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Is Xi Jinping the Reformist Leader China Needs?

Jean-Pierre Cabestan
p. 69-76


In autumn 2012, following the 18th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Xi Jinping is to succeed Hu Jintao as General Secretary of the Party and also, in all probability, as Chairman of the Central Military Commission, where he has been second-in-command since 2010. In March 2013, he is set to become President of the People’s Republic of China. Born into the political elite, he enjoys a great deal of support in the Nomenklatura. Having governed several coastal provinces, the current Vice-President is thoroughly acquainted with the workings of Party and state. He also has support within the Army, where he spent a short time at the beginning of his career. In addition, in recent years, he has acquired significant international experience. Urbane and affable, Xi is appreciated for his consensual approach.  Nonetheless, Xi is taking charge of the country at a particularly delicate time. China is having to adopt an alternative growth model whilst the government is struggling with powerful economic and regional feudalities. The Bo Xilai affair has highlighted the weakening of the central government, the corruption of the elites, and deep-rooted ideological differences within the Party machine that are damaging the political legitimacy of the regime and endangering its stability. As a result, Xi must not onlyreunify the Party leadership and machine but also establish his authority over all the country’s civil and military institutions. His style and charisma will help him. But his success will also and above all depend on his ability to form a united coalition set on reform and capable of dismantling the privileges acquired by the regime’s many bosses. The CCP needs a leader who is both strong and courageous. Is Xi such a man? Perhaps.

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Bibliographical reference

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, « Is Xi Jinping the Reformist Leader China Needs? », China Perspectives, 2012/3 | 2012, 69-76.

Electronic reference

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, « Is Xi Jinping the Reformist Leader China Needs? », China Perspectives [Online], 2012/3 | 2012, Online since 01 October 2015, connection on 27 September 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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About the author

Jean-Pierre Cabestan

Professor & Head, Department of Government and International Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University; Associate Research Fellow, Asia Centre, Paris; and Associate Research Fellow, French Centre for Research on Contemporary China, Hong Kong (

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