Xi Jinping’s keynote speech – impressive for its three-hour running time – at Beijing’s Party Congress firmly established three things.
First, Xi has accumulated the type of personal power last seen under Chairman Mao Zedong; second, that the Communist Party of China will be the main conduit of his power; and third, that China is ready for global leadership.
“The Chinese nation … has stood up, grown rich, and become strong – and now it embraces the brilliant prospects of rejuvenation … it will be an era that sees China moving close to centre stage and making greater contributions to mankind.”
For some, the speech and the drift of China back toward one-party authoritarian rule, marks the end of a failed experiment by Western liberalism to co-opt China as a “responsible stakeholder”.
Despite the long shadow of the Tiananmen Square Massacre only five years before, President Bill Clinton granted China most-favoured nation (MFN) trade status in 1994. Six years later teams of US diplomats and lawyers worked around the clock to help sponsor China’s membership to the World Trade Organization (WTO), a key event, after which Chinese growth exploded.
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