install, military installations, on that on those islands to buttress territorial. Claims China's. Growing increasingly aggressive. With respect to Taiwan and, reunification. With Taiwan you, might have heard of the one belt one road initiative, or the belt and road initiative, it's, constantly. Rebranded. But, this is China's, marshalled so-called China's Marshall, Plan will. Be a, multi-billion. Dollar investment project. Spanning multiple countries, and multiple constant continents. So, we have a nationalist. Nationalistic. Assertive, Xi Jinping the. Second adjective I used to describe him is authoritarian. China. Always, has these cycles, if you look at the long arc of Chinese history there are there, are ups and downs there, are periods of opening, and periods of closing, so. We have mouths. A dome comes to power and we see a closing, with the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution dong Xiao ping comes to power and we see an opening where, political discourses, liberalized, a little bit then, we have Tiananmen Square massacre, our. Closing and. Then actually if we look back at the 2000s. We didn't maybe realize it at the time but that was a period of relative openness. In Chinese society, under. Xi Jinping we have entered into another closed, period and. I would argue and I don't think I'm alone in this that China today is the most repressive it's been since. The period just following the Tiananmen Square incident and this. Is manifested, itself in a lot of ways there's increasing control, among civil society organizations. One. Of the key tenants of Xi Jinping thought is that party should dominate all aspects, of society. We. Also see the party willing to use good. Old-fashioned repression, detentions, torture, intimidation, to groups, that it doesn't like this, is an image of Li, wen Xue she is the wife of the man in that picture there Wang Chan Jung who, is what's, known as a wait trend lawyer the way trend lawyers in China which, and just means rights protection, these. Are effectively public defenders they are a group of lawyers who are civic minded and have, tried to use the principles, of the Chinese Constitution, which is actually quite liberal on paper to. Help Chinese, citizens, protect, themselves from the government so they take cases, on everything, from labor. Issues, environmental, issues. Property, rights protections, of people who have had their their property demolished by the Chinese government so. These are people that are trying to work on behalf of the the population. And to, protect, the protect, them from the government using. The Constitution, so they're not radicals, actually they're not advocating, revolution. Most. Of them are advocating, that the government. Abide. By constitutionalism. And rule of law today. In China such individuals, to be this type of lawyer has become a crime and. Hundreds. Of them have been detained this particular, individual Wong trend on was detained for three years. Without. Any. Meeting. With his lawyer there's a certain irony in that not, allowed to meet his family we just found out last week that he is still alive but up I was I I was at an event two weeks ago where, his wife spoke and she was unclear whether he was still alive. So. It's, important, to keep, talking about this I think a lot of us when we go to China myself included, you get. There and you think oh this isn't so bad really, it's it's not that bad at all it seems pretty normal here, and, that's. On purpose, and a lot of the repression comes, along in the background and it's, easy to overlook it and it doesn't affect most of the population, but.
For Those individuals, that do try to advocate things like human rights and in political, reform the, the regime is really willing, to do the, dirty business so Xi, Jinping his authoritarian, he, is nationalistic, and the final thing I would say is he's populist so one of the hallmarks, of his which he might have heard of is the anti-corruption, campaign, so. Xi Jinping, came to office and he was quite. Different from his predecessors, he had a little charisma. Who Jintao was, kind. Of known, as being kind of a bland technocrat. She's. In ping-pong. Coming. Into office he went to a steamed bun shop in Beijing kind of ate with normal people he fosters, his image as a man of the people and. One. Of the key. Features of his rule has been cracking down on corruption and corruption in China was. The main threat to the survival of the Chinese Communist, Party so if you look at survey data in China corruption, was always ranked as the number 1 or number 2 issue among the Chinese population the. Levels of corruption were quite high this. Is a feature of an authoritarian, system with no electoral accountability. No. Freedom of the press I lack of civil society organizations, undergoing. The process where business, assets, are being gone. From public to private so this is a recipe for corruption so Xi Jinping comes to power and. Immediately. We see a crackdown on, so-called tigers and flies Tigers are senior levels of officials, within the Chinese system so he's willing to go after the big big, officials, and then, flies are lower, if you're a lower level and official. In China you're called to fly just. Stuff. Maybe one day you'll grow up to be a tiger but for now you're a fly. So. She, didn't pings anti-corruption, campaign. Signals. His, willingness, to tackle the tough issues the. Interpretation, about this campaign they're really two that you'll hear the first is that this is all just a political ploy to, purchase enemies, and. I believe there is some truth to that