Cheng Li, Chinese Politics in the Xi Jinping Era: Reassessing Collective Leadership
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Cheng Li is one of a small group of leading experts on the Chinese political system and China’s political elite and so his 2016 book on Chinese politics under Xi Jinping was long awaited and provides an important contribution to our understanding of Chinese politics under Xi. In this brief review I will overview Li’s book as well as assess his predictions about the direction of Xi and the Chinese government since, having the benefit of hindsight following the 19th Party Congress of 2017, which came after the book was published.
A central theme of the book, apparent by its sub-title, is the question of collective leadership. Li notes that even prior to the 19th Party Congress there was a question of whether or not President Xi would continue in the tradition of predecessors Jiang and Hu in making China’s top leadership more collective, more accountable in nature. He notes (p. 368–83) that President Xi had three choices: 1. return to something more akin to the one-person rule of Mao and...