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1. This essay, by Perry Link, which appeared in The New York Review of Books back in October, is worth reading in full. It’s an unsparing look at China’s president, Xi Jinping, and the “gangster governance” of the CCP. Excerpt:
My impression of Xi as he came to power in 2012 was that, after elbowing his rival Bo Xilai aside, he had a strong sense that something had to be done to respond to the country’s problems. Passing a flower was not it. But what could he do? A man of limited intellect, not well read, and with little knowledge of the outside world, Xi could imagine nothing beyond going back to Mao’s model, which at least he knew. So he opted for the recentralization of power, the building of a personality cult, the stoking of a crude nationalism, harsh repression at home, and a chip on the shoulder abroad. Given the political culture that I have sketched in this essay, these steps could meet with initial success even if guided by a mediocre hand.
Will the Xi juggernaut succeed? The problems are that Xi is no Mao, in either intelligence or charisma, and the society that he rules is better informed and much more sophisticated than the one Mao ruled. When Xi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announces a “Research Center for Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy” and another called “Research Center for Xi Jinping Economic Thought,” do intelligent people really go rushing to study “thought” that lies inside Xi’s mind, waiting to be appreciated? Of course not. People in the Mao era, whether in enthusiasm or in pain, took Mao’s commands to heart; in Xi’s case, the conformity is a mere shell.
In the short run, the most frightening possible outcomes for the Xi juggernaut are two: that it will fly or that it will crash. Successful flight would be bad news for the Chinese people and for the people of the world. No one needs a model of technofascism that, with its facial recognition software and DNA registration, goes beyond what even Orwell imagined. On the other hand, a crash would also be bad news, at least for a time. It would bring chaos and likely bloodshed. One of the major accomplishments of the decades-long CCP rule is that it has obliterated all structures in society that might replace it. Whatever happens, I see no grounds for optimism in the short run. (via nybooks.com)
The piece, linked here, is paywall protected, but first-time visitors should have access to it.
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