if you look at the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party individuals, who have been investigated. And variably, are not. Achieved in pings personal, clique they're people who are in kind of the rival faction or people who might be opposed to him. That said the, other interpretation, is that this is a genuine effort at cleaning, up the party and if you go to China and you talk to individuals, there is some optimism, that Xi Jinping is a strong, leader he's a competent, leader and he's the one that is going to clean up the party I think. There's some truth to both narratives, I if he's investigated. Hundreds of thousands, of individuals I, have. Trouble believing that all of this is politically motivated I do think there is some genuine, antique, Russian behavior going on but. It's important not to be too rosy, about this development in, the sense that actually. Fighting corruption is is. Difficult, but we kind of know the recipe for success in political science and economics how, do you stop corruption well you. Provide, information to citizens on things like government contracts, and, assets. Of officials, you, have a free press which is allowed to do kind of muckraking journalism, you have a civil society organization that works with them, you. Have anti-corruption, agencies, that are independent, in a court system that's independent, and over time you. Will see the reduction of corruption. None. Of those features that I just named are present. In Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign. So, this is a top-down campaign. Driven. By the party, kept within the party, and. The party is basically trying to police itself. And. So that's important to keep in mind when we talk about the anti-corruption campaign so. That's what Xi Jinping is about he's populist, he's authoritarian. And he's nationalistic, in terms. Of his popularity, I, would, say I look. At it and I actually see. If. He is popular it's for the same reasons that Donald, Trump is popular I want another 10 minutes without bringing up his name but. So. The. Chinese dream is kind, of a version of make America great again let's make China great again I hate to be simplistic but there is a similarity.
There, The. Authoritarianism, so Donald, Trump and Xi Jinping are both willing, to speak, the language of law and order and use. The tools of coercion to try to repress. Out groups that. Is a common feature in their rule and then, the populism so the. Anti-corruption campaign is, actually kind of a version of drain, the swamp, and. Actually I think in the Chinese case it's it's more, authentic than what we're seeing with Donald Trump in terms of a commitment to clean governance, of course so. The question is is Xi Jinping popular, and as a foreigner, standing, in New York I there I'm hesitant, to even weigh in on this but my. Own sense first. Of all any time we try to assess the popularity of an authoritarian regime this is sort of one of the classic questions, in political science it's. Very difficult to do because. Let's. Say you could do a survey and you ask people do you approve of the performance, of Xi Jinping in office, first. Of all in China you can't that question I do, surveys, in China you cannot you're not allowed to ask this sort of question in other authoritarian, countries so Putin and other authoritarian, leaders have public opinion polling about them and China, you're not allowed to ask about the performance, of any individual, leader but, let's say even if we did have that question and we, see a lot of people approve is. It because they, actually approve, is it. Because they've been indoctrinated to, say they improve or they, is it because they are scared and they. Say they approve even though they don't approve so, it's very difficult to different differentiate, those different possibilities. So. We don't really know how, popular Xi Jinping is, okay, that's an important thing to emphasize my, own sense through my conversations with students friends in China and other people is. That he does maintain, a broad base of support so, people who are intellectuals. Liberals. Business. Elites are generally, less supportive of him because of the themes I've just outlined but. Among the common population he, seems to be viewed as a, strong. Leader who. Is helping change China for the better he's, assertive. Abroad and he's tough at home on people, who have been, guilty of corruption so he does have a base of support. So. All. That being said what what are we looking, about what do we what, should we be thinking about moving forward for China and why was 2017-2018. A big year. I, I, wanted, to point to really three troubling, trends. It's for us to think about as a group the first is that we're, seeing an increasing cult of personality among. About. Xi Jinping so. Again one of the another cliche, or trope, in the study of Chinese politics, there you'll see a lot of Time. Magazine, covers or magazine covers will you'll see like an image of Mao Zedong and then it'll. Be peeled back and there'll be an image of Xi Jinping underneath, or something like this so people keep referring to him as the next Mao or, China's, next Emperor, there's. Just a series of phrases, that are used over and over again along. With like things like dragon I get there's a certain way people, report about China which is a. Little. Simplistic but there. Is some truth to this idea that there is a cult of being person of cult of personality being, fostered around Xi Jinping this is the cover of the People's, Daily Remy nirbhau which is the mouthpiece, of the Chinese Communist Party.
