by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Xi Jinping, just starting a third term as head of China’s ruling Communist Party, is having a bad week. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
In his first two terms, Xi cracked down hard on opposition to government policies, cut back on his predecessors’ economic liberalization and purged rivals to consolidate power. But now he faces grassroots protests across China, with large groups of demonstrators even calling for him to step down and Communist Party rule to end.
Protesters aren’t just denouncing Xi, the party and the government’s heavy-handed COVID policies — they’re also objecting to rampant censorship by holding up blank sheets of paper. The government has tried to keep the public from figuring out what’s going on, but it has failed.
This poses a challenge to the many Westerners who seem to have suffered from “China envy” in recent years. Frustrated by democracy, they wish they could emulate Xi in enacting the policies they desire without the tedious necessity of persuading voters.
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman famously wished we could be “China for a Day” so we could implement “the right solutions.” The World Economic Forum’s Klaus Schwab recently praised China as a “role model” for other nations. And much of the West’s initial COVID policy was based on China’s, something infamous Washington Post writer Taylor Lorenz was just celebrating. …
… But being China isn’t actually as great as it sounds. Being a one-party state without democratic institutions makes you stupid. You don’t get the information you need when you need it because there’s no free press or opposition, and underlings don’t like to share bad news with bosses. And having eliminated all significant opposition, Xi has no one else to blame. The “zero-COVID” policy is his, it’s been a disastrous failure, and everyone knows it.