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Department

Political Science

Disciplines

Political Science

Abstract

During 1965-66, a great power struggle engulfed Chinese politics while the Vietnam War escalated. While most scholars study this period for the Cultural Revolution Mao launched, this research proposes to examine the role the Vietnam War played in China’s political power struggle. Specifically, my research will show how Mao used the issue of Vietnam to defeat his rivals and consolidate power. The Chinese political structure has changed considerably since the mid-1970s. Yet, current President Xi Jinping has attempted to purge rivals and consolidate power during his term in office. Given this largely successful attempt, I want to know the extent to which Xi has the power to personally dictate how to handle problems along China’s periphery. This question is important because China is becoming a world class naval power, has an ever-growing economy, and has the potential to become a hegemon in Southeast Asia. This research compares the Vietnam War’s impact on Chinese politics during 1965-66 with Xi Jinping’s contemporary anti-corruption campaign. Specifically, I use Causal-Process tracing to compare and contrast consolidation of power under Mao and current President Xi Jinping. I draw from primary government sources of the time period, but also employ secondary sources to contrast them with each other. The results of this study finds that the PLA was the dominant source of strength for both Mao and Xi. Additionally, both Mao and Xi’s wives played critical roles in their success. Furthermore, the creation of new organizations helped both Mao and Xi circumvent the Party apparatus when they needed to further consolidate their personal authority. Current indications suggest that Xi Jinping is attempting to hold onto power for the foreseeable future, even after his expected retirement in the year 2023.

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