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China needs a wise strongman

Since taking power in late 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has surprised many with his strong powerbase and assertive diplomatic moves, in some ways pushing the boundaries set by the late Deng Xiaoping. Straits Times China Bureau Chief Kor Kian Beng examines the Xi brand of politics and diplomacy.

Published on Apr 14, 2014 11:26 AM
For the long-term good of China, and his own legacy, President Xi Jinping should aim higher and build a more robust political system that can prevent the abuse of power during and after his tenure. -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who already wears many hats, acquired his ninth last month as chair of a reform-oriented military taskforce. He was promptly nicknamed Jiu Ba Dao, or "Nine Knives", the pen name of a popular Taiwanese author-director.

Looking beyond the cheeky monicker, many wonder whether the power moves portend a re- emergence of strongman politics, thought to have ended with paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's death in 1997.

To be sure, opinion is divided.

Analysts in the "aye" camp point to the unusually big number of hats that Mr Xi wears: State President, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief, Central Military Commission (CMC) chairman, and head of at least six high-level committees looking into such areas as cyber security, national security and foreign policy.

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