Xi Jinping has had an eventful early spring. After he abolished presidential term limits and was unanimously elected—if it can be called an election—to serve another term in that post, Xi got the world’s attention again by holding a meeting with Kim Jong-un. Xi was also in the spotlight when he addressed the 2018 Boao Forum for Asia, promising more openness in the face of a looming trade war. Many observers now seem convinced that Xi has changed China and maybe, even, the international order. But has he really?
In the 70 years since the establishment of the Communist regime, numerous changes have taken place in the social, economic, legal, and psychological spheres. Yet the Party’s essential political role of leading a Party-state under strict one-Party rule has not changed, whether under collective dictatorship or a personal one. The Party’s absolute control over the military, judicial system, Congress, and bureaucracy, as well as its suppression of dissidents and activists who promote democracy, has been constant for 70 years. The Party’s control over the media, ideology, public opinion, and education—almost all of the public sphere, with the exception of the Internet—has also undergone no fundamental change. The Party also controls the economy, social groups, and religions. And while market economics, some folk activities, rights defenders, and house churches have managed to carve out a tiny space for themselves, they don’t come close to constituting a challenge to the Party. When measured against the basic ingredients of a totalitarian state as described by Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Xi Jinping’s new totalitarianism and Mao’s old style of totalitarianism don’t differ by all that much.[Source]