The Foundations of Xi Jinping’s Power
China’s President took power by winning at factional politics. Now, he can optimize his successor for skill, not standing.
This Brief is the first part of a two-part investigation into Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping’s succession plans. The second part can be read here.
Xi Jinping is perhaps the most powerful person in the world. If not, he is second only to the President of the United States. As the paramount leader of China, Xi simultaneously serves as the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and the President of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). China is the world’s largest manufacturing power and, in 2017, surpassed the United States’ GDP in terms of purchasing power parity.1 Even as China has become an increasingly dominant player in the global economy, its internal politics have remained self-contained. Xi is a live player who, in the ten years since he came to power in 2012, has reshaped China’s internal politics around himself and his faction of loyalists, while accelerating a long-term plan for China to directly compete with and even supersede the United States as a global military and technological superpower. Whether China fulfills these ambitions now largely depends on the personal skills and power of Xi Jinping and, eventually, his successor.