After being called the “sleeping giant”, China is undergoing both recent and rapid changes, especially in the economic sector. Mao’s rule which consisted of significant cultural changes and alteration to Marx’s ideas of communism including liberal economic policies has lead people to believe that Chinese society has weakened the authoritarian regime. China’s Communist Party (CCP) has direct control of the government with a parallel organization of the CCP and the Chinese government.1
At age 101, the man who was able to criticize both current leader Xi Jinping as well as former leader Mao while being a member of the Communist Party, passed away. Li Rui cautioned that Xi’s ideas resembled Mao’s suppression of individual thought. Rui compared them saying they both attempted to establish a cult of personality. In 1958 he was selected by Mao to be his personal secretary. Soon after Rui was imprisoned for voicing his criticism of the party. Despite his imprisonment, Rui usual went untouched after criticizing the party. Many believed his role of being one of the original revolutionaries as well as his close relationship to Xi gave him a “get out of jail free card” when criticizing the regime.2
What strategies do both democratic and authoritarian regimes use to ensure their legitimacy by keeping the people happy?
In China there is a parallel organization of the Communist Party and the Chinese government with roles in the government reflected roles of the party. This structure has allowed to the Communist party to have total control of the government. With many authoritarian regimes giving elites release valves to ensure their support of the regime, China gives high ranking members of the party this privilege. Li Rui was able to voice his concerns and criticism freely solely because of his association with the current leader Xi Jinping. In democratic regimes, pleasing elites isn’t a strategy used to establish the regimes legitimacy, however, federalism is. In countries such as Nigeria, federalism has been used to suppress factions of people from rising up against the government. In Nigeria they attempted to please their multi-national population by moving the capital to a more central location as well as giving the northern region the ability to follow Sharia Law.
- Patrick H. O’Neil, Karl Fields, and Don Share, Cases in Comparative Politics, 6th ed. (New York ; London: W.W. Norton Et Company, 2018), 387-424.
- Ashitha Nagesh, “Li Rui: The old guard Communist who was able to criticize Xi Jinping” BBC News, February 17, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-47265411