Yesterday I had Konstantin Sonin present a seminar at JMU on "The Degenerate Autocrat: Origins and Consequences of the Russia-Ukraine War." Sonin is a former Vice -Rector of the Higher Economic School in Moscow who had to leave suddenly in March due to his critical remarks about the regime and has since been fired from the faculty there. He is Dewey Distinguished Service Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy at U. of Chicago and has coauthored with Daron Acemoglu, who might get the Nobel on Monday.
Anyway, his argument is that longtime full autocrats become incompetent as their regimes degenerate because they increasingly appoint incompetent sycophants who give them bad information and do not warn them of problems with bad policy decisions they make. They accumulate these bad asvisers, often from old longtime cronies who become increasingly corrupt as well, because they are afraid anybody competent might move to overthrow them. Putin in Russia with his stupid decision to invade Ukraine is the current leading example, but he had others from the past including Nicholas II's decision to join WW I, Hitler's decision to invade USSR, Mao's decision to carry out the Great Leap Forward, and Saddam Hussein's decision to invade Kuwait.
So far post-Mao China has avoided this slide into incompetent degenerate autocracy. The system set up where leaders would step aside after serving for ten years avoided this problem. But now it looks that Xi Jinping is making the move to go to this system, taking a third five year term as leader, with no clear successor in sight. This is a dangerous situation, with a number of recent decisions looking somewhat questionable and the economy slowing down, although there still continue to be some forward looking decisions and actions being made. But the longer term prospects from this move do not look good.