Op-Ed: In China, Xi Jinping is getting an unprecedented third term. What should the world expect?
When Xi Jinping stepped down as president of China in 2012, China’s leaders were bracing themselves for what could be a very different China: a more open and tolerant country, a more prosperous one and even a more powerful one. In many ways, those hopes were dashed.
Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has not been shy about his ambition. With the support of the Communist Party, he has aggressively pursued his goal of building a “great rejuvenation” of modern China, bringing its economy to a new era of development, with the West out of the way. Although his agenda was driven almost entirely by a desire for autocratic power, his approach has been widely criticized by foreign powers, the media and Western politicians who are concerned with their own interests in terms of economic relationships.
But while many countries have criticized Xi’s conduct, the world’s view on China has changed significantly since 2012. When he stepped down from the presidency, I wrote that Xi’s “popularity has fallen from that of the ‘idea man’ of 2000 (Jiang Zemin) to that of an authoritarian leader in the mold of (Mao) Zedong: (Xi) is the man to watch in this coming decade.” But I also recognized that Xi was in a vulnerable position and would need considerable support for his agenda to succeed.
With Xi’s recent ascendance, the time for that support has arrived. It’s no longer enough for China to simply present itself as a responsible member of the international community. Xi has the capability to move the world much closer to authoritarianism and away from the principles of a free and open society.
How is the relationship with the West changing?
As Western leaders have been increasingly concerned with the increasingly authoritarian behavior of China, how has the relationship with China evolved? Is China an emerging global power, or is its rise simply a case of the West getting too friendly with a rising power?
The answer is both. Yes, the relationship between China and the West has improved and, as I discussed in an op-ed for The Hill newspaper, Xi is making this necessary for China’s own survival.