Volume 2 Issue 1 Spring 2018

Xi Jinping’s Absolutist Turn

This past March, when Xi Jinping’s long-rumored intention to abolish presidential term limits finally materialized, thereby implanting him as dictator for life, many commentators expressed surprise. It even triggered some consternation among China hands in the US foreign-policy establishment. Foreign Affairs magazine published an article by two Obama-era Asia-policy officials Kurt Campbell and Ely Ratner, who declared that American foreign policy “has got China wrong” all along.1 US–China policy since Nixon’s 1972 visit has always been grounded, they averred, on the erroneous assumption that China’s turn to markets will also trigger a shift toward political liberalization. But Xi’s move to abolish presidential term limits seems to have killed any move toward liberalism.

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