China: Inside Xi Jinping’s Plan to Dominate the World



Inside Xi Jinping’s Plan to Dominate the World

Elizabeth Economy’s “The Third Revolution” makes the case that China is most dangerous in the realm of ideas.

Man with a plan.

Photographer:  Ikegami Madoka/Getty Images

Who is the most important and disruptive leader in the world today? Most Americans would probably answer, Donald Trump — with Russia’s Vladimir Putin running a close second. But my choice for the must-read book of 2018, Elizabeth C. Economy’s “The Third Revolution,” makes a strong case that China’s Xi Jinping may deserve the title.

Under Xi’s leadership since 2012, an increasingly powerful China has begun throwing its weight around in ways that have led international observers to fear the emergence of a new Cold War — or perhaps even a new hot war — with the U.S. Xi has more candidly announced China’s ambitions to take center stage in world affairs than any leader since Mao Zedong; he has also amassed greater personal power than any Chinese leader since Mao. Economy’s book traces Xi’s influence and ambitions through an exhaustive reading of his speeches as well as an astute knowledge of Chinese politics and policy. It should be required reading not just for China-watchers but for anyone interested in U.S.-China relations and the future of world order.

Economy, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, catalogs the changes China has experienced under Xi: The replacement of collective leadership with personalized rule, the constriction of the political system, the efforts to tightly restrict the flow of ideas into China while expanding the stream of ideas and influence rushing out of it. Economy is also a reliable guide to Xi’s seemingly contradictory efforts to stimulate game-changing, high-tech innovation while also steadily increasing the role of the Communist Party in China’s economy and society.

Turning from the domestic to the foreign, Economy provides a concise discussion of China’s expanding military footprint, push to create new international institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, launching of the Belt and Road Initiative and other major geo-economic projects, increasing use of coercive diplomacy toward its neighbors, and other efforts to project influence not just in the Asia-Pacific but globally. All of these undertakings seem impressive at first glance, and Xi’s vision seems to be carrying the day in Chinese politics for now. But as Economy reminds us, all the elements of his agenda — from his grab for unchallenged individual authority to his drive for greater power and prestige overseas — carry the danger of provoking a backlash, whether from dissatisfied rivals at home or wary competitors abroad, that could ultimately waylay Xi’s “Chinese Dream.”

Perhaps the most valuable part of the book takes us from the realm of hard power to the realm of ideas. As Economy points out, Xi is advancing an ambitious ideological vision: “A uniquely Chinese model” that will “perhaps become a standard bearer for other countries disenchanted with the American and European models of liberal democracy.” That model may seem to cut against the flow of the post-World War II era, in which the world has become progressively more democratic. Yet it actually fits quite well with the more recent propensity of things, as democracy has receded, the allure of the American liberal-capitalist model has faded, China’s economic performance has wowed developing countries around the world, and authoritarian ideas make a resurgence. Economy’s book is thus a useful reminder that of all the ways China is testing American leadership, this ideological challenge may ultimately be the most important, and the hardest, for the U.S. to handle.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Hal Brands at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Tobin Harshaw at [email protected]

6 thoughts on “China: Inside Xi Jinping’s Plan to Dominate the World

  1. Why Americans keep arguing China while Americans proudly stand as the world policeman?
    Is this a sign that the United States is starting to worry about the threat of their superiority?
    This is not merely about Xi and Trump, this is about the film of “The Game of Throne”.


    1. Very good points. One of the things we can all be sure of is that no government is going to tell the people the whole truth all of the time, history has proven this reality. Plus we have the reality of there being different cultures. I am no expert about cultures, I pretty much only know what I think I know, from TV, Radio and some books, plus Art Works. I have always had a wide liking of Oriental People that I have met in my life yet in truth, I probably have only spoken with about a hundred or so Oriental People in my life. I don’t trust 100% of the things that our government tells us, or our News Programs. Sometimes they get it wrong by accident sometimes by lying, we the people can never really know for sure. O, I thought that I probably ought to let you know that even though I have heard of the game called “Game Of Thrones” I have never played the game nor have I seen any of it on TV. I do know that this is one of the games that our youngest Son likes to play a lot. It is hard to trust a government that is your own, it is ever more difficult to trust a government halfway around the world.


        1. Thank you for the information, I appreciate it. China has always interested me, of all of the Oriental people that I have met in my life I have liked the folks from China that I have met (except for one Chinese official that I met at the San Francisco airport back in about 1991-2). If I were young and had the finances to do so I would like to have taken about two years out of my life to explore China, provided that their government would have allowed it.


          1. China only need a short time from “bicycle country” (poor & weak) until now become competitor for the United States. Their extraordinary speed in terms of achievement defeats any country in the world. It proves that they have extraordinary potential.


            1. I agree, China is a great country and they are a great people, their potential is unlimited. The only thing that I worry about is their government, it is human nature that ego driven moraless people seek power over those who will allow themselves to be their sheep. I am not excluding the evil jerks who saturate U.S. politics. I do not have any faith in the people who hold the keys of power in our Nations.


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