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Editorial: China heads toward digital dictatorship as parliament meets

China has launched a session of its National People's Congress, with President Xi Jinping continuing to amass power amid moves to introduce major reforms, personnel changes and constitutional amendments.

In a new age utilizing artificial intelligence and digital technology, it appears China's dictatorial hues could develop into a new stage.

In a report on government activities at the outset of the session, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang swore loyalty to Xi using stronger-than-usual rhetoric, urging delegates to "resolutely safeguard General Secretary Xi Jinping's core status."

Chinese lawmakers are setting the stage for a long-term administration under Xi, with proposals to remove a constitutional clause that limits presidencies to two five-year terms, and to include Xi's name in a reference to thought on "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era"

Propagandist maneuvers reminiscent of the personality cult in the era of Mao Zedong, who was called a leader of the people, have stood out. But we cannot simply describe the current situation as a reversion to the past.

In his report, Li underscored China's push for innovation in line with "the latest global revolution in science and technology." In a show of confidence, he also listed e-commerce, mobile payments and the sharing economy as areas in which China was leading the world. He additionally set as a target the utilization of next-generation artificial intelligence.

China will not only promote industrial development, but aim to enrich administrative services through the internet. Such a framework, utilizing digital technology to make the running of the state more efficient, could be understood as a digital dictatorship.

Due to a deceleration of growth, it will not be easy to achieve this year's stated target of economic growth of around 6.5 percent. China hopes to convert a revolution in technology into a new driving force, while opening the path for improvement in people's quality of life.

But is it possible to maintain economic vitality while restricting political freedom? This is a question that China will face in the future. International society has reservations about whether China can coexist with the current order while enhancing its dictatorial tones.

This year, China will raise its defense spending by 8.1 percent, surpassing its economic growth rate, to a level 3.5 times higher than what Japan spends. It is certain that the technological revolution extending to artificial intelligence and other fields will be reflected in military technology.

Li stressed that China would adhere to a path of peaceful development, but China still needs to show that there will be no deceit in its future diplomatic policies or in its actions in international society. It would be dangerous if China were to increase pressure on Taiwan, Hong Kong or other areas in the name of a "great restoration of the people of China."

China is a neighbor that has started to walk on its own path, separate from the United States, European countries and Japan. To obtain a real picture of the country it is vital to promote dialogue and exchange.

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