FOREIGN POLICY - December 29, 2015
From political and ideological infighting, to labor rights, to the South China Sea, here's what's brewing in the new year.
What should China watchers be monitoring most closely in 2016? What developments would be the most meaningful — and what predictions can be made sensibly? —The Editors
Andrew J. Nathan, professor of political science at Columbia University:
I worry that president Xi Jinping is destabilizing China by concentrating so much power in his own hands. Why has he done it? Does it reflect a lack of trust in the competence of the other leaders, such as premier Li Keqiang? Perhaps. An urgency to accomplish certain programmatic reforms? Probably: He does have a reform program, although it turns out not to be the liberal kind of reform recommended by the West. Instead, he seems to want to give still more power to the big state owned enterprises, to use the courts more energetically to carry out political repression, to bring academics and creative artists to heel, to squeeze corruption out of the system and change the work style of the bureaucracy, and to fundamentally upgrade the way the military operates. These are reforms, even if we don’t like them. But they upset many vested interests and require a lot of political clout. What’s more, I think part of the motivation for what Xi is doing comes from his personality, which is self-confident, controlling, and impatient. He seems to perceive a society and a bureaucracy that are out of control, and he cannot bear to devolve responsibilities on others and wait for them to deliver.