The Weakness of the Strongman

Power Grabs by Putin and Xi May Bode Well for Democracy’s Future

Li Xueren Xinhua / eyevine / Red​ux

Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his support for a constitutional change to allow him two more terms in office. When these terms end in 2036, he will be 84 years old and—if he makes it—the longest-ruling leader in Russian history. Although Putin’s longevity stands out, Russia’s turn to personalist rule—in which political power is increasingly concentrated in a single individual—is part of a broader trend. China, for example, seemed until recently to be cementing a one-party regime in which elites shared power and maintained a functional mechanism of succession. But over the past couple …