How Xi Jinping’s “Controlocracy” Lost Control
Although the global coronavirus epidemic has only recently made international headlines, some in China have known about it since the beginning of December. Thanks to Chinese President Xi Jinping's high-tech dictatorship, that information was not made public, and the virus was allowed to take off.
BERKELEY – In his 2016 book The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century, Norwegian political scientist Stein Ringen describes contemporary China as a “controlocracy,” arguing that its system of government has been transformed into a new regime radically harder and more ideological than what came before. China’s “controlocracy” now bears primary responsibility for the coronavirus epidemic that is sweeping across that country and the world.
Over the past eight years, the central leadership of the Communist Party of China has taken steps to bolster President Xi Jinping’s personal authority, as well as expanding the CPC’s own powers, at the expense of ministries and local and provincial governments. The central authorities have also waged a sustained crackdown on dissent, which has been felt across all domains of Chinese social and political life.
Under the controlocracy, websites have been shut down; lawyers, activists, and writers have been arrested; and a general chill has descended upon online expression and media reporting. Equally important, the system Xi has installed since 2012 is also driving the direction of new technologies in China. Cloud computing, big data, and artificial intelligence (AI) are all being deployed to strengthen the central government’s control over society.