Where Xi’s China Is Going

Their country, home to one of the world’s greatest and ancient civilizations, has long been a leader in science and technology, largely isolated from waves of military and industrial progress. Great technology began in the West in the 16th century. The economic achievements that began with the industrial revolution in the 18th century were late. It was dominated by outside forces in the 19th century.

And in the last century – while the parents and grandparents of this Chinese couple were still alive – China has suffered from the fall of the Qing dynasty, civil wars, brutal Japanese occupation, a protracted battle between the forces of Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong.

Mao won that struggle but then pushed the country into 30 years of highly revolutionary experimentation, from the Great Leap Forward to the Cultural Revolution, all of which failed.

In the late 1970s, China was an exhausted, impoverished, isolated country, with a revolutionary regime that was unleashed by Red China that was no longer globally relevant. The parents of this Chinese couple are among the poorest in the world, with the fewest options.

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Then there was Deng Xiaoping, the Communist Party leader who shaped China from the late 1970s to the 1990s, and whose policies opened China to markets and to the world. .

They not only bring peace and stability, but also what economist Jeffrey Sachs calls “the most successful development story in the history of the world.” For four decades, China’s economy grew by almost 10% a year. And GDP per capita has increased more than 25 times.

With this economic progress has created a new Chinese society, more open, more ambitious and confident about its place in the world.

It is natural that people in China have a lot of pride and satisfaction, which can sometimes turn into overconfidence and arrogance. And when they hear criticism of their country in the West, they may wonder if foreigners are resentful of a China that has come so quickly in the ranks of nations. Does the US want to keep China in its place, so say.

That is a fair question. It is always difficult for the current superpower to find space for a burgeoning superpower.

But it is certainly made much more difficult by China’s Third Revolution: changes have been made by its current supreme leader, President Xi Jinping.

Mr. Xi has pushed China towards greater repression at home, with a smaller role for the free market and a stronger insistence on communist ideology in all areas. He also pursued a more aggressive policy abroad.

The architect of China’s opening, Deng Xiaoping, talks about China’s need to conceal its power and buy time. But it’s not simply an advice to wait a few decades. Deng understood that China was too large, bordering many countries with many border disputes, so it needed to reassure the world.

Winston Churchill once said that Russia is a “puzzle wrapped in a mystery within a mystery.” On the other hand, China is a vast land – a vast land, full of contradictions. Say anything about China, and you can find it there – along with the opposite.

Can Mr. Xi take control of this vast country and force it to follow the path he wants?

So far, he has been successful at home. But in doing so, he is making the lives of the average Chinese couple less open, and their country less admired. Mr. Xi has changed China, but in a way that has made its rise on the world stage much more dangerous.


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