This is a hybrid (in-person and online) event.
Xi Jinping is often described as a fundamentally new kind of leader in Chinese politics – one who has ended a tradition of collective leadership and returned to a Maoist ideological agenda. While those two conventional views have some truth to them, they do not fully grasp the complexities of Chinese elite politics or the role of ideology in today’s China. The CCP has always been an extraordinarily leader-friendly system, and claims that Xi is rejecting Deng Xiaoping’s institutionalist leadership model do not reflect the new historiography on Deng’s tenure as China’s leader. And although Xi Jinping clearly believes that only devotion and conviction among party members can save the CCP, his experiences under the Mao era suggest a distaste and skepticism for radical politics. Xi’s approach to ideology indicates the pursuit of both a new and middle path: one that tries to maintain the economic vitality of Reform and Opening while drawing selectively upon an earlier era to address the challenges those years of economic reform have brought to regime stability. And given the nature of the CCP as a system in which power tends to flow down, not up, it is highly unlikely that a coalition within the elite will force a course correction.
Joseph Torigian is an assistant professor at the School of International Service at American University in Washington. Previously, he was a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton-Harvard’s China and the World Program, a Postdoctoral (and Predoctoral) Fellow at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), a Predoctoral Fellow at George Washington University’s Institute for Security and Conflict Studies, an IREX scholar affiliated with the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, and a Fulbright Scholar at Fudan University in Shanghai. He studies elite politics and foreign relations in China and Russia.