Xi Jinping’s power grab: Bonapartism with Chinese characteristics
1 March 2018
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime has made a sharp break from the norms of the past three decades by moving to end the two-term limit for the post of president. As a result, Xi Jinping, who has consolidated his control over the military and state apparatus and purged key political rivals over the past five years, will be able remain in office indefinitely.
Xi’s emergence as China’s political strongman is not a function of his personal characteristics, but rather is a reflection above all of the extreme social tensions wracking the country. Confronting a deteriorating economy and the prospect of social upheaval, the Chinese bureaucracy is desperately seeking to consolidate its forces around the figure of Xi—a form of rule that Marxists have classically designated as Bonapartist.
Writing on the acute political crisis in Germany in 1932, Leon Trotsky explained the essential characteristics of Bonapartism: “As soon as the struggle of two social strata—the haves and the have-nots, the exploiters and the exploited—reaches its highest tension, the conditions are established for the domination of bureaucracy, police, soldiery. The government becomes ‘independent’ of society. Let us once more recall: if two forks are stuck symmetrically into a cork, the latter can stand even on the head of a pin. That is precisely the schema of Bonapartism.” [Germany: The Only Road]
After three decades of capitalist restoration, the CCP has transformed China into one of the most unequal countries in the world. At one pole of society, over 300 dollar billionaires—more than any country other than the United States—rake in enormous profits and live extravagant lifestyles. At the other, hundreds of…