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Xi’s Power Grab Shatters Hope for Liberalization of China

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Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for a plenary session of China’s National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sunday. – The Associated Press

Xi is now poised to rule for as long as he wants as China’s most powerful leader since Mao.

BEIJING (AP) — When American scholar Orville Schell first visited China in 1975, Mao Zedong was leading the country through the tumultuous Cultural Revolution, when Chinese were being shamed, beaten and even killed for perceived political mistakes.

Four years later, Schell returned to a nation transformed. Mao was dead, and the country was pulling itself together under reformist Deng Xiaoping. Some Chinese people even plastered posters on a wall in central Beijing, criticizing past excesses and advocating democracy.

“In the past, both sides presumed China was trying to become more democratic. What Xi marks so clearly is that there is no longer the pretension. You cannot believe the pretension that China is becoming more democratic and open.”

— American scholar Orville Schell

“China had suddenly gone from being this implacable enemy that was closed to any contact to being quite open and receptive to interacting,” recalled Schell, now the director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the New York-based Asia Society.

That opening, followed by Deng’s market-style economic reforms in 1979, ignited Western hopes that — despite the ruling Communist Party’s insistence that it would never share power — China was destined to become a democracy.

Those hopes are quickly dissipating with the rise of party leader Xi Jinping, who many once thought would be the next great reformer. Xi is now poised to rule indefinitely after China’s rubber-stamp legislature voted Sunday to eliminate presidential term limits.

A small but growing number of Western academics and government analysts who spent decades looking for signs that China was becoming a democracy now say those perceived markers may have been no more than a mirage … (read more)

via The Japan News

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