Xi's reign undeterred
China has made significant strides and set many precedents—but none have been as stark as ensuring that its present President remains at the helm, indefinitely. In strict terms, this is a Communist nation but, ironically, with capitalist priorities. Despite all the political bickering and the power struggle that reportedly marked 2017, the latest development will surely keep all power-seekers silent. There have been changes to the Chinese Constitution that would remove the two-term limit on the presidency, which would allow President Xi Jinping to rule the country unchallenged for decades. But why the uneasy quiet? It was a taken that Xi was here to stay anyway. China is a one-party state. But there is also a more pragmatic reason for silence. For all the complaints about the state of human rights, in their hearts, they know, they need a country which is stable and predictable—even if it is autocratic. China has further contributed to uncertainty in a world where Donald Trump is the US President, the UK has opted for Brexit; where the Middle East looks like it is perpetually inflamed with growing unrest—the totality seems to be a truly scary place. A fifth of humanity could become refugees. The world's key supply source for so many manufactured goods could be disrupted or shut down. An uncertain China would make the various crises the world over today appear rather tame. For Western leaders, it is a simple calculation. Who is better to speak to about dealing with the problem of a nuclearised and threatening North Korea– a Xi Jinping or deal with a weak Beijing leadership where no one is quite certain who has the final say? For all the West's unease about a one-party state having such dominance at the moment, because of the stability, it gives over such a crucial region, the Communist Party's total control of China is something Western leaders accept and support. They may say one thing, to appease critical constituencies back home. But, their heads know that a China following the path of Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s would be a catastrophe. It would destabilise a region because of Pyongyang's antics, cause economic calamity and add to their woes back at home through the impact on capital and goods flows. Xi Jinping might find surprising sources of opposition within China, groups and people inside and outside the party that few may be aware of. But one thing is certain: Western leaders will not be the ones he needs to fear. Strong, stable, predictable leadership in China is the key. And to achieve this, he can rewrite as many parts of the Constitution as he wants.