In Red or this is not my own analysis, this was a report, in The Wall Street Journal but they noticed that Xi, Jinping had been mentioned eleven times the. The leading word, in eleven titles on the on the front page of the people's daily and he's. Been mentioned more in the people's daily on the front page of the people's daily than any other leader since Mao Zedong. So. This is troubling in and of itself what's what's particularly troubling about it is at least two a second phenomenon which, is yesman politics, and so. It seems to me that, at the elite level in China today to oppose, Xi Jinping especially, publicly, is career, suicide, and, so what we're observing instead is a lot of sycophants a lot of people trying to ingratiate themselves with, Xi Jinping praising, Xi Jinping thought, universities. Are building institutes, where they study Xi Jinping thought. And. We. Know this is one of the basic tenets of government is that power, should not be concentrated, too much in the hands of one person, at. Best that person is benevolent but. At worst that can lead to extreme policy, making uninformed, policy making this is the vote count, in. The National People's Congress of that amendment that I mentioned the constitutional, amendment where. They got rid of term. Limits for the for the presidency, which is one of the more controversial, controversial, pieces of legislation to happen. In. China within, the last 30 years this, is in Chinese both the National People's Congress is huge, it's the institution, I study it's the largest Parliament, in the world it's got almost 3,000 members we see two thousand nine hundred fifty-eight people voted for it two. People voted against it and three people abstained, and, there's some we don't know who the people are that abstained or voted, against it it's a closed system there's, some speculation, that she didn't ping himself may have been one of those people to, kind of say. Oh yeah people are willing to oppose me but, but. To me this is you, know the National, People's Congress I don't want to get too much into it but it all of the Chinese political system goes according to script that the party controls everything. But. Even. Within these institutions there usually a some opposition and.
What. We observe in China today is that a lot of people are bandwagon around she and I and I worry about, that, the. Final trend I thought it was important to bring up here of all places is. The increasingly, sophisticated surveillance. Date we see in China so I mentioned that China is going through a repressive turn, what. Makes it particularly worrisome, is that this we, have a highly, sophisticated authoritarian. Regime that is now using, the. Fruits of technology, to repress its population and monitor its population, so. This is an image of facial. Recognition software, that's, currently being rolled out it's not national yet but it's being rolled out in different localities in China and so, we are nearing the point where. The Chinese, Communist, Party within, the next few years will. Likely have full information on, its population, so. Using, closed-circuit. Televisions, they have like. I've heard the estimate of 200, million but I've heard that number is gonna rise to 300 million or 400 million closed-circuit. Television, cameras around the country within, the next five to ten years using. Those in combination, with AI, which, can do facial recognition and, I understand, that the technology, is not perfect yet but it will likely get there that, combined, with social media data so. As you all know China Chinese, citizens, that commonly uses an app called waste in WeChat, which. Is sort of like a one app to rule them all not only is it a social network but. It's also a way for people to make. Purchases, so. The Chinese government, of course has a backdoor to that so we have a situation, where, an authoritarian government has. Full information on these social networks the political, commentary, the purchases, and the geographic, locations, of all of its citizens. And. This. Is the dark side of AI, and big data and this sort of technology, and it's. Something again we need to be talking about and you all as technically leaders I'm sure are aware of this but it's something that we need to be having discussions about and it's an abuse of this sort of technology and China, I should say that it's it. Seems that this. Technology, is being described, as again a way to preserve law and order, and. It's being said oh this is going to be used to catch jaywalkers. And other, petty criminals, and. Again. It's unclear whether or not Chinese citizens support this there might be a faction of them that does and says oh okay if you, have nothing to worry about if you're not doing anything wrong. But. It doesn't take a genius or, a critic or a skeptic to say that of this, we'll also be used to target. Political. Dissidents, protesters, petitioners, and so forth anybody that's causing trouble in the Chinese system I should. Say that as a political scientist, a lot of us do fieldwork in China and I was part of you a couple conversations in, the last couple years about, the. One thing we do often with our interview subjects is we guarantee anonymity, we say okay we can meet and I, will never use your name in anything, I write and I there will never be any record of this interview out in public now. That we're operating in China I don't think I could go to China and tell someone that I can. Assure, that no one knows about this meeting because the the state is everywhere I, should. Also say that this technology is being rolled out in a part of China called shinjang Shenyang, as a province in western China. Where. There is a large Muslim population, known as the we Gers I. Encourage, you to read. About Shin Jung Xin. Jie, ng. This. Is not my area of expertise, but there's increasing evidence coming, out of cynjohn that these sorts of technologies are being used, to. Basically. Put, a large chunk of the Muslim population into. Re-education. Camps, so, the level of repression that's being used in, concert with this technology is very alarming so. I wanted to leave time for questions and I wanted to close by, just using this phrase end of an era which is which is not mine there's a book, that just came out called end of an era by Karl Minster which does, a nice job of summarizing some of the trends that I just spoke about but. She didn't ping is saying we're at the beginning of a new era which. Inherently, means we're at the end of an old era and.
