Xi Jinping: A Chinese Gorbachev?

Chinese VP Xi Jingping begins US visit. He is set to become Chinese leader.

Questions:

1. In your opinion, what are the main objectives of this trip especially from the Chinese point of view but also from the American?

2. Xi Jinping will almost for sure become China’s next leader. Why him and what to expect from him – he probably won’t be a Chinese Gorbachev or…?

Answers:

Andrew Nathan, Professor of Political Science, Columbia University, Author of numerous books about China and East Asia

1. The Chinese are interested in preserving stability in the relationship with the U.S. – they don’t want the presidential election or economic downturn to unleash forces that would interfere with the generally smooth working relationship that the two governments have at the leadership level. As such, Xi will do what Chinese leaders always do, which is to explain the Chinese position clearly and forcefully on all the standard issues that the two governments always have to process. Most of the time these issues are the ones pushed by the U.S. and toward which China takes a position of defending itself – alleged Chinese interference with free trade, alleged Chinese currency manipulation, the U.S. push for more Chinese cooperation with Iran. As well, the Chinese will want to reassert their usual positions on why the U.S. should cooperate with them more in areas like Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Beyond this, Xi will want to convey that the Chinese leadership is stable and united despite recent signs of conflict. And that his own foreign policy line is not going to be different from that of his predecessors.

And, he’ll want to present himself in such a way that the U.S. leaders will not underestimate his strength and determination.

On the U.S. side they are trying to figure out what Xi stands for and what kind of a leader he will be; is he going to keep things together; does he have any new ideas; will he cooperate more or less than the previous leaders with U.S. foreign policy and economic needs, and so on.

2. I definitely don’t see him as a Chinese Gorbachev. For one thing he doesn’t face the internal crisis Gorbachev faced. So he has no immediate need to compromise the principle of one party control. There is nothing in his record so far to suggest that he wants to change the system in a fundamental way; of course this is a system that continues to adapt so it is always changing, but not on the basic principle of authoritarian rule.

I believe Xi is a pragmatic reformist, like his predecessors, but he is also a strong-man type of personality and will be well suited to keep the elite together, maintain control over a changing society, and assert China’s international interests strongly on the basis of China’s growing economic and military strength.

Bruce Jacobs, Professor of Asian Languages and Studies, Monash University

1. Imagine his trip is partly linked to his supposed good relations with US Vice-President Biden. His visit to Iowa is an attempt to see  old friends. I’m not sure either side has any “main objectives” other than to improve mutual understanding. Whether or not this will occur is not clear.

2. Xi has the advantage of being a princeling. His father was quite prominent under Mao. Of course, he won’t be a Gorbachev. Who would choose such a mover-and-shaker to lead China? Not all of the others who do well under the current system.

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One Response

  1. No need to change.democracy is not good for big country and hugely populated as china.in india v have seen what it can do high levels of corruption in every fields.political vendetta etc.

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