Five Facts on Xi Jinping
The Big Insight: China’s Xi Jinping — who this week is being given another five-year presidential term — is the country’s most ideological and nationalist leader since Mao Zedong.
As the “core leader” of the world’s most populous nation — one with the world’s largest army and second-largest economy — China’s Xi Jinping is one of the most powerful individuals on the planet. This week, China’s Communist Party cleared the way for Xi to continue to rule for years to come — becoming, as some have described him, “the Second Coming of Mao Zedong.”
1. The vote in China’s parliament to clear the way for Xi to continue in power indefinitely passed with 2,959 in favor and just two opposed.
The 2018 vote to repeal the two-term limit for Chinese leaders set the stage for this week’s vote, and for Xi, who is only 69 years old, to possibly rule for life.
Xi has been given honors not accorded to any leader since Mao and Deng Xiaoping, including the enshrining of “Xi Jinping Thought” in China’s constitution.
2. Xi cracked down on thousands of members of the Chinese elite in an “anti-corruption” campaign.
The campaign was aimed at China’s wealthy and powerful, but critics said it was really a purge of Xi’s possible rivals, including a former Politburo member and top military officers.
Xi has personal experience with purges. His father, a top deputy to Mao, fell from grace during the Cultural Revolution, and young Xi spent six years as a laborer on an agricultural commune, occasionally experiencing homelessness. Xi’s father eventually returned to favor and Xi began his rise within the Communist Party.
3. Chinese military spending is about $100 billion per year more now than it was when Xi took power.
That’s about a 70% increase since 2013. China has about 2.6 million active military personnel, the world’s largest navy, and the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal.
4. Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a “friendship” pact three weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.
The agreement said there were “no limits” on the relationship and “no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation” between Beijing and Moscow. The Washington Post says Xi’s “close partnership” with Putin “has fueled concern in Western nations over Beijing’s intentions, following harsh security clampdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.” However, the relationship has cooled somewhat as Putin has stumbled in Ukraine.
5. Xi was the first leader of Communist China to meet with a president of Taiwan.
Xi met with President Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore in 2015. But Xi has since taken a hard line on Taiwan, vowing “reunification” of the island with China, and warning this week that China “will never promise to renounce the use of force” to achieve it.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Monday, “There has been a change in the approach from Beijing toward Taiwan in recent years. … Beijing [is] determined to pursue reunification on a much faster timeline.”