To, Me it seems one of the big takeaways of the, last year the last five years has, been that the, Communist Party the Chinese Communist Party, the. Success. Or failure of the Communist Party now lies in, the hands of this person and one of the old lessons, of Communist. Party history, and this. Is the lesson of the Mao era is that no. Single leader should become too powerful and. It seems to me that this lesson has being been forgotten so, thank. You I will I will leave it there and I and we can open it up to questions Thanks. Yes. Hi I one. Of the things that I was thinking about during the talk was. Why. Is this, happening, now and, you know I can sort of imagine maybe, it's she's. Personality. And his strong. Leadership or. Maybe it's a weakening, of the existing. Institutions but. You. Know why didn't, this happen with a previous leader what sort of kept them in check that's. A good question it's. Difficult to answer the. Common narrative, you would hear is that the previous leader who Jintao, was. Actually didn't, have this force, of personality it, wasn't a particularly strong leader he was not, anointed, by. His predecessor, Jung Simon he was actually anointed, by dong Xiao ping so dung Xiao Qing's leaves office and anoints his next two successors, John's, min in who Jintao so who Jintao had a reputation and sort of a a bland. Technocratic, guy that you know knew how to make policy but didn't know actually how to command the party and. So this, in some sense leaves, a power. Vacuum that Xi Jinping has been willing to step in, in. Terms of why now I think another thing to emphasize is, that this was incremental. So there were little moves that happen along the way and they, went unchecked so. For example so she's jumping upon. Entering office there was a dramatic purge, of one of his rivals named Bo Xilai where. This person was, trying. To get himself on the Pablo Standing Committee and it's there's evidence that she didn't paying engineered, his very. Elaborate, downfall. This, would be unusual and so that sort of thing happens and we start seeing the anti-corruption campaign fold, out unfold. And over, time he becomes, so powerful it's, like a self-perpetuating, prophecy. Once someone becomes this powerful, now. To be opposed to him is futile, so I think that's one of the the elements to is that these the institutions, maybe weren't strong enough in the beginning to to constrain him yeah thanks, here. Maybe hi. Sorry. To bring up Donald Trump again but just, a curious, thought experiment, oh great but, then. Decided. To get, to the term them and I I think they were saying the term said hey maybe we should try maybe we should do this someday yeah, so Mike alarming. A tall question. I thought experiment says so. Assuming. That's given, Trump's also having a populist agenda if serum matters to kids we go back to it and, I know that culturally the u.s. is very very different interpreter, from China but if, you rather try to get rid of tones in the u.s. like based. On your understanding of authoritarian, regimes how would what. Might be the path of least resistance for, him to go about doing that I took. A very dark turn in this conversation and. We're already in the dark place, so. The question is about, Donald. Trump if he were also to try to similarly consolidate, power and potentially erode the, term-limit institution. It's. Interesting what right, when Donald Trump was elected, there's a lot. Of political scientists, much more senior than I am I'm, jr.. If you couldn't, tell people. Have been in the field for a long time were, sincerely. Alarmed, about, the erosion of democracy, in the United States and that democracy, is something we take for granted here it's been around for hundreds of years we expected, to be around the future but. Democracies. Elect, themselves out of, democracy. They elect leaders that have authoritarian, tendencies that consolidate, power so there were there were legitimate causes, for concern among. The. Political. Science community about Donald, Trump's authoritarian, tendencies and, I think he's time and time again revealed. That. He has a certain, envy. Let's call it of authoritarian. Leaders he's done so with kim jeong-hoon Putin. And Xi Jinping in. Terms of this specific scenario, my, hope as an American citizen whereas, if this ever came to pass we would see opposition, among. Not. Just the Democrats but among the Republican, Party at some point the Republican, Party needs, to realize that this is, unusual. And unsustainable, and they need to side. With democracy over the party and so I I hope, we've, said that before there's. Been the Trump presidency has, been a constant. Series of events, we're. All saying is this yeah is it is it this is it are they finally going to oppose him so my, hope is that we would see opposition, I would also say there are there are major major differences, of course between the Chinese political system in the United States in.
