The Making of Xi Jinping

Evan Osnos writes about international affairs for The New Yorker. On the occasion of a recent profile, we’re speaking about the “ruthlessly pragmatic” rise of Xi Jinping, who Osnos says has “emerged as the most authoritarian leader since Chairman Mao.”

Illustration by Tavis Coburn for The New Yorker.

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    Fareed Zakaria’s recent book “A Post-American World” should be in the back of your
    mind when you ponder the question of what Xi might be ruminating on in in the
    wee hours of the morning, a speculation that took place in this masterpiece of
    an ROS program.

    The recent 60-year anniversary celebration in Bandung, Indonesia, of the Bandung
    Conference of 1955, was dominated by Xi and his vision, a few weeks ago. The
    founding of the China-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the
    billions being offered to Pakistan, give one the sense of a Chinese leader who
    would really like a post-IMF, post-World Bank, post-American hegemony system.

    Remember that underneath the polite trade talk there is a tremendous sense of Chinese
    grievance based on their experience of Western bullying and semi-dismemberment
    from the Opium Wars to the Boxer rebellion and beyond, to all the “yellow peril”
    talk (“gelbe Gefahr” in the Kaiser’s speech) that keeps being repeated in
    different guises.

    It so happens that supplanting the dollar and the current global financial setup is
    extremely difficult for all kinds of “macro-economic accounting” reasons. It’s
    not a linear mechanical process and is now nowhere in sight.

    However, it’s likely that the Xi analysis in the wee hours of the morning envisions America as
    a ‘weary titan” (see book by that name) that can’t really govern itself or the
    world and this perhaps creates a yearning for a really new “new world order”
    beyond the American “empire of disorder.”

    The non-negligible likelihood that China might well somewhat follow the Japanese
    precedent epitomized by the title of the Ezra Vogel book, “Japan as Number 1”
    should also be kept in mind to counterbalance any China euphoria of the moment.

    Richard Melson