breadcrumb

Who is Xi Jinping?

Who is Xi Jinping?

China’s Leadership Transition at the 18th Party Congress

In an era of great change and economic uncertainty around the world, one might expect a leadership transition at the top of one of the world’s rising powers to shine a light on that country’s prospective next leaders so the public might form an opinion of them and decide whether or not to express their distaste or support. Not so in China, where the Chinese Communist Party and its distinctive process of handing power from one group of men to another every ten years are cloaked in shadow. As part of ChinaFile’s ongoing series on China’s leadership transition, in partnership with the Asia Society’s Asia Blog, Orville Schell discusses what makes Xi Jinping, the man expected to be named China’s next top leader, such an enigma.

Topics: 
Orville Schell is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York. He is a former professor and Dean at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate...

To read a transcript of this interview, visit the Asia Blog.

Share

Share/Save

Viewpoint

11.21.14

What Will Make the U.S.-China Climate Deal Work

MARK HERTSGAARD

Nearly everyone agrees that the U.S.-China climate announcement is a big deal, but most observers have overlooked what truly makes it a game-changer: if the world’s two climate change superpowers limit their greenhouse gas emissions, it will have the economic effect of putting...

Viewpoint

11.21.14

“Getting Pantsed” by the “Central People’s...

HU YONG

In December of last year CCTV producer Wang Qinglei wrote a post on his Weibo account criticizing the Chinese government’s campaign-style attacks on prominent social media figures and arguing the media had also been drawn in and was “sidestepping the law” and allowing the...

Viewpoint

11.14.14

The Domestic Politics of the U.S.-China Climate Change...

ANN CARLSON & ALEX WANG

The news from Beijing this week that the U.S. and China are committing to ambitious goals on climate change is, we think, monumental. No two countries are more important to tackling the problem than the largest carbon emitter over the past two centuries, the U.S., and the largest...

Viewpoint

11.08.14

Obama’s Chance to Get China Right

PAUL GEWIRTZ

With much of his domestic agenda now stymied by the Republican sweep of Congress, President Obama’s room for maneuver remains greatest in foreign affairs. Yet with much of the Middle East in flames, an angry Vladimir Putin threatening Russian aggression, the European economy in...

Viewpoint

10.21.14

‘We Can Only Trust Each Other and Keep the Road’

ILARIA MARIA SALA

Snip. Snip. Snip. The officer’s face shows concentration as he cuts one yellow ribbon after another along a metal fence on Queensway in the Central district of Hong Kong. Next to him, other policemen have just finished dismantling the barricades that had blocked this major...

Viewpoint

10.15.14

How China’s Leaders Will Rule on the Law

CARL MINZNER

Last week, as the world watched the student demonstrations in Hong Kong, China’s Politburo announced the dates for the Communist Party’s annual plenary session would be from October 20-23. As in previous years, top leaders will gather in Beijing to set out a broad policy...

Viewpoint

10.14.14

On Dealing with Chinese Censors

JOSEPH W. ESHERICK

It was a hot afternoon in June in the East China city of Jinan. I was returning to my hotel after an afternoon coffee, thinking of the conference I had come to attend and trying to escape the heat on the shady side of the street. My cell phone rang, and I heard the distinctive...

Viewpoint

10.08.14

‘We Do Not Want to Be Persuaded’

ILARIA MARIA SALA

Over the past week, it has been hard to make sense of the threats and ultimatums the Hong Kong protesters have faced. On Sunday, the South China Morning Post splashed on its front page that Hong Kong had “hours to avoid tragedy.” University deans sent out urgent appeals...

Viewpoint

10.01.14

‘The City Feels New’

ILARIA MARIA SALA

Down on the streets occupied by the striking students, the city feels new: roads normally accessible only on wheels look like familiar strangers when suddenly you can walk down them. Big, immovable concrete partitions still separate the lanes, and the students have set up wooden...

Viewpoint

09.29.14

The Day that China Came to Hong Kong

MARK L. CLIFFORD

Hong Kong’s massive protests should have surprised no one. A bitter debate over political reform split the city. Beijing’s high-handed diktats deepened the anger. Before the protests, the question was whether or not the vast majority of this city of 7 million who favor a more...

Viewpoint

09.29.14

‘Against My Fear, I See That You Hope’

DENISE Y. HO

A week ago today I sat together with you outside the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s library, a teacher among other teachers, a university member beside students, 13,000 strong. The weeks before had felt quiet: at the three previous all-student meetings around the Goddess of...

