Analysis & Opinions - New Statesman

The Chairman of Everything: Why Chinese President Xi Jinping Will Change History

| Dec. 04, 2017

In his first essay for the New Statesman, one of the world’s leading foreign policy experts explores the rise of an all-powerful leader.

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”.

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Allison, Graham.“The Chairman of Everything: Why Chinese President Xi Jinping Will Change History.” New Statesman, December 4, 2017.