Xi Jinping: 'Change unseen for a 100 years is coming.'

Time went of joint in the mid-1800s when China began its ‘Century of Humiliation.’ And Mr. Xi, with a sense of destiny, seems to feel he was born to set it right. (I very much doubt that Mr. Xi would add: ‘O cursed spite’ – he seems to relish his role and the shot it gives him to go down in history as China’s greatest ruler.)

Malcolm Riddell



April 2, 2023
Xi Jinping: 'Change unseen for a 100 years is coming.'

Sorry about the long absence.

  • My back was giving me a heck of a time – but better now. Great to be back.
  • Thanks to all of you who inquired about my absence.

Away from being on the computer every day, I had more time to muse about China.

  • And about Xi Jinping.

I’ll cover three of those musings today.

  1. Mr. Xi has global ambitions but scant resources to achieve them; he may be counting on his worldview, ‘the East is rising, the West is declining,’ to compensate for the resources he lacks.
  2. Mr. Xi is an autocrat, not just because he hails from a Leninist party, but because autocracy has been in the Chinese political DNA for more than 2,000 years; faced with foreign challenges to autocracy Chinese emperors never faced, he is working to make the ‘world safe for autocracy’ - especially China's.
  3. Mr. Xi is painfully aware of China’s frustration and prior humiliation at the hands of the West and Japan and sees himself as the restorer of the Middle Kingdom, putting China again atop the world order.


[.cmrred]1 | ‘Change unseen in 100 years is coming.’
Among the many events during my absence, I was struck by Mr. Xi’s comment as he was leaving Moscow after his 40th meeting with Vladimir Putin:

  • ‘Change is coming that hasn’t happened in 100 years. And we’re driving this change together.’

What change does Mr. Xi have in mind?

  • A broad outline can be found in the March 30 speech on EU-China relations by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
  • Besides defining the change, she presented the most concise – and in my view, most clear-eyed – assessment of China and its objectives and actions. I cannot encourage you more to read it.
  • She noted, as I did above:

‘Most telling were President Xi's parting words to Putin on the steps outside the Kremlin when he said:’

  • ‘Right now, there are changes, the likes of which we have not seen for 100 years. And we are the ones driving these changes together.'

Throughout her speech, she outlined what change Mr. Xi seeks to accomplish and how:

1. ‘We heard that last October when President Xi told the Communist Party Congress that by 2049 he wanted China to become a world leader in ‘composite national strength and international influence'.’

  • ‘Or to put it in simpler terms: He essentially wants China to become the world's most powerful nation.’

2. ‘In his report to the recent Party Congress, President Xi told the Chinese people to prepare for struggle.’

  • ‘It is no coincidence that he used in his opening speech the words ‘douzheng' and ‘fendou' repeatedly – which both can be translated as struggle.’

‘This is indicative of a world view shaped by a sense of mission for the Chinese nation.’

3. ‘[T]he Chinese Communist Party's clear goal is a systemic change of the international order with China at its centre.’

  • ‘We have seen it with China's positions in multilateral bodies which show its determination to promote an alternative vision of the world order.’
  • ‘One, where individual rights are subordinated to national security.’
  • ‘Where security and economy take prominence over political and civil rights.’

[.cmrred]2 | But will they have China’s back in a fight?
Do Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin and their friends have the economic, political, and military firepower to drive such change against the array of advanced democracies?

  • Doubtful.

No doubt Mr. Xi has thrown in with Mr. Putin for the long run.

  • But, given the showing in Ukraine, Russia is proving to be, as someone put it, ‘a gas station with nukes’ – still, we can’t ignore the nukes.

Mr. Xi has one ally, North Korea, and a number of friends, including Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and others.

  • Even accounting for China’s economic and growing military might, taken together, Mr. Xi and his friends are no match for the U.S. and its array of allies: NATO, Japan, Korea, and Australia, along with other nations fearful of China’s aggression.
  • If it came to a fight, I ask myself, how many of Mr. Xi’s friends would join him versus how of the U.S. allies would join America – and if all of Mr. Xi's did, would it make a difference?

[.cmrred]3 | Marxist history to the rescue
Given this relative weakness, Mr. Xi, as a dedicated Marxist, may be counting on history to make up the difference.

  • Ever since the Bolsheviks succeeded in Russia (and before, in theory), Marxists have had faith that capitalism will author its own demise – and they are still waiting.

Corollary to this is Mr. Xi’s faith - against all evidence – expressed in his oft-repeated slogan:

  • ‘The East is rising, and the West is declining.’

As Peking University’s Wang Jisi notes in  ‘Wang Jisi: Has America declined? Chinese people should have a clear understanding’ [‘王缉思: 美国到底有没有衰落? 中国人应有清醒认识’]:

  • ‘Chairman Mao emphasized in 1957 that “the east wind overcomes the west wind”. At that time, China’s view was “the enemy is declining day by day, and we are getting better day by day”.’
  • ‘Now we say, “the East is rising, and the West is falling,” which is from the same lineage.’