Viewpoint

09.26.14

‘The China-U.S. Relationship is Basically Good’

WU JIANMIN

A few days ago, I was in Washington, D.C. for a conference. While there, I met some American friends. We had an interesting discussion about what seems to me to be a debate going on in the U.S. about China-U.S. relations: One side believes the China-U.S. relationship is going...

Viewpoint

09.25.14

How Bad Does the Air Pollution Have to Be Before You’...

STEPHANIE HO

“Mommy, why don’t I wear a face mask?” asked my nine-year-old daughter Maggie nearly every day during the first few weeks of school. Two of her expat classmates had been in Beijing less than a year, but it seemed as if they wore theirs all the time. “Don’t your parents...

Viewpoint

09.19.14

“Daddy’s ‘Friends’ Are Actually Plainclothes...

ZENG JINYAN

The essay that follows was written by Zeng Jinyan, whose husband, Hu Jia, has been prominently involved in activism around environmental issues, AIDS, and human rights in China over the past decade and a half and is a winner of the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Prize...

Viewpoint

09.18.14

More Exploitation, More Happiness

KEVIN SLATEN

It was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in recent Chinese history. On August 2, a massive metal dust explosion killed 75 workers and injured another 186 at a factory in Kunshan, in Jiangsu province, that supplied wheels to General Motors. Asphyxiation killed more than 40...

Viewpoint

09.10.14

China’s Tough New Internet Rules Explained

HU YONG

On August 7, the State Internet Information Office issued a new set of guidelines entitled “Provisional Regulations for the Development and Management of Instant Messaging Tools and Public Information Services.” These regulations require that instant messaging service...

Viewpoint

09.02.14

The Danger of China’s ‘Chosen Trauma’

HARRY W.S. LEE

When we see young Chinese people at a state event collectively chant, “Do not forget national humiliation and realize the Chinese dream!” we may be tempted to dismiss it as yet another piece of CCP propaganda. But we may also find ourselves pondering what “national...

Viewpoint

08.28.14

China’s Nicaraguan Canal

CARLOS F. CHAMORRO

While Nicaragua was once a central concern—indeed, almost an obsession—of Washington, as Sandinistas and Contras seemed to be battling for the soul of the Western Hemisphere, in more recent times our small and quite impoverished country has slipped off the screens of those...

Viewpoint

08.05.14

Equal in Inequality?

MARC BLECHER

For the past several months, readers around the world have been buying, discussing, and even occasionally reading Capital in the Twenty-First Century, French economist Thomas Piketty’s magisterial analysis of the relationship between capitalist development and inequality in...

Viewpoint

06.13.14

Arrested Chinese Lawyer Pu Zhiqiang Speaks from Prison

THE EDITORS

Early this morning, the Beijing Public Security Bureau formally arrested rights-defense lawyer Pu Zhiqiang on charges of picking quarrels and illegally obtaining personal information about a Chinese citizen. The arrest, announced via one of the PSB’s verified social media...

Viewpoint

06.03.14

China’s Maritime Provocations

SUSAN SHIRK

Last weekend I attended the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual gathering of Asian, European, and American defense and military officials and strategic experts in Singapore hosted by the London International Institute of Strategic Studies. China sent a large and well-disciplined...

Viewpoint

05.16.14

Government Steps Up To Labor’s Demands

KEVIN SLATEN

On April 14, most of the 40,000 workers at the Dongguan Yue Yuen shoe factory—supplier to Nike, Adidas, and other international brands—began what would become a two-week work stoppage. While there are thousands of strikes in China every year, the Yue Yuen action broke the...

Viewpoint

04.23.14

From Half the Sky to ‘Leftovers’

MEI FONG & LETA HONG FINCHER

The three-plus decades since the inception of the ‘one child’ policy have resulted in a huge female shortage in China. The country is now seriously unbalanced, with 18 million more boys than girls. By 2020, there will be some 30 million surplus men in China, a condition some...

Viewpoint

04.20.14

The Specter of June Fourth

PERRY LINK

If yesterday was typical, about 1,400 children in Africa died of malaria. It is a preventable, treatable disease, and the young victims lost their lives through no faults of their own. Why it is that human beings accept a fact like this as an unremarkable daily event, whereas one...

Viewpoint

04.09.14

Why Taiwan’s Protestors Stuck It Out

JOHN TKACIK

Some might say, “a half-million Taiwanese can’t be wrong.” That’s how many islanders descended upon their capital city, Taipei, on March 30 to shout their support for the several thousand students who have occupied the nation’s legislature for the past two weeks in a so...

Viewpoint

03.13.14

How Chinese Internet Censorship Works, Sometimes

JASON Q. NG

Earlier this week, Chinese Internet services blocked searches for the phrase mìshū bāng (秘书帮). Roughly translated as “secretaries gang,” the term relates to the speculation surrounding government probes into public officials linked to former security czar and...

