The disappearance of Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang has generated a torrent of speculation about what might have happened to him. The mystery points to a larger, and disconcerting, truth: We understand very little about the inner workings of Chinese politics at a moment when we need to know more than ever.
China’s Communist regime has always been opaque. But the more China’s global power rises, the more problematic the Communist Party’s secrecy becomes. The decisions made in Beijing influence the wealth and welfare of billions of people, the health of the planet, and war and peace itself. Yet policy makers and diplomats around the world are too often left guessing about how these decisions are made, who is making them, and why.
The current Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, has further narrowed the already small window into the cloistered halls of power. “Secrecy is the default position of the Communist Party anyway, but it has been put on steroids under Xi,” Steve Tsang, the director of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London, told me. [Continue reading…]