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MARK ALMOND: Take a lesson from Vladimir Putin – Xi Jinping is a cold, silent dictator

MARK ALMOND: Let Vladimir Putin be our lesson – Xi Jinping is a cold, silent dictator… and the tyrant of the East

The significance of Xi Jinping’s “re-election” for another five years as leader of the ruling Chinese Communist Party can be gauged by the caliber of those who rushed to congratulate him.

Step forward, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who has been in power since 2000, and North Korea’s hereditary communist ruler Kim Jong-un.

Washington, London and the rest of the West are silent. But we should not allow our own political and economic crisis to blind us to what is happening on the other side of the world. President Xi’s cementing of his absolute power over China has global ramifications.

Secretary-General and Chinese President Xi Jinping waved to the press yesterday

Secretary-General and Chinese President Xi Jinping waved to the press yesterday

He is China’s most dominant communist leader since Mao. But unlike the verbose and flamboyant Mao, Xi is a cold, silent dictator. He shares characteristics with another tyrant, Stalin; He’s more of a control freak than a demagogue who stirs up masses.

And like Putin in Ukraine, he is willing to risk a conflict with the West. Taiwan is in his sights. Bringing the island’s democracy back under Beijing’s rule is his declared aim. Any Chinese invasion would trigger a crisis with Taiwan’s friends America and Japan, probably Britain as well.

Growing Western support for Taiwan may prompt Xi to strike sooner rather than later – he is an old man in a hurry and determined to leave a lasting legacy of Chinese supremacy. Xi’s obsession with achieving Zero Covid no doubt saved many Chinese lives, but it condemned tens of millions to months of house arrest, often hungry and desperate, in repeated draconian lockdowns. It also accelerated China’s economic slowdown, which has weakened – and continues to weaken – global trade.

Rather than join the rest of the world in trying to escape the grip of Covid, Xi seems to see the global economic crisis resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an opportunity for China to flex its weight . A war over Taiwan would further disrupt, even destroy, global supply chains. It is indicative of Xi’s thinking that he has appointed the head of the Shanghai Communist Party as his deputy – a man accused of crippling China’s export capital with repeated lockdowns.

Li Qiang is an ultra-loyalist, an attribute valued more highly than competence, and he joins a team of seven members of the Politburo’s Standing Committee – including Xi – handpicked for their service to their leader’s mania for dominance. It can only get worse.

On Saturday, the regimented delegates sat like robots in the Great Hall of the People, applauding dutifully and remaining completely impassive even when their former leader, Hu Jintao, 79, was suddenly pushed out of the front row.

The official line is that he was ill, but his attempt to speak to Xi as he passed the president’s chair – he was waved away – was notable. Two of Hu’s protégés had just been released by Xi.

Mark Almond is Director of the Crisis Research Institute, Oxford MARK ALMOND: Take a lesson from Vladimir Putin – Xi Jinping is a cold, silent dictator

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