You have analyzed all major Chinese leaders over the past 30 years. What drew you to Xi?
Xi is very different from previous leaders. Basically Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao followed Deng Xiaoping’s instructions not only to reform the economy, but to carry out some degree of institutional changes. Deng didn’t believe in Western-style reforms, but he did try major institutional reforms to prevent a second Cultural Revolution and a Mao Zedong-style tyranny. So he promoted collective leadership — that the [ruling Communist Party’s] Politburo and especially its Standing Committee rule as a collective entity and the general secretary is just first among equals. Also, he didn’t want a cult of personality. Deng had a famous saying that leadership should come from the “five lakes and four seas” — from different backgrounds and all walks of life.
But Xi Jinping so far has stood many of Deng’s principles on their heads. We have seen an excessive concentration of personal power by Xi Jinping. He’s not first among equals. He’s the big boss. He runs roughshod over the other six members of the Standing Committee, especially Premier Li Keqiang.
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Dr Willy Lam
With more than 30 years of experience in writing and researching about China, Willy Wo-Lap LAM is a recognized authority on areas including the Chinese Communist Party, public administration, foreign policy, the People’s Liberation Army, as well as the country’s economic and political reform. Dr Lam has worked in senior editorial positions in international media including Asiaweek newsmagazine, South China Morning Post, and the Asia-Pacific Headquarters of CNN.
Since early 2005, Dr Lam has been a Professor of China Studies at Akita International University, Japan (www.aiu.ac.jp). He is also an Adjunct Professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong (History Department & Master of Global Political Economy Program); and a Senior Fellow at Jamestown Foundation (www.jamestown.org), a leading foreign-policy think tank in Washington D.C.
Willy’s views on China are frequently sought by global media including CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, ABC, Bloomberg, Voice of America, and other major publications and electronic media. He has been awarded visiting fellowships by institutions including Columbia University, Washington University at St. Louis (U.S.), Nottingham University (Britain), and Murdoch University (Australia.)