Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Change is Coming

The most important bilateral relationship in the world over the next decade will undoubtedly be the one between China and the United States. This thought was probably on Obama’s mind as he met China’s vice president, Xi Jinping, in Washington today. If you haven’t heard much about Xi Jinping, you probably will soon. If all goes to plan, he’ll succeed Hu Jintao as China’s president early next year. Xi will face gigantic challenges leading a country whose citizens have high expectations about job prospects and future economic growth.

It is hard to know if he’ll be successful in his new job. Leading an authoritarian country of 1.3 billion in a time of political upheaval (see: every country in the Middle East) is a job like no other. Xi grew up in Beijing in a privileged family, but after his father had a falling out with Mao, Xi was sent to a farm hundreds of miles from the capital to perform labor intensive work. He was forced to live in a cave (yes, you read that right) during most his seven years in Shaanxi province. After returning to Beijing, he attended the prestigious Tsinghua University. Xi is known as a workaholic. While working his way up the ladder in the Communist Party, he accepted various assignments of varying lengths all around the country. People who worked with Xi during that time remember him as being pragmatic, eagerly courting foreign investors and resolving disputes in a fair manner. While having a buttoned-down personality, he is married to one of China’s most recognized celebrities, singer Peng Liyuan. The West is hoping that Xi’s father’s liberal ideas made a big impression on him. It is unlikely, though, that Americans will be able to fully size him up until he is installed as president (it is traditional for Chinese presidential candidates to keep a low profile and not say anything controversial in the run up to a succession). Despite this, people are desperately looking for clues as to whether he will be a good partner for the West. One is telling: His daughter is a sophomore at Harvard.
- Read more about it here: LATimes