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12

2018

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China's Xi Joins Russia, Zimbabwe In Global Autocrat Club

Beijing - Recent history offers sobering lessons to China's Communist Party as the country's rubber-stamp parliament votes to allow President Xi Jinping to stay in power indefinitely.

For millennia, one-man rule for life was standard under kings and emperors. But from Zimbabwe to Iraq to North Korea, modern autocrats often blunder into economic stagnation, political dysfunction and war.

"There is a tendency for erratic and sometimes unwise policy choices," said Erica Frantz, a Michigan State University political scientist who studies dictatorships, in an email. Those include "more belligerent foreign policy" and greater likelihood of war.

On paper, deleting term limits on Xi's ceremonial post as president from China's constitution is a modest change compared with the vast powers he has amassed since becoming ruling party leader in 2012.

But the decision crystalised fears Beijing was discarding shared leadership developed since the 1980s. That system is meant to guard against the excesses of autocratic rule by requiring ruling party figures to give up power on schedule.

Some societies such as Singapore and Botswana are prosperous and stable under governing parties that stay in power for decades while avoiding the excesses of one-man rule.

Chinese officials echo arguments offered by other governments

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