Viewpoint

03.06.14

Can America Win in a New Era of Competition with China?

GEOFF DYER

Beijing was in a state of heightened anxiety and had been for weeks. Each day in the run-up to the National Day parade, the security measures seemed to get a little bit tighter. Our apartment building had a distant view of Jianguomen, which is the main east-west avenue that runs...

Viewpoint

02.27.14

Why Frank Underwood is Great for China’s Soft Power

YING ZHU

In depicting U.S. politics as just as vicious, if not more, sociopathic than its Chinese counterpart, House of Cards delivered a sweet Valentine’s Day gift to the Chinese government. The show handed the Chinese state an instant victory when the protagonist, a seasoned U.S....

Viewpoint

02.04.14

In Slickness and in Wealth

LETA HONG FINCHER

Under the harsh glare of a studio spotlight, bride-to-be Tong turns her face until it is almost completely in shadow. Tong is posing for a three-day session of wedding photographs at Shanghai’s premier Princess Studio, where couples spend between 3,000 RMB (U.S.$500) and 130,...

Viewpoint

01.14.14

Xi, Mao, and China’s Search for a Usable Past

PAUL GEWIRTZ

Since its founding, the United States has had understandable pride in its great achievements, but also has had to reckon with its complex moral history—beginning but hardly ending with the fact that our original Constitution accepted the evil of slavery and the terrible...

Viewpoint

01.02.14

Global Development and Investment

ELIZABETH ECONOMY & ZHA DAOJIONG

Framing questions: In what ways do the U.S. and Chinese approaches to development and foreign investment differ? Are they evolving, and how? What are the benefits and drawbacks of each approach both to the investing country and the recipient? In what ways are China and the United...

Viewpoint

11.18.13

Xi Jinping Refills an Old Prescription

ORVILLE SCHELL

The reforms called for by the Third Plenum of the Eighteenth Party Congress have been, like so much else in China over the past few decades, part of an ongoing Chinese quest for national unity, wealth, and power. But, for those of us steeped in Western political philosophy, such...

Viewpoint

11.08.13

China, One Year Later

J. STAPLETON ROY, SUSAN SHIRK & more

In November 2012, seven men were appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s supreme governing body. At the time, economic headwinds, nationalist protests, and the Bo Xilai scandal presented huge challenges for the regime. Would the charismatic new president, Xi...

Viewpoint

11.07.13

Deciphering Xi Jinping’s Dream

OUYANG BIN & RODERICK MACFARQUHAR

On November 9, the Chinese Communist Party will host its Third Plenary Session of the Eighteenth Central Committee. This conference will be a key to deciphering the ruling philosophy of the new Chinese leadership, who will run the country for the coming nine years.According to...

Viewpoint

11.01.13

What the Heck is China’s ‘Third Plenum’ and Why...

BARRY NAUGHTON

China’s economy is already two-thirds the size of the economy of the U.S., and it’s been growing five times as fast. But now, China’s economy is beginning to slow and is facing a raft of difficult problems.  If China’s leaders don’t address these problems, the...

Viewpoint

10.16.13

Innovation in Britain and What it Means for China

VINCENT NI

On the occasion of a high-level British delegation’s visit to Beiing this week, Vincent Ni, the long-time New York-based U.S. correspondent for the independent Caixin Media group, shared his views about China’s ability to innovate relative to what he saw in America and what...

Viewpoint

10.15.13

Trust Issues: Hong Kong Resists Beijing’s Advances

SEBASTIAN VEG

When Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, expectations were high—in Beijing and among the pro-mainland forces in Hong Kong—that identification with the Chinese nation would slowly but surely strengthen among the local population, especially among the younger...

Viewpoint

09.11.13

Beijing’s Air in 2013 or Ground Zero’s After 9/11:...

EMILY BRILL

When I moved to Beijing from New York in February to study Chinese, a question began to haunt me: Could Beijing’s air in 2013 be more dangerous than the toxic brew produced by the 9/11 attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center, which hung over Lower Manhattan for months,...

Viewpoint

09.04.13

The Confessions of a Reactionary

TENG BIAO

This article first appeared in Life and Death in China (a multi-volume anthology of fifty-plus witness accounts of Chinese government persecution and thirty-plus essays by experts in human rights in China). When I wrote it [on the evening of June 3, 2013], Xu Zhiyong was under...

Viewpoint

09.03.13

China’s Higher Education Bubble

CARL MINZNER

The number of university graduates in China has exploded.In 1997, 400,000 students graduated from four-year university programs. Today, Chinese schools produce more than 3 million per year. But employment rates at graduation have plunged. And remote suburbs of Beijing and...