Particularly The strength of our institutions, and the court system and a legislative branch in the media. And the ability to have public discourse is, is. Way. Above what there exists in China so I think the outcry the public outcry would be enough so that that scenario will never come to pass. It's. My optimistic, take yeah I. Questioned. Sure what. Do the Chinese people know. About these constitutional. Changes. And. Specifically. The term limits and and. Also in Xi Jingping thought is there any mentioning, of. Confucianism. At, all does it refer back to. Yeah. So those, are two good questions so again as a foreigner. I'm hesitant, to ever make claims about this is what the Chinese people know and this is what they don't. So. I would say the depiction, of this in the Chinese, media has been that this wasn't a big deal, and, a. Lot of the outcry that occurred was. Among people like me foreigners, who study China or write about China and. The reason it was pinned as not a big deal is because actually, the, position, of president, in the People's Republic of China if, you actually look at the Chinese Constitution it's, basically a ceremonial, position so, that office, is not, in. It of itself that important, it's important, because the person who inhabits, it is the, head of the party so. That's one reason why it was deemed not that important, the second reason is that there actually are no term limits on the position of General Secretary of the Communist Party so. That position has never had any term limits there's been a norm that that person only stays in power for two terms but there was never and actually anything on paper that prescribed, that so the way this was positioned, and among, people in China who were describing, this was that all, of this reform, does all this amendment does is put the position of the presidency, syncs, it up with the position of the General Secretary of the Communist Party so now nothing has term limits so that's the way it was phrased but. For those of us on the on the outside, looking in it, seems that this is a very obvious, example of, an existing, institution, that was designed to curb excess, abuses, of power accumulation. Of power being. Eroded so. I my, sense is that the average Chinese citizen is probably not an uproar about this but, I think it does remain a pretty significant, political event in terms of Confucianism. One. Of the elements of Xi Jinping has been not, just the nationalism, sort of in a foreign policy front but a cultural, nationalism, and the Communist Party is being the bearer of Chinese, cultural, traditions, so Confucianism. I. Am. No expert but, there are elements of Confucianism. That are conducive, to authoritarian, rule in particular the emphasis, on hierarchy and the relationship, between the ruled and the ruler, and so.
We've Seen a resurgence, of, Confucianism. And the emphasis on Confucianism. In, China especially, as an alternative, to foreign. Ideologies, like Christianity. And and so forth so I don't believe I'd have to look back I don't that she didn't think there's a whole book on Xi Jinping thought, and I I couldn't. Get through it to be honest with you, but. I I don't believe it's mentioned in great detail but it's culturally. And politically, it has been an emphasis to, to focus on traditional Chinese, culture and heritage and the, Communist Party and Xi Jinping are our, protectors, of that thank. You yes. Hi. My, question. Is about the surveillance. State but I'll come. Through dito which is in. The last questioner from this microphone you mentioned the big institutional. Differences, between, this country and China and I'd. Say democracies. In general and China and. Authoritarian. Regimes, now. All. Of, the world is going into, the. World of new. Surveillance. Technologies, together, and. We. Don't have institutions, surrounding those yet so do. You think there's a, chance. Or danger that democracies, around the world will, follow. In the model that China is developing and, we'll probably first develop. To the greatest extent and that everyone will just sort of stumble into. Yeah. So I I have a certain. Yeah. I have, that personality, type that worries about these sort of things in the rise of the surveillance state and Google as a company as you you. Of all people know is involved. In the collection of information on normal citizens which could potentially be used by. A government, for these sorts of purposes so I I'm, glad you brought up the question and something we need to be talking about Allah, and I hope, I'm assuming. You all are talking about this quite frequently I, think, in the u.s. that has a different flavor to it I again, I'm not within the CIA I don't have it much of a window as to what's going on but it, seems that it's being used for for, again for issues of national security and, and, information, collection that can be, used.
