During the 19th Party Congress in China in October 2017, the description of a “new era” was used some 34 times. The Congress also confirmed inclusion of the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era into the Party’s constitution. The 13th National People’s Congress in March 2018 accepted the constitutional amendment, including the elimination of presidential term limits. For the first time since the Mao era – one person has accumulated that much power and has a theoretical basis for continuation of his rule indefinitely. These changes signal that China has truly entered a new era under Xi Jinping’s leadership. This seminar explains Xi Jinping’s leadership and argues that the “return” ideology is a necessary base for increasingly fragile domestic legitimacy, a protecting “shield” for Xi. While it recognizes the project of ideology-building as a necessary tool for political legitimacy, it argues that it might be far more ambitious than building thousands of miles of roads, corridors and pipelines around the world.
Dr Huong Le Thu is a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in the Defence and Strategy Program. Prior to joining ASPI she worked at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs (ANU), Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Singapore), and Institute of International Relations (Taiwan). Her research interests include multilateral security in Asia, foreign policy in post-socialist countries, as well as identity politics. She has held short-term research fellowships in Seoul (private think-tank), Kuala Lumpur (University of Malaya) and Jakarta (the ASEAN Secretariat). She is an alumna of the DKI Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Honolulu, and a recipient of the U.S. State Department Fellowship for East Asian Security and IISS ShangriLa Dialogue Southeast Asian Fellow.