Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Why Xi Jinping's Election is More Important Than Obama’s

by Henry Cunnison

Xi Jinping and Barack Obama
(source: thegazette.com)
In the last fortnight, the world has seen the appointment of two men who are likely to shape the economic and political climate across the globe for the next half decade.
First, the sixth of November saw the comfortable re-election of Barack Obama, who is tasked with leading the western world out of the Great Recession and is viewed by many as the most influential man in the world.  The following week saw the formation of China’s fifth generation of leadership, and, as expected, 59-year-old Xi Jinping is set to become the new paramount leader of the second largest economy in the world. 
I’m sure most of you will assume it is Obama who will play a greater part our collective futures; some might not even have heard of Xi Jinping, but it is he, I would suggest, who will have a greater impact on people’s lives.
Xi Jinping was born in Beijing, a so-called princeling, son of Xi Zhongxun one of China’s former leaders. Xi has been Vice-President since 2008, and it has been clear that he would succeed Hu Jintao for some time now. By the time Xi stands down (which is expected to take place in around 10 years' time), China will most likely be the largest economy in the world. Xi will face numerous problems during his tenure and how he deals with them may have long-term and far-reaching effects.
Xi and the new Politburo promise a distinctly different attitude to the previous administration. He is believed to support moderate reform, has even been compared to Nelson Mandela and has been described as a tough, hardworking man who has overcome many trials, including living in a cave during a period when his father was exiled by Mao. He asserts that he will end the corruption within the Communist Party, and intends to introduce significant economic changes to move China closer to a market economy.
It will be Xi Jinping who determines whether the tensions between East and West fade or are heightened. Recent clashes over an uninhabited island with Japan have brought China into dispute with America, which has made clear its support for Japan. Barack Obama has little option but to defend Japan; Xi can decide whether tensions are eased. Whether Xi will break from the old alliance block with Russia also remains to be seen. At present, these two great powers are able to stifle Western influence in the UN, as shown in the recent inaction over Syria. If Xi decides to be more co-operative in the UN, then it is possible that it will be a far more useful force for good where countries are in dispute.
Xi Jinping
(source: freebeacon.com)
In addition, Xi faces numerous domestic issues. How can China’s growth, already beginning to falter, be maintained, Should the one-child policy be repealed? These are just some of the questions he will have to answer. I believe that Xi is the right man and that he will be willing to relax the one-child policy, reducing the threat of an ageing “top heavy” population slowing down future growth. On one topic, however, he might not have the best solutions; on Tibet, he has stated that “China will smash Tibet separatism.”
Xi is clearly going to oversee a period of major change in China, compared to relative stability in America. Furthermore, the raw numbers suggest just how much more significant will prove his election than Obama's: Xi will govern 1.3 billion Chinese compared to 250 million Americans; China’s military is the largest in the world; China is the industrial epicentre of the world and, in a few years, it will overtake the US as the largest economy in the world.
Whatever your opinion of China, or of Xi Jinping, he will be, over the next decade, the most important man in the world.

Read Will Wallace's article on why Obama's re-election matters.

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