China Analysis: Law and power in Xi’s China

Formal rules and arbitrary power

Publication cover
Summary available in

In China, official party statements tell only half the story. The Party relies on a strong leader – China’s president Xi Jinping – and a complex net of formal and informal rules and practices. Xi Jinping has been strengthening his position as China’s most powerful man by emphasising rules and establishing a top-down leadership style.

The latest issue of China Analysis published by ECFR and Asia Centre focuses on how formal rules and arbitrary power coexist in China. 

Corruption: In 2013, China’s politics was rocked by corruption scandals and by the efforts of the government to address the country’s corruption problem. The trials of Bo Xilai, Wang Lijun, and Liu Zhijun made world headlines, as did investigations into senior Party officials. “Shuanggui”, a special process that falls outside any legal framework has become one of the most debated anti-corruption mechanisms within the Communist Party.

The role of XI Jinping: There is an intense debate about the role of Xi Jinping in Chinese politics. A media campaign in China against constitutional rule has raised questions: is Xi a target because he is leading a harsh anti-corruption movement, or is he quietly backing the conservatives in the Party?

The influence of the princelings: China’s president, Xi Jinping, belongs to a group of descendants of the first generations of PRC leaders – also known as the “princelings”. These princelings have risen to become influential in their own right within Chinese government, military, and academic circles. But how influential are these princelings in Chinese politics?

“Absolute power destroys legality, but even limited power challenges it from time to time (…) Xi Jinping does not see a contradiction between authoritarian Party rule from the top and market-driven developments. “ – Francois Godement

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

We will store your email address and gather analytics on how you interact with our mailings. You can unsubscribe or opt-out at any time. Find out more in our privacy notice.