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The World According to Xi

BEIJING – On November 15 Xi Jinping became General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman of the CCP’s Central Military Commission, giving him supreme authority over China’s armed forces. Next March, he will become President of China as well.

How does China’s new leader see the world, and how will he handle the country’s foreign policy? Do his style and preferences differ significantly from those of his predecessor, Hu Jintao? The answers will determine China’s relations with the world, and vice versa, for the next decade.

China’s leaders approach power in a very different way than do political leaders in, say, the United States. American politicians must sell their ideas and values to voters; China’s leaders do not need to inform the press and the public directly about anything, including their foreign-policy positions. Indeed, with the notable exceptions of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, China’s leaders have seldom imposed their own personalities upon Chinese diplomacy.

In this sense, Xi’s leadership style will most likely continue in the tradition of his predecessors. Nevertheless, Xi’s outlook and worldview are surely different from Hu’s.