To Counter China’s Rise, the U.S. Should Focus on Xi
28 January 2021
The single most important challenge facing the United States in the twenty-first century is the rise of an increasingly authoritarian China under President and General Secretary Xi Jinping. As Joe Biden assumes the presidency, it might be easy to see China as an obsession of Donald Trump that he’d do well to move past. If anything, the opposite is true: The American approach to China needs more and more focused, attention, than any White House has yet given it.
This might seem like overstatement, given the scope of challenges this country faces, but it’s not: Because of the scale of China’s economy and its military, the speed of its technological advancement and its radically different worldview from that of the United States, China’s rise now profoundly impacts every major U.S. national interest. This is a structural challenge that, to some extent, has been gradually emerging over the last two decades. The rise to power of Xi has greatly accentuated this challenge and accelerated its timetable.
At home, Xi has returned China to classical Marxism-Leninism and fostered a quasi-Maoist personality cult, pursuing the systematic elimination of his political opponents. China’s market reforms have stalled and its private sector is now under increasingly direct forms of party control. Xi has also used ethnonationalism to unite his country against any challenges to his authority, internal or external. His treatment of recalcitrant ethnic minorities within China borders on genocide. Xi’s China increasingly resembles a new form of authoritarian police state. And in a fundamental departure from his risk-averse post-Mao predecessors, Xi has demonstrated that he intends to project China’s authoritarian system, coercive foreign policy and military presence well beyond his country’s own borders to the world at large.