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The chairman of everything: why Chinese president Xi Jinping will change history

Roundup
tags: China, Xi Jinping



Graham Allison is the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at the Harvard Kennedy School and the author of “Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?” (Houghton Mifflin)

At the Communist Party congress in Beijing in October, Xi Jinping was not only “elected” for a second five-year term as China’s president. He was “crowned” as the 21st-century version of the emperors who ruled the country in earlier millennia. His “thoughts” were enshrined alongside Mao Zedong’s in China’s holy writ, the constitution, which must be studied and taken as guidance by the society. The membership of other major institutions of power – the seven-man standing committee, 25-man politburo and seven-man military commission – was reshuffled to ensure that all are now Xi loyalists. Most telling of all, the established practice of identifying a successor at the beginning of a leader’s second term was abandoned. Conspicuously, the standing committee includes no plausible successor, signalling to China’s 1.4 billion citizens the likelihood that Xi will remain their leader for as long as he chooses.

The first foreign dignitary to arrive in Beijing to pay respects to the newly empowered Xi was the president of the United States. Having developed the fine art of ritual over its 4,000-year history, China showed a certified American showman that it knows pomp and ceremony. As the New York Times explained before the trip, “The pomp will… be a chance for Mr Xi to showcase his ‘China dream’ – a vision of his nation joining or perhaps supplanting the United States as a superpower leading the world.”

Prior to his departure, Donald Trump had sent Xi a note congratulating him on his “extraordinary elevation”. To journalists, Trump called Xi “the king”. Upon his arrival, he greeted Xi with respect that smacked of reverence, declaring, “You are a very special man,” and “You’re a strong man,” and saluting him for leading his country forward, while blaming prior American leaders for allowing the US to get “so far behind”.

As the New York Times summarised the visit: “President Trump projected an air of deference to China that was almost unheard of for a visiting American leader.” Indeed, it went on: “Mr Trump’s performance [suggests] a tipping point in great power politics.”

Xi is now not only the most powerful leader of China since Mao. He is also the most ambitious leader of any country today. In the past five years, he has proved himself the most effective in advancing his nation’s position in the world. And among all of the competitors on the international stage, he is the most likely to leave a lasting mark on history. ...

Read entire article at New Statesman


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