Xi Jinping’s Throwback Moves
Breaking with a tradition of political modesty and tapping a rising nationalism, China’s leader is reviving a cult of personality to position his country as the world’s leading superpower
in early october, vice president mike pence gave a speech in Washington, D.C., that, to many foreign policy analysts, signaled nothing less than the formal onset of a 21st-century cold war. This time, China, a single-party dictatorship and the world’s second-largest economy, is cast as the United States’ overarching adversary. Now, President Donald Trump is set to sit down with the man who leads China, Xi Jinping, at the G-20 summit in December, in what may be a last effort to avoid a potentially ruinous trade war.
But who is Xi, what does he believe and how does he govern? French journalist François Bougon set out to answer these questions in a new book, Inside the Mind of Xi Jinping. As a former Beijing correspondent for Agence France-presse, he watched Xi, the son of a revolutionary pioneer, rise through the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party to become such a towering figure that his name is already inscribed in its constitution—“a privilege,” Bougon writes, “that only Mao Zedong, founder of the Party, has previously enjoyed in his lifetime.”
As U.S. relations with Beijing sink to their lowest level since just after the massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989, understanding Xi, the man who runs the most populous nation on Earth, is arguably more important than ever. —Bill Powell
in 2009, there was a rare moment of truth. Xi Jinping was in Mexico, the “backyard” of China’s great American rival, shoring up his international standing with multiple trips abroad. It was February, and Xi was still only vice president, but already one of the favorites for the leadership. Standing confidently behind the microphone in front of the Chinese Embassy in Mexico, he faced a specially selected audience of compatriots—expats, diplomats, businessmen