Is Xi a nice man to know? Faltering economy softened him but even if he stays soft, growth will be below his target

In late October, when Xi Jinping consolidated his hold on China’s communist party at its annual congress, the world cringed. Xi seemed determined to push China back to the age of Mao Zedong, his role model. Hardline ideology would tighten its grip on the world’s second largest economy, with dire implications for the rest.

The strongman image melts

The last thing anyone expected from an absolute dictator entering his 11th year in power was a sudden about-face. Yet within weeks, Xi’s government has reversed its draconian efforts to control Covid, its crackdown on big tech firms, its strict limits on the property market and more. Xi is making pragmatically peaceful noises as well, saying at a meeting with Joe Biden that “the wide earth is fully capable of accommodating” two superpowers, letting Europe know it is not fully supportive of Russia’s war on Ukraine, and telling the Philippines he will resolve land disputes in the South China Sea through “friendly discussion”.

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Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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