Last month, Rishi Sunak was sworn in as the United Kingdom’s prime minister, becoming the country’s third head of government this year. Sunak took office after his predecessor, Liz Truss, was forced to resign after a mere 44 days in office due to financial and political turmoil unleashed by her proposed budget and chaotic leadership.
Just days before, more than 5,000 miles away, Chinese President Xi Jinping was appointed to a third term as the Communist Party’s general secretary at its 20th congress, consolidating his position as China’s paramount leader and the most dominant political figure since Mao Zedong. Despite the veneer of stability and continuity, Xi’s third term—and the loyalists he surrounded himself with in the CCP’s top leadership roles—represented a stark divergence from decades of precedent during which collective leadership and orderly transfers of power had become the norm in Beijing. Markets greeted the outcome of the Party Congress with alarm, with the Hong Kong stock market’s benchmark index dropping 6 percent, its largest decline since the 2008 financial crisis.
At first glance, the developments in London and Beijing would seem entirely unrelated, given the two countries’ wildly divergent political systems. The U.K. is a constitutional monarchy in which the British monarch serves as the head of state, the prime minister assumes the day-to-day responsibility of running the national government, and an elected parliament makes the laws. China, on the other hand, is governed as a party-state in which the Communist Party enjoys a monopoly on power, opposition parties are outlawed, and multiparty elections are non-existent.