By The US government to monitor terrorist suspects and so forth, in, China, they would also argue that this is about national security all, right so the dissidents, and protesters, and so forth are undermining, national, security so it's always government's, using the lens of national security to. Infringe. Upon people's, civil liberties and. So it is something I think we should be concerned about and I think the difference in the u.s. versus. China is that in the u.s. there's at least a dialogue about this and citizens, have. Willingly, given over their information because the technology, is so good Facebook, Google Twitter and, so forth the the tools are so great that we willingly give forward our information, but, I think we are at a point where if. It falls into the wrong hands or if you have a certain type of leader even in the US this this information, can be abused, Thanks. Never. Answered that question before, but thank, you for asking yeah could, you explain a little bit on the world's. Largest Parliament, I know you made a point about how well it's orchestrated. By the party. But what's, it like in its daily affairs how often is that orchestration, happen how deep does it go thank. You for asking this question so this is the topic of my dissertation so. This brings me back to, a a, sad. Lonely depressing, time in my life. So. Then I'll just give a brief answer because I could talk about this for a while but the National People's Congress is China's Parliament, and it has 3,000, members it meets, only once per year for, two weeks, so, you can imagine such an institution, is not exactly, a forum, for great policy. Discussion, and they sit in a large room called the Great Hall of the People which has 3,000 people so often. When you hear about the National People's Congress you hear the words rubber stamp and there, is some truth to that so nothing ever, before, the Parliament in the history of the institution before, the full body has ever been voted down ever. So. That's. Not a rubber stamp I don't know what is. That. Said so one of the arguments I make I did, write a book on this it's one of those books that I wouldn't. Wish it on anybody to read it but if you're interested, I have, a form I might as well self promote it's called making autocracy, work but. The argument, I try to make is that actually this is one of those institutions. That the Communist Party is trying to use to. Channel, citizen, grievances, through. Their, institutions. So rather than have people protest, on the street and potentially engage in violence they're trying to create political institutions, that they control, but. That nevertheless serve, some. Conduit. Of information. That the government can then respond to you so the People's Congress system is actually a network of these. Institutions. There are five different levels of government, and. All. The way on down to what's known as a Township level in China and there are hundreds, of thousands, of legislators. In China, people's. Deputies they're called and so, what I've argued in this book is that these people are their task is to go out and learn about the population, and try to convey.
