China has stepped from autocracy into dictatorship. That was when Xi Jinping, already the world’s most powerful man, let it be known that he will change China’s constitution so that he can rule as president for as long as he chooses—and conceivably for life. Not since Mao Zedong has a Chinese leader wielded so much power so openly. This is not just a big change for China but also strong evidence that the West’s 25-year bet on China has failed.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the West welcomed the next big communist country into the global economic order, a key element of Globalization. But globalization is about dictatorship of the world. So, why would it seem strange that China is again doing down that road?
Western leaders had believed that giving China a stake in institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) would bind it into the rules-based system set up after the second world war. They hoped that economic integration would encourage China to evolve into a market economy and that, as they grew wealthier, its people would come to yearn for democratic freedoms, rights and the rule of law.
While China has grown rich beyond anybody’s imagining, democracy was an illusion. When Mr Xi took power five years ago China was rife with speculation that he would move towards constitutional rule. Today the illusion has been shattered. In reality, Mr Xi has steered politics and economics towards repression, state control and confrontation.
Mr Xi has used his power to reassert the dominance of the Communist Party and of his own position within it. He has executed a sweeping reorganization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), partly to ensure its loyalty to the party, and to him personally. He has imprisoned free-thinking lawyers and stamped out criticism of the party and the government in the media and online. Though people’s personal lives remain relatively free, he is creating a surveillance state to monitor discontent and deviance.
China now holds its authoritarian system up as a rival to liberal democracy, and today you sense that America now has not just an economic rival, but an ideological one, too.
As China has been integrated into the global economy, it is not a market economy and, on its present course, never will be. Instead, it increasingly controls business as an arm of state power. China’s challenge has become overt.
Rivalry between the reigning and rising superpowers need not lead to war. But Mr Xi’s thirst for power has raised the chance of devastating instability. A powerful, dictatorship is not where the West’s China bet was supposed to lead. But that is where it has ended up.
The Bible predicts the rise of dictators in the last days. It calls them kings. See Daniel 8:23, 24, 11:40, Revelation 13:1-18, 12-17, 17:12, etc. They will centralize their geopolitical power and give strength to the “beast” of Revelation 13:1-10. Dictatorships are never good news for world peace or stability or for religious liberty.