Speaking of Mao, this reminds me of the song, a paeon to the Chairman and often referred to as China’s unofficial national anthem, ‘The East is Red,’ which begins:

  • ‘The east is red, the sun is rising.’

The song is aspirational.

  • The East was not Red when the current lyrics were first heard in 1942.
  • And, with a couple of exceptions, it is not Red today.

Likewise, the idea of rise and decline goes back to Mao.

  • Just as Mao got it wrong, so has Mr. Xi.

For Mr. Xi, ‘The east is rising, and the west is declining’ encapsulates a two-prong approach to that will allow him to make change not seen 100 years. If this is broadly right, he is basing his success on two faulty premises –

  1. The East is rising.
  2. The West is declining.

Taking the second prong - ‘the West is declining’ - first, I couldn’t disagree more.

‘The story­line is the same.’

  • ‘The United States is slowly losing its commanding position in the global distribution of power.’
  • ‘The East now rivals the West in economic might and geopolitical heft, and countries in the global South are growing quickly and taking a larger role on the international stage.’

‘But in truth, the United States is not foundering.’

  • ‘The stark narrative of decline ignores deeper world-historical influences and circumstances that will continue to make the United States the dominant presence and organizer of world politics in the twenty-first century.’
  • ‘The deep sources of American power and influence in the world persist.’

As for the second prong – ‘the East is rising’ – I couldn’t agree more. But why Mr. Xi is encouraged by this is beyond me.

  • The East is rising, all right – rising against China.

In the lead to his essay, ‘How China Lost Asia,’ former South Korean foreign minister, Yoon Young-Kwan, notes:

  • ‘China’s efforts to bully its neighbors into acquiescing to its demands and preferences have failed.’
  • ‘They have led Asia's democracies to deepen security cooperation with the United States.’

This East is rising, but it’s rising in tacit or direct opposition to China – from just plain fear generated by Mr. Xi himself. As a result,

  • Japan is toughening its defenses; Australia’s formally put in with the U.S. and the UK; the Philippines is granting the U.S. more bases; even South Korea and Japan are trying to reconcile in a ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ sort of way - and much more.

A rising East is an obstacle, not an asset, in attaining the change Mr. Xi aspires to make.

  • If the East had become Red, China would no doubt have a slew of Asian comrade nations allies. But it didn’t, and he doesn’t.

The East is not rising (at least not in the way Mr. Xi wishes), and the West is not declining.

  • If Mr. Xi is indeed waiting for a Marxist history to vindicate his vision and deliver change unseen in 100 years, he will have a long wait – history is not coming.


Xi Jinping, autocrat and friend of autocrats.

  • His reported mission: Make the world safe for autocracy.
  • Foe of Joe Biden in Mr. Biden’s Manichean struggle between democracy and autocracy.

There are upstart autocrats who gain power through revolution, coups, subverting democracies, and the like.

  • Not Mr. Xi.

He is an autocrat, first, as a believer in the Leninist Chinese Communist Party doctrine.

  • And second, as heir to a 2,000-year-old tradition of autocracy - since the Qin Dynasty, 221 B.C., China has had, with few exceptions, a top-down government, headed by a supreme leader, and governed by an all-encompassing bureaucracy.

[.cmrred]1 | The latest in a long line of Chinese autocrats
Decades ago, I read an essay by John King Fairbank that posited that the Chinese Communist Party was really just the latest Chinese dynasty. While I can’t put my hands on the essay, I found the same idea in Dr. Fairbank’s 1989 essay, ‘Keeping up with the New China’:

  • ‘The Chinese Communist party dictatorship is historically the successor to two thousand years of sweet-talking despotism by dynastic ruling families.’

More from Dr. Fairbank in his 1989 ‘Why China’s Rulers Fear Democracy’:

  • ‘In the twentieth century the institutional successor to family dynasties proved to be Party dictatorship, first as attempted rather loosely under Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang and second as achieved more tightly under Mao Zedong and the CCP.’

And Dr. Fairbank again from ‘From the Ming to Deng Xiaoping’:

  • ‘The imperial autocracy, an institution persisting through the Ming, Ch’ing, Republican, and People’s Republic eras….’

‘This autocracy as a point of Chinese cultural distinctiveness is of course surrounded by a host of interconnected characteristics of social structure and values—like the bureaucrat’s need for a superior authority, the patriot’s search for a personal object of loyalty, or the common people’s acquiescence in the ruler’s violence in support of order.’

  • ‘China’s culture of today, despite the inflow of foreign influences, retains its identifiable shape and interacting elements.’

Making Xi Jinping the latest in a long line of autocrats - and proud of it.

[.cmrred]2 | ‘Making the world safe for autocracy’
Mr. Xi seems increasingly like an autocrat in the imperial mode (without familial succession)

  • But unlike the time when an emperor ruled over the Middle Kingdom, he is faced with adversaries who challenge his autocracy, and he is acting to counter them.

Michael Beckley and Hal Brands highlight both in their essay, ‘China’s Threat to Global Democracy.’

