Loyalty Trumps Competence in Xi’s China

Loyalty Trumps Competence in Xi’s China
President Xi Jinping leads the new members of the Politburo Standing Committee as arrive at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Oct. 23, 2022 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Over the course of the decade he has held power as China’s leader, Xi Jinping has welcomed comparisons to Mao Zedong and further encouraged them by elevating himself to the status of “helmsman” and “great people’s leader”—terms previously only used to describe the Communist Party’s revolutionary leader. But whether or not those comparisons are warranted, it is undoubtedly true that Xi admires and even aspires to match Mao when it comes to his dominance of the Chinese Communist Party and longevity as a political leader.

Xi’s selection of a new politburo at last week’s 20th party congress set the tone for the next five years and sent a message: that loyalty trumps competence, and security—in its many dimensions, for both Xi and China—must be a top priority.

Last week’s newsletter examined security as the critical connective tissue of Xi’s ambition. Now that the party congress has concluded, some of what took place there as well as the developments that emerged from it stand out as foreshadowing the direction Chinese politics is likely to take in the coming years.

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