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Why Xi's Power Grab Will Hurt China's Prospects for Reform

Good Policy Will Be Tough for the "Chairman of Everything"

A magazine featuring Xi Jinping sits on a newsstand in Shanghai, October 2017. Aly Song / Reuters

Since the conclusion of the 19th Party Congress—China’s quinquennial leadership transition—and its First Plenum on October 25, a widespread consensus has emerged that Xi Jinping enters his next five-year term as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CCP) as the most powerful Chinese political leader since Deng Xiaoping, arguably even Mao Zedong. 

Although there is less agreement on what he plans to do with that power, many believe that a newly empowered Xi will now focus his attention on the Chinese economy. In particular, the Western business community is optimistic that Xi could begin a push for long-awaited reforms.

According to Moody’s Investors Service, Xi’s power grab “could advance the process of economic reform and rebalancing, because one obstacle to reform has been the misalignment of incentives between the central leadership and other officials.” In a research note, Danske Bank argued that “markets are

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