Viewpoint

08.22.13

How Bo Xilai Split the Party and Divided the People

OUYANG BIN

After the 1989 Tiananmen Incident, Chinese political struggles became milder and more mundane. Members of the Politburo and politicians of higher rank rarely were toppled (except for Chen Liangyu in 2006) and ideology seldom triggered significant rifts. Bo Xilai changed all that...

Viewpoint

08.09.13

Five Years On

JONATHAN LANDRETH

On August 8, 2008, I was in Beijing reporting on the media aspects of China’s first Olympic Games, and I am still amazed that the four-hour opening ceremony, as designed by film director Zhang Yimou, was seen by sixty-nine percent of China’s television audience, or roughly...

Viewpoint

07.16.13

CFIUS and the U.S. Senate’s Anti-China Bug

SAMUEL KLEINER

Last week, senators from both parties finally came together for a common objective: stopping the $4.7 billion sale of America’s largest pork producer to China. Their reason? The sale of Smithfield Farms to a Chinese company, Shuanghui, could pose a threat to America’s...

Viewpoint

07.11.13

China at the Tipping Point?

CARL MINZNER

What will be the future of China’s authoritarian political system?Many predicted that China’s rapid development over the past several decades would inevitably lead to gradual liberalization. Economic growth was expected to generate a cascade of changes—first to society,...

Viewpoint

07.10.13

How the Snowden Affair Might End Up Helping U.S.-China...

ORVILLE SCHELL & JOHN DELURY

The reason why both Americans and Chinese have become so nostalgic for the great Nixon/Kissinger-Mao Zedong/Zhou Enlai breakthrough in 1972 is because that was the last time that Sino-U.S. relations experienced a dramatic breakthrough. Now, most policy wonks on both sides sense...

Viewpoint

06.05.13

A Re-Opening to China?

PAUL GEWIRTZ

Five months into his second term, President Obama is about to undertake the most important diplomatic initiative of his presidency: an effort to reshape the relationship with China. With little fanfare thus far but considerable boldness on both sides, President Obama and China’...

Viewpoint

05.13.13

Maoism: The Most Severe Threat to China

OUYANG BIN

Ma Licheng (马立诚) is a former Senior Editorials Editor at People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s most important mouthpiece, and the author of eleven books. In 2003, when Japan’s then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to the Yasukuni Shrine inflamed China’s...

Viewpoint

04.26.13

Sino-American Relations: Amour or Les Miserables?

WINSTON LORD

Winston Lord, former United States Ambassador to China, tells us he recently hacked into the temples of government, pecking at his first-generation iPad with just one finger—a clear sign that both Beijing and Washington need to beef...

Viewpoint

04.05.13

Christopher Hill on North Korea’s Provocations

OUYANG BIN

The first months of 2013 have seen a rapid intensification of combative rhetoric and action from North Korea. In the sixteen months since Kim Jong-un assumed leadership of the country, North Korea has run through the whole litany of provocations his father’s regime had deployed...

Viewpoint

03.19.13

For Many in China, the One Child Policy is Already...

LESLIE T. CHANG

Before getting pregnant with her second child, Lu Qingmin went to the family-planning office to apply for a birth permit. Officials in her husband’s Hunan village where she was living turned her down, but she had the baby anyway. She may eventually be fined $1,600—about what...

Viewpoint

02.25.13

Xi Jinping Should Expand Deng Xiaoping’s Reforms

ZHOU RUIJIN

A month after the conclusion of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 18th National Congress, the new Secretary General of the CCP and Central Military Commission, comrade Xi Jinping, left Beijing to visit Shenzhen, the first foothold of China’s economic reforms. He placed a...

Viewpoint

01.24.13

China at the Tipping Point?

PERRY LINK & XIAO QIANG

Of all the transformations that Chinese society has undergone over the past fifteen years, the most dramatic has been the growth of the Internet. Information now circulates and public opinions are now expressed on electronic bulletin boards with nationwide reach such as Tianya...

Viewpoint

01.15.13

Will Xi Jinping Differ from His Predecessors?

ANDREW J. NATHAN

As part of our continuing series on China’s recent leadership transition, Arthur Ross Fellow Ouyang Bin sat down with political scientist Andrew Nathan, who published his latest book, China’s Search for Security, in September.In the three videos below, Nathan discusses newly...

Viewpoint

01.13.13

Is Xi Jinping a Reformer? It’s Much Too Early to Tell

RACHEL BEITARIE & JEFFREY WASSERSTROM

Last weekend, Nicholas Kristof wrote in the pages of The New York Times that he feels moderately confident China will experience resurgent economic reform and probably political reform as well under the leadership of recently installed Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping...

