by Alice Miller
March 18, 2014
Assessments of the political strength of Xi Jinping have varied widely over the year since he became China’s new top leader. This article addresses the question of Xi’s power in light of the results of the 18th Central Committee’s Third Plenum in November 2013 and of other recent trends. Critical elements of personal political power—faction-building and solid ties to the Chinese military brass—appear so far to be either limited or lacking, although they may emerge more clearly ahead. Rather than reflecting a campaign of personal aggrandizement by the new top leader, the leadership trends suggest instead a leadership collective around Xi that enjoys a mandate for a concerted push at new reform. Insofar as the new reforms succeed or fail, the credit or blame will accordingly attach to the leadership as a group and to Xi’s ability to sustain its commitment behind them.