Xi Jinping's Power Grab
In arguably the most important world event this year, Xi Jinping set himself up to become China's leader for life. This is a truly unprecedented feat - only Mao Zedong has ruled China for more than two terms - and with China rapidly becoming as powerful as the United States, the ramifications could potentially be huge.
For starters, Xi Jinping has proven himself to be a highly capable leader. China's economy is growing at a blistering rate of 7%. China is set to take the lead in global R&D spending within the next 5-10 years, with the funding of artificial intelligence becoming a priority. China has also undergone an infrastructure building boom, with the construction of thousands of kilometers of high-speed rail and superhighways. Construction has also started on the largest airport in the world, located in Beijing. China's infrastructure ambitions also extend abroad, with one trillion dollars in spending planned on the OBOR initiative. Overall, China's actions over the past 20 years have lifted 700 million people out of poverty - the largest and most successful anti-poverty campaign in human history.
However, China is facing internal problems. Its building boom is certainly going to lead to environmental issues, and could lead to a 2008-esque housing market collapse. More importantly, Xi Jinping has yet to designate a successor, a problem exacerbated by his attempt to remain in power for the rest of his life. This could lead to problems after Jinping dies - a power struggle in a nuclear-armed nation of 1.3 billion people would not be a pretty sight. Xi's power grab also puts him on a collision course with history As Jinping furthers his power, it appears more and more that China is straying away from the institutional, meritocratic, and bureaucratic dictatorship that has dominated its 3,500-year history and has been directly responsible for China's survival as a civilization. Instead, China is moving towards a Stalinist personality cult, akin to that of the Soviet Union in the 1930s or modern day North Korea.
Xi's power grab is also, understandably, a major irritant to Chinese Communist Party members. The combination of a harsh break from tradition and anti-corruption drives that have left thousands of powerful, former members in jail has greatly antagonized members of the Chinese Communist party and has greatly factionalized the party. Additionally, the more power Jinping gains, the more power the CCP loses. This could lead to one of two paths - either Jinping forces his absolute rule over all of China, or the CCP fights back against Jinping, wreaking havoc on the Chinese government. For now, it looks like the first path is more likely, but only time will tell what truly happens.
The United States and NATO should certainly watch these new developments with concern - and be careful not to favor one side or the other. If the US appears even slightly supportive of Jinping being ousted from power, relations with Jinping will crumble (if he remains in power). Likewise, if the US supports Jinping before witnessing his fall, the new government will not be on good terms with the US. A regime change in the most populous country on Earth is not something to be taken likely - what we are witnessing is one of the most important events of this decade.