In 2022, Time Magazine called Xi Jinping ‘The Most Powerful Person in the World’ however how true is this claim?
Many people still assume the U.S. President is the most powerful person in the world. But times have changed. In recent years we have observed two parallel developments: the President of the United States has lost power while the President of China has gained it.
Who is Xi Jinping?
Xi Jinping is the political leader of China. Among all the positions he’s holding, he’s probably holding dozens of positions right now, but there are three that are the most important.
First, he’s the president of China. This means that he’s the head of the state. He gets to meet with other heads of state, for example, Queen Elizabeth or the President of the United States. But in China, this is a symbolic position, which doesn’t come with a lot of power.
Second, he’s the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. This means that he’s the boss of the party. This is more powerful than for example, his counterpart in the U.S., which for example, is the chairman of the Republican National Committee, which doesn’t have a lot of power, but in China, if you’re the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, you get to make decisions not only for the party but also for the whole country.
The third thing, which is the most powerful among all, is the chairman of the Central Military Affairs Commission. This means that he’s the commander in chief in China, who is in charge of China’s military. In addition to these formal positions, he’s also a princeling, which means that he’s the son of one of the founding fathers of the People’s Republic of China. His father, Xi Zhongxun, was a colleague of Mao Zedong’s and also a high-ranking official in the 1950s, 1960s. So Xi Jinping has this formal power coming from his formal positions, but also, he has this charisma, this legacy from his father who was one of the founders.
What about on the world stage?
In addition to his role within the CCP, Xi Jinping also has a significant influence on the international stage. China is the world’s second-largest economy and a major player in global politics and economics. As President of China, Xi Jinping has the ability to shape the direction of the country’s foreign policy and to negotiate with other world leaders on behalf of China.
Xi Jinping has also consolidated his power within the Chinese government through a series of measures aimed at strengthening the CCP’s control over society and the economy. These measures include the expansion of censorship and the suppression of dissent, as well as the introduction of new laws and regulations that give the CCP greater control over areas such as technology, media, and the internet.
Today, Xi has surpassed his goal of becoming the new Mao. In November 2021, the Communist Party’s Central Committee passed a resolution “resolutely upholding Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole.” It was only the third time that the Party’s Central Committee had passed a resolution about the Party’s own history. The document mentions Xi’s predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao once; the great reformer Deng Xiaoping, who was responsible for the economic transformation of China and made it a rich country, six times; and Mao Zedong eighteen times. And Xi Jinping? Twenty-four times. The resolution does not put Xi on a par with Chairman Mao—he’s elevated above him.
The elusive leader
What’s very astonishing is that, although Xi Jinping has so much power, people in the West know almost nothing about him: how he was born into the family of one of the highest leaders of the People’s Republic—and then experienced a terrible crash. How he was tortured and exiled during Mao’s Cultural Revolution—and still became a staunch Mao supporter. That his wife Peng Liyuan is a highly talented singer, as famous in China as Jennifer Lopez or Beyoncé is in the U.S. The amazing fact is that his father was a friend of the Dalai Lama and the Uyghurs while Xi Jinping oppresses non-Chinese ethnic groups. He is the first among 1.4 billion people. If not among 7.7 billion.
In summary, Xi Jinping is a powerful figure both within China and on the global stage. His control over the CCP and the Chinese government, as well as his influence on international affairs, make him a key player in the world system.