Chinese President Xi Jinping, after paving the road to his long-term seizure of power by amending the constitution, was reappointed Saturday as president at the National People’s Congress, which was unanimously approved by all 2,907 NPC members. Xi, who was reelected as the leader of the Communist Party at the 19th National Congress in October, has officially started his second term as president. Vladimir Putin is most likely to secure his third term, by receiving majority of the votes in the presidential election on Saturday. Serving three terms as president and one as prime minister since 2000, Putin will stay in power until 2024. That is the longest ruling since Joseph Stalin’s 31-year dictatorship over the Soviet Union.
The two leading countries of the communist bloc that wield overwhelming power in Northeast Asia’s order are signaling revival of a prolonged one-man rule. After the collapse of socialism in the end of the 20th century and democratization of the third world, democracy with its core values — human rights, freedom of the press, a multiparty system and market economy — has become an irreversible trend of human history, which was considered to be a universal common sense. The last forts of authoritarianism, the Middle East and North Africa also went through democratization triggered by the Arab Spring in 2011. The revival of authoritarian long-term ruling in Russia and China is regression of human history. There are rising concerns that a non-liberal international order would be established where global powers promote protectionism, unilateralism and hegemonism.
Behind Xi and Putin’s reelection is people’s fervor over a strong leadership to maximize economic development and build a foundation to become a superpower. Those two who have been promoting the “China dream” and the “great Russia” are likely to increase their influence through reinforced internal control and more audacious and paternalist diplomacy. In particular, they will raise their voice over the North Korean nuclear issue to expand their presence and influence.
Without active cooperation of China and Russia, current efforts to denuclearize the rogue regime through pressure and dialogue can only go so far. The two countries are voicing against North Korea’s nuclear development that could trigger nuclear armament of other countries in Northeast Asia, but their keeping their guard higher when it comes to radical changes in the regime and increasing influence of the United States. Proactive and flexible diplomacy based on the robust KOR-US alliance is a must not to be swallowed up by the rough water that the revival of absolute power in China and Russia will bring in diplomacy and trade of Northeast Asia.