Viewpoint

11.15.12

Age of China’s New Leaders May Have Been Key to...

SUSAN SHIRK

Earlier this week, before the new Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) and Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party were announced, I argued that the Party faces the difficult problem of how to allocate power in the absence of an open and legitimate leadership selection process. I...

Viewpoint

11.14.12

The Future of Legal Reform

CARL MINZNER

Carl Minzner, Professor of Law at Fordham University, talks here about the ways China’s legal reforms have ebbed and flowed, speeding up in the early 2000s, but then slowing down again after legal activists began to take the government at its word, attempting to use the letter...

Viewpoint

11.14.12

Change in Historical Context

PETER C. PERDUE

China’s Communist Party has only ruled the country since 1949. But China has a long history of contentious transfers of power among its ruler. In these videos, Yale historian, Peter C. Perdue, an expert on China's last dynasty, the Qing, puts China’s current leadership...

Viewpoint

11.14.12

Are You Happier Than You Were Ten Years Ago?

J. MICHAEL EVANS

“Many Chinese feel that they have not participated in the economic benefits of an economy that has been growing very rapidly,” says Michael Evans, a vice chairman of the Goldman Sachs Group and head of growth markets for the Wall Street investment bank. Nowadays, many...

Viewpoint

11.13.12

China’s Next Leaders: A Guide to What’s at Stake

SUSAN SHIRK

Just a little more than a week after the American presidential election, China will choose its own leaders in its own highly secretive way entirely inside the Communist Party. What’s at stake for China—and for the rest of the world—is not just who will fill which leadership...

Viewpoint

11.09.12

Pragmatism and Patience

HAMID BIGLARI

Hamid Bilgari, Vice Chairman of Citicorp, the strategic arm of Citigroup, is a leader in international investment banking. Bilgari says that pragmatism and patience are the dominant qualities exhibited by cultures facing major change, such as the leadership transition at...

Viewpoint

11.07.12

Peering Inside the ‘Black Box’

ORVILLE SCHELL

Just hours after the United States voted for its next president, China, too, is preparing for a leadership change—although much less is known about that process, which begins Thursday with the start of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. In an attempt to...

Viewpoint

11.05.12

The Big Enterprise

ORVILLE SCHELL

In days of yore, when a new dynasty was established in China and a new emperor was enthroned, it was known as dashi, “The Big Enterprise,” and it usually involved mass social upheaval and civil war. The latter-day version of changing leaders now takes place at Party...

Caixin Media

11.02.12

18 Reforms for the Party’s 18th Congress

CAIXIN

China’s leadership handover comes at a critical moment for society and the economy, and changes are in order.The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party this month comes at a critical time described by economist Wu Jinglian as “a tipping point for China’s economic...

Viewpoint

10.29.12

Hollywood Film Summit Draws Chinese Movie Moguls

JONATHAN LANDRETH

LOS ANGELES—Hollywood and Chinese movie makers and industry hangers-on will gather Tuesday at the third annual Asia Society U.S.-China Film Summit on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles.At a gala dinner Tuesday night, organizers Peter Shiao of ORB Media and...

Media

10.26.12

Myanmar Envy

BI CHENG

Chinese netizens’ reactions to tentative democratic reforms in neighboring Myanmar, including to the recent repeal of censorship rules for private publishers by the Southeast Asian nation’s reformist government, reflect just how closely it’s possible for average Chinese to...

Viewpoint

06.11.12

Dirty Air and Succession Jitters Clouding Beijing’s...

STEPHEN OLIVER & SUSAN SHIRK

Last week the Chinese government accused the U.S. Embassy and consulates of illegally interfering in China’s domestic affairs by publishing online hourly air-quality information collected from their own monitoring equipment. (While the critiques didn’t name the U.S., the U.S...

Viewpoint

05.30.12

The Sweet and the Sour in China-U.S. Relations

WINSTON LORD

At this very hour, one early May, just shy of a half century ago, I married a girl from Shanghai and we launched our joint adventure.Ever since, Bette Bao and I have practiced the precept of Adam Smith—division of labor. She manages our finances and real estate. I changed the...

Viewpoint

05.20.12

Chen Guangcheng: A Hopeful Breakthrough?

ORVILLE SCHELL

The arrival of the celebrated Chinese rights activist, Chen Guangcheng in the U.S. after years of prison and house arrest, raises the larger question of what the whole incident will come to mean in terms of the status of dissidents in China and in U.S.-China relations.In the...