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Xi Jinping’s leadership of China looks secure – but his enemies are circling

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The public health and economic crisis associated with Covid-19 represents the biggest challenge that China’s president Xi Jinping has faced since assuming power in 2012. His unfinished-business tray was already full of other matters that also sit uncomfortably with the Chinese Communist Party’s craving for stability and control: wide-ranging Sino-US disputes; political challenges in Hong Kong and Taiwan; and tensions over the South China Sea and technology firm Huawei. Now many wonder whether the fallout from the pandemic could erode middle-class support for the Communist Party – and even imperil President Xi himself.

At the outset, Xi does not appear to be at any immediate risk. It is almost impossible to imagine any threat to him before the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party in 2021, which will be used to remind citizens, and the world – as all such celebrations are – of the party’s heroic and indispensable role in China’s development, past, present and future.

This said, there is merit in thinking about Xi’s status: his governance regime ensures that he is personally implicated in everything that goes right, and wrong. Pushback against the Chinese leadership abroad is quite transparent and patently rising, but domestic opposition is more intriguing because it is so opaque and hard to evaluate.

Chinese social media erupted with a unique fury in February, for example, when a 34 year-old Wuhan doctor, Li Wenliang, became a coronavirus victim. It emerged that he and colleagues had tried to engage in........

© New Statesman

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