“Negotiations, Compromise, and Social Stability: A Historical Reappraisal of Xi Jinping’s First Ten Years (2012-2022)”
Hilton Union Square, Union Square 19&20
Chair: Zhaojin Zeng, Texas A&M University-San Antonio
Sino-US Relations Under Xi Jinping
Xiaobing Li, University of Central Oklahoma
China’s U-Turn to Personalistic Rule: Xi Jinping’s Centralization of Power
Xiaojia Hou, San Jose State University
Towards a More Joint Strategy: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms and Militia Reconstruction
Lei Duan, Sam Houston State University
Understanding the “Rule of Law” in Xi’s China
Qiang Fang, University of Minnesota Duluth
Comment: Guo Wu, Allegheny College
Xi Jinping has been China’s top leader for over a decade and has commenced his third five-year term since March 2023. His ten-year presidency (2012-2022) has enormously impacted China as well as the world. Henceforth, it is necessary for historians to reflect over his first ten years and to offer in-depth analysis of his social, political, and diplomatic policies along with their impact on China and the global community. The four papers in this panel are intended to offer an analysis of Xi Jinping’s presidency by focusing on U.S.-China relations, interpreting Xi’s centralization of power, evaluating his reforms of China’s armed forces with his moves for military reconstruction, and assessing his reforms in the legal realm. The diverse topics in this panel will enable us to obtain a clear panorama of Xi Jinping’s decade-long governance over one of the largest countries in the world.
Xiaobing Li, “Sino-U.S. Relations under Xi Jinping”
Xi Jinping seems to be facing the similar challenges as Mao did in 1950, while he has to maintain the legitimacy of the CCP in the party-state, fight against Taiwan’s pro-independence movement, continue economic reforms, and improve the PLA’s capacity in modern warfare, including an effective nuclear deterrence like the one adopted by the former Soviet Union against US superior military power. Nevertheless, China may replay the game of “strategic triangulation” by establishing a new China-US-Europe triangle structure and bringing the US back to the game table to replay the “China card.” There is, however, a possibility of a tragic repetition in the development of a new cold war between the United States and China, if the latter continues its effort in creating “one world, two systems.” In China’s bi-polar world, one system is the current American-centered community and the other is a China-centered system. With no single enemy to unite against, and with the PRC emerging as a major economic power, the relationship between the U.S. and China arrives at a historical crossroad. Trump made a fundamental change in US policy toward China by terminating the “common ground” principle and removing the “China card.” Perceiving China as the major threat to the United States, Washington deems it necessary to fight back against China as its potential enemy whenever it could. After taking office, Biden has continued Trump’s hardline policy and describes China as the “strategic competitor” of the U.S..
Xiaojia Hou, “China’s U-turn to Personalistic Rule: Xi Jinping’s Centralization of Power”
Three generations of Chinese leadership after Mao Zedong had strived to establish collective leadership, decentralize authority, and balance the power between the party and state. But since Xi Jinping’s ascent as general secretary of the CCP in 2012, he has reversed the trend of de-centralization. My paper investigates how Xi Jinping perceives party-state relationships and examines the way he reconstructs the decision-making processes to reclaim more power from the state while elevating his own authority within the party. It in particular attempts to analyze these changes from a historical lens and explore Xi Jinping’s sources of legitimacy and of inspiration from the past. For example, what lessons did Xi learn from the fall of the Soviet Union? How did he employ Mao’s practices of purging and instigating mass movement for political maneuvers? How did he revive Mao’s rituals to control official narratives, and use national security to censor public opinion? These are the questions that this paper intends to address.
Lei Duan, “Towards a More Joint Strategy: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms and Militia Reconstruction”
Since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, China’s armed forces have undergone unprecedented reforms in their scale and scope of organizational and strategic changes. For the goal of modernizing and strengthening the Chinese military, Xi has adopted the most sweeping and radical reforms with a focus on efficiency, technological innovation, and joint operations. Seeing the formation of a powerful military as an integral part of the China Dream, Xi has shifted the national security strategy to a defensive-offensive one. China has also strengthened its militia organization and training works. In particular, China’s maritime militia has undergone significant building and modernization. Many sources suggest that China’s armed fishing militia has dual-use capabilities for both military and civilian purposes. As an official component of China’s armed forces, the maritime militia has been integrated closely with the regular navy and has played an increasing role in supporting China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. This paper aims to take a fresh look at the Chinese military reform by focusing on the cooperation and coordination of the People’s Liberation Army and the militia force. It suggests that the government has integrated both regular military and paramilitary forces in pursuit of China’s ambition.
Qiang Fang, “Understanding the ‘Rule of Law’ in Xi’s China”
Since Chinese leader Xi Jinping took power in late 2012, many scholars around the world have studied his policies. Most of them have focused their research on Xi Jinping’s political, foreign, and economic policies; only a few of them have briefly examined his legal policies and practices. Zheng Yongnian, for example, went too far as to argue in 2016 that Xi aimed to establish the rule of law in China. His only evidence was Xi’s proclamation in early 2014 that law was the last hope for social justice and he wanted Chinese officials to comply with law. However, as evidenced in a cluster of eminent legal practices from 2014 to 2022, Xi and Chinese law enforcements had often flouted law in campaigns against corrupt officials, rights lawyers, and dissidents. More important, Chinese officials and police have often used extra-legal means such as forced and arbitrary detention, beating, and incarceration navigating minorities and contrarians in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. This study will be the first serious one to delve into Xi Jinping’s legal policies in prominent cases such as anti-corruption campaigns, harsh and arbitrary crackdowns of rights lawyers, and the kidnapping of several Hong Kong book sellers. I argue that the legal policies and practices of Xi Jinping’s “rule of law” with Chinese characteristics (zhongguo shi fazhi) should better be referred to as “Rule of My Law” as the CCP under Xi is selective in adopting ancient legalism, which in many aspects go farther and bolder than the law during earlier periods.