Xi’s Tight Control Hampers Stronger Response to China’s Slowdown

Xi Jinping has placed the Communist Party—and himself—in greater command of China’s economy over the past decade. Now his centralization of power is delaying the country’s response to its worst economic slowdown in years.

Officials in charge of day-to-day economic affairs have been holding increasingly urgent meetings in recent months to discuss ways to address the deteriorating outlook, people familiar with the matter said.

Yet despite advice from leading Chinese economists to take bolder action, the people said, senior Chinese officials have been unable to roll out major stimulus or make significant policy changes because they don’t have sufficient authority to do so, with economic decision-making increasingly controlled by Xi himself.

The top leader has shown few signs of worry over the outlook despite the gathering gloom and hasn’t seemed interested in backing more stimulus, according to the people and publicized remarks by Xi.

In recent weeks, as one of China’s biggest property developers has teetered on the brink of default, putting billions of dollars of loans and other debts at risk, the government has expanded measures to revive home purchases. The steps follow other piecemeal measures over the past few months, such as modest interest-rate cuts.

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