The Chinese Communist Party’s congress that ended on Oct. 24 and the announcement of the top party leadership lineup on Oct. 25 have raised serious concerns about President Xi Jinping’s apparent bid to become an absolute dictator.

Since he assumed the top party post of general secretary five years ago, Xi has been making consistent and determined efforts to concentrate power in his hands. During the latest party congress, Xi had his name and ideas written into the party Constitution in a move that elevated him to the same exalted status as the nation’s founding father, Mao Tse-tung, and former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who set the nation on the path of economic reform.

Xi has acquired the peerless prestige in a surprisingly short period of time.

Xi’s allies and proteges have been given many important party posts, including seats in the Politburo Standing Committee, the nation’s supreme policymaking organ, and other Politburo positions.

Xi would claim that he is only seeking to rejuvenate the party, but such a concentration of power is obviously dangerous.

Mao used his absolute power as the unchallenged dictator of China to start such disastrous political and social movements as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, which resulted in tens of millions of deaths. China shifted to a collective leadership system after Mao’s death because it learned bitter lessons from the Mao era.

During the decades since then, however, China’s move toward a market economy under the collective leadership regime has generated vested interests for political forces connected to successive leaders, breeding endemic, deep-rooted corruption within the party and the government.

The spectacular downfall of Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee who accumulated huge personal wealth through his connection to a state-run oil company and was ousted from power after being charged with corruption, is still fresh in our memories.

Xi has been trying to enhance his authority and stabilize the party’s monopoly on power partly in order to shatter the structure of corruption.

Although Xi had good reason to initiate a powerful anti-corruption campaign, he has started moving in the wrong direction by taking steps that could return China to the Mao era.

For any type of power structure, it is vital to have an effective system to ensure that the powers-that-be are subject to criticism and pressure and held accountable for their decisions and actions.

Voices within and outside the Community Party have called for enhancing the capabilities of the media to check the government to inject more transparency into the policymaking process.

What is worrisome is the fact that the influence of party reformists arguing for such steps has declined significantly.

The new Politburo Standing Committee includes no clear candidate to succeed Xi five years down the road.

Does Xi intend to remain in power beyond the limit of two five-year terms that the party established as a rule? Is he laying the groundwork for his prolonged grip on power either as the leader or as the behind-the-scenes string-puller?

These questions have been raised by Xi’s efforts to concentrate power in his hands.

Internationally, with politics based on Western-style liberal democracy going through turbulent times, China’s political stability based on the Community Party’s monopoly on power is sometimes described ironically as a major strength of the nation.

In today’s world, however, no form of dictatorship can bring about long-term stability to a nation.

Local media in Beijing have been filled with reports and articles extolling Xi. Over the past five years, the living standards in China have risen significantly, contributing to Xi’s efforts to consolidate public support for his leadership.

Still, there are no signs of the kind of feverish leader worship among Chinese people as seen in the Mao era. Many citizens remain calm.

Having been freed from the struggle to keep body and soul together, Chinese people have started traveling around the world and learning more about other countries.

It remains to be seen how long the increasingly richer Chinese people will continue accepting their nation’s current political system.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 26