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Xi’s smooth power grab

Tomorrow will see one of the most powerful men in the world further consolidate his influence. For following recent moves, amid much applause, China’s Communist Party (CCP) announced its plans to abolish presidential term limits. Thus if all goes according to plan, General Secretary Xi Jinping will become China’s President for Life — or at least well beyond 2023. Reactions, however, have been somewhat mixed; or they were until Beijing clamped down on all dissenting voices. Meaning that all discourse not in line with the prevailing CCP narrative has been heavily censored online. In one city, the justice bureau is said to have threatened to disbar lawyers and entire law firms that failed to “maintain consistency” with the Party agenda. Thus the message is clear: either back Xi’s autocracy or keep quiet. Certain quarters of the Chinese intelligentsia have not unreasonably termed this a step backwards; arguing that the ten-year term limit and rejection of life tenure were put in place by leaders like Deng Xiaoping to prevent Mao-like megalomania.
However, stability may be the reason Xi and the CCP’s Central Committee took this step in the first place. After all, implementing the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) projects could take decades. And if Xi is able to keep Chinese citizens — comprising one-fifth of the world’s population — satisfied with his governance, he could well accelerate plans of usurping the US from its traditional role of world hegemon. Already, Beijing is said to eyeing military bases in Pakistan and perhaps even Afghanistan. Xi’s success now lies with the success of OBOR and its impact on the Chinese economy. Should Beijing grow wealthier, it is likely that the majority of the citizenry would not care about their country being a repressive autocracy. If this does not happen, however, it could have serious repercussions; not just for President Xi, but also for Pakistan. For this country’s fate is now linked to that of its BBF on multiple levels. Not only have our leaders pinned all their hopes for economic reform on CPEC, they have also moved very far away with our traditional ally — the US — and wholeheartedly embraced the Chinese Dragon.
This is a process that had started in response to American military adventurism in Afghanistan, but was catalysed as a result of President Trump’s reckless rhetoric and new South Asia policy; which affords New Delhi a greater regional role. Thus if CPEC fails to deliver at home, it could result in another Tiananmen Square-like situation.
This would be disastrous for Pakistan, too. For not only would it leave Beijing isolated and mired in chaos — in diplomatic terms, Islamabad would lose the important leverage that the Sino-Pak relationship affords.. This is why many pundits here have long been warning against putting all of Pakistan’s eggs in the Chinese basket. They may well have a point.



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