Mao and Forever

Xi Jinping’s Authoritarian Reforms

A statue of Mao Zedong in Shenyang, May 7, 2013. Courtesy Reuters

A year and a half into Chinese President Xi Jinping’s rule, who he is and what he wants remains something of a mystery. At times, he has appeared to be a reformer in the mold of Deng Xiaoping; one of Xi’s first acts in office was to reenact the great reformer’s “Southern Tour,” which kicked off market reforms after the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square. At other times, he has appeared nostalgic for the revolutionary socialism of Mao Zedong. A few months after his trip to the south, Xi made a high-profile visit to Xibaibo, the last headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army during the Chinese Civil War and a sacred site for left-wing devotees of Mao.

Xi’s policies have been as contradictory as his image. He has launched high-profile drives to encourage private enterprise and stem corruption. But he has coupled them with a pledge

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