This Information to the central government but this shouldn't be confused with democracy that shouldn't be confused with full. Representation, these, people are hand-picked, by the Communist Party and they are not allowed to cross. The boundary so that you'll never hear about a People's Congress deputies, saying oh maybe we should talk more about the surveillance date or maybe we should have elections for the position. Of the presidency, so it's a very constrained system. But. Thank you for that question that's. Easy thank. You very much thank. You I also, wanted to ask you about the International Affairs aspect, of, Xi. Jinping's administration. You. Talked a little bit about nationalism, and how the. Xi Jinping administration, is becoming more assertive, internationally. Especially, in, South. South. Asia area. The. Pelton Road could you talk a little bit about more. About that and where. Do you see this administration, sort of do. You see them applying. The tools that, they apply internally, the repression, the surveillance outside. Of the borders of China through. Technology, and also, through politics, and kind, of money. Yeah, that's a that's a great question so it is it's a broad question because, China's, formulations, are multifaceted and. You. Know I've span everything from territorial, claims and ambitions, to the. Economy, environment and so forth the one thing I did want to mention which I haven't yet is. This idea of Chinese overseas, influence, and so there's a lot of discussion going on in the US Congress right now about so-called, China's, influence operations. And the, way that it's increasingly, using some of these tools to try to. Shift. Discourse, in the US and other advanced democracies, in Australia, New Zealand this is a this is a major issue, we. See this manifest, itself in a lot of different ways the. One trend, that I'm noticing, and worrying about is this. Using. The market, using the access to China, as. A way to coerce, people and. I'm here at Google a company that has had, its search engine throttled, over the years and is known no, longer has the market share it should in China because of this reason so. A lot of companies. Journalists. Academics universities. Are facing this. Decision, of do, I play. By the party's, rules and, compromise. My, business. Or my values, in, order to get access to China so this manifests, itself in a lot of different ways so. Academics. We face pressure if we write about certain things we have a fear of potentially, losing visa access, in. The grand scheme of things a visa is not a huge deal we're gonna be fine but it's it's, a manifestation, of that firms you. Might have read about a lot of US airlines now have been. Forced. To change their websites, because, they can no longer have the word Taiwan on their website because Taiwan is a sensitive, topic, and you it's considered, part of China according to the Chinese government and. On and on nine Cambridge University Press, is an example that's close to home for. Us. Cambridge. University Press, runs a journal called the China quarterly, which is a China journal at. The pressure of the Chinese government last year was a two years ago I, can't remember they removed. Upwards, of 300, articles from their website in China and the articles were all about things like Kahneman Square and shinjang, Tibet, sensitive, topics, and. This is alarming right because if then if you're a Chinese citizen and you're reading the Chinese quarterly, you're getting a sanitized, version of scholarship. On China you're getting a sanitized, version of history and. That's the version that the party wants you to get so. Fortunately, as a result of AK I mean pressure we saw Cambridge University Press eventually. Reversed its stance but all of these all these individuals, are facing this decision, and it's it's a commonality, actually, between firms journalists, universities. And academics, so, that's one thing that's alarming to me another. Thing that that is concerning, is the, monitoring. That we used to see reserved, for China is now being extended overseas, so there are a lot of Chinese students. At, American universities, and this. Is something we need more research on so I'm hesitant, to make a statement but it. Seems when what I've heard that there are many Chinese students, who are feel. That they are under the same level of surveillance in an American classroom than they would be at a Chinese University so I teach a course on Chinese politics and we talk about sensitive, topics a Chinese. Student my course might feel reluctant to say how they really feel or what they think about the Chinese government because, they're worried that they might be being monitored or that information might make its way back to the Communist Party so it's we, are entering a phase where Xi Jinping is assertiveness, has now led, the Communist Party to try.
To Influence discourse, and and, in. Dialogue in other countries, and that's that's the trend that I am worried about so thank you for the question here. Yes, you. Partially, ask actually, my question but I want, to extend the topic mention, the influence, is going aboard, but mainly, focusing on like Chinese, seasoned, what. Is influence. Globally. What other countries, and do, you see a possible, backfire, and would other country, trying to how. Does it interfere with China's. Government, usual, stuff so. The that's a great question. So. For a long time the the party, rhetoric, about this was that China does not interfere within, the sovereign affairs of other countries that was the line is sort of this doctrine of non-interference leave, us alone we'll leave you alone. It's. Unclear whether we should believe that ever but it's increasingly, obvious that they. Do interfere, and some of the ways I just mentioned. More. Interestingly. Important, to think about is this idea that the Chinese system of governance itself. Could. Increasingly, become a model for other countries particularly, developing countries to emulate this is the so-called China model and it means different things to different people but it's. Basically you have a system of authoritarian governments, soft authoritarianism. If we want to call it that although I don't know how soft it is coupled. With state led capitalism. And. China. Has the record of economic. Performance that, is potentially appealing to other countries so it, remains, unclear how much they're actually trying to shift, the governance, models, of other, countries I have a friend Maria rep Nick OVA who's a great. Political scientist, based. At Georgia. State and she's, doing some work on this and she's interviewing, officials throughout Africa, who are increasingly, going to China to be trained and. Until, study governance, techniques from the Chinese system as opposed to a Western, system so I think it's, still too early to tell how much how, much influence there will, be but I think it's it will likely increase so, on. That, I think I'm actually out of time so thank you all for this this opportunity. You.