President Xi Jinping's First Year In Review: Nationalism "Worrisome," Web Less Open

Historians in the News
tags: Jeffrey Wasserstrom, China, Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first anniversary in office arrived on March 14 amid easing economic growth, rising nationalism, a perceived reining in of room for expression on the Internet, and heightened regional tension.

Against that backdrop, what risks are ahead for China’s relations with the U.S. and its own neighbors? What’s ahead for the Web? Will Russia’s role into the Crimea embolden China to seek similar solutions to its territorial disputes in Asia?

To find out more, I talked to Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a professor of Chinese history at the University of California at Irvine and author of the book,  “China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know.”  He is visiting Shanghai this month to attend the Shanghai International Literary Festival.  Excerpts follow: 

Q. What would you say has been notable about President Xi’s first year in office from your perspective as a U.S. historian?

A.  What’s been notable is the overstated expectation of him early on about him being any kind of political reformer.  A year ago there were some people who were overly optimistic about what kind of liberalizing moves he would make early on. But I thought there would be a holding pattern.

 If anything, the last few months have been quite depressing —  in terms of, for example, the crusading lawyer Xu Zhiyong being sentenced to prison.  People who are not really dissidents but that tried to push the envelope have suffered more under Xi Jinping than in the past.  He’s done some things that have a reform side to them in the economic sector. There has been some loosening up in the birth limitation policy. But there hasn’t been any loosening up in the political realm. If anything, there has been a kind of tightening and consolidation of power....

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