  • For the Chinese Communist Party, ‘autocracy is not simply a means of political control or a ticket to self-enrichment.'
  • It is ‘a set of deeply held ideas about the proper relationship between rulers and the masses.’

‘This belief in the superiority of an autocratic Chinese model coexists with deep insecurity:’

  • ‘The PRC is a brutally illiberal regime in a world led by a liberal hegemon, a circumstance from which the CCP draws a sense of pervasive danger and a strong desire to refashion the world order so that the PRC’s particular form of government is not just protected but privileged.’

‘Chinese leaders feel a compulsion to make international norms and institutions friendlier to illiberal rule.’

  • ‘That is why a powerful but anxious Chinese regime is now engaged in an aggressive effort to make the world safe for autocracy and to corrupt and destabilize democracies.’

‘The rulers in Beijing feel that they must wrest international authority away from a democratic superpower with a long history of bringing autocracies to ruin.’

  • ‘And as an authoritarian China becomes powerful, it inevitably looks to strengthen the forces of illiberalism—and to weaken those of democracy—as a way to enhance its influence and bolster its own model.’

In a modern world where China has re-emerged with the power to try to reshape the international order, it makes sense that Mr. Xi would do what he can to make the world safe for China’s autocracy.

  • And to weaken the opponents who oppose him.


Thinking of Xi Jinping, I think of two parts of a line from Hamlet:

  • ‘The time is out of joint,’ and
  • ‘I was born to set it right.’

Time went of joint in the mid-1800s when China began its ‘Century of Humiliation.’

  • And Mr. Xi, with a sense of destiny, seems to feel he was born to set it right.
  • (I very much doubt that Mr. Xi would add: ‘O cursed spite’ – he seems to relish his role and the shot it gives him to go down in history as China’s greatest ruler.)

[.cmrred]1 | ‘The time is out of joint.’
John King Fairbank wrote in his 1966 ‘New Thinking About China’:

  • ‘Down to the nineteenth century, China was its own world, an enormous, ancient, isolated, unified, and self-sufficient.’
  • ‘It preserved a continuity of development in the same area over some three or four thousand years, and had a strong tendency to look inward.’

‘China was the center of the known world and of civilization.’

  • ‘Non-Chinese were peripheral and inferior.’
  • ‘China was superior to all foreign regions.’

‘The disaster that hit China in the nineteenth century is one of the most comprehensive any people has ever experienced.’

  • ‘The ancient tradition of China’s superiority, plus this modern phase of disaster, undoubtedly produced one first-class case of frustration.’
  • ‘It could not seem right that a civilization once at the top should be brought so low.’

Mr. Xi seems to feel China’s humiliation and frustration in his bones.

  • All this is echoed in his overarching initiative: the China Dream.

[.cmrred]2 | ‘I was born to set it right.’
‘The CCP’s mandate is to set history aright by returning China to the top of the heap’ write Drs. Beckley and Brands.
‘In some ways, China’s bid for primacy in Asia and globally is a new chapter in the history’s oldest story.’

  • ‘As countries grow more powerful, they become more interested in reshaping the world.’
  • ‘Given how rapidly China’s power has increased over the past four decades, it would be very odd if Beijing was not asserting itself overseas.’

‘Yet China is moved by more than the cold logic of geopolitics.’

  • ‘It is also reaching for glory as a matter of historical destiny.’

‘China’s leaders view themselves as heirs to a Chinese state that was a superpower for most of recorded history.’

  • ‘A series of Chinese empires claimed “all under heaven” as their mandate and commanded deference from smaller states along the imperial periphery.’

‘In Beijing’s view, a U.S.-led world in which China is a second-tier power is not the historical norm but a profoundly galling exception.’

  • ‘That order was created after the Second World War, at the tail end of a “century of humiliation” during which rapacious foreign powers had plundered a divided China.’

Again from Dr. Fairbank:
‘The most remarkable thing about China’s political history is the early maturity of the socio-political order.’

  • ‘The ancient Chinese government became more sophisticated, at an earlier date, than any regime in the West.’
  • ‘Principles and methods worked out before the time of Christ held the Chinese empire together down to the twentieth century.’

‘The fact that this imperial system eventually grew out of date in comparison with the modern West should not obscure its earlier maturity.’

  • All what we might call the ‘institutional memory’ that Mr. Xi draws on today -

China is not groping to find its way or unsure of where it belongs – or doubtful about its role in shaping the world order.

  • And Mr. Xi believes he was born to set it right.



August 24, 2023
Xi Jinping: 'The East is Rising' | Yes. Rising against China
All our careful analyses of PLA capabilities, the parsing of Mr. Xi’s and Mr. Biden’s statements, the predictions as to the year of the invasion, everything – all out the window. This is one you won’t see coming – but one you have to have prepared for.
keep reading
July 23, 2023
‘The U.S. Has Tactics, But No China Strategy’ | Bill Zarit
‘The U.S. needs national review of outward investment to China, but it has to be narrow and targeted and done in conjunction with our allies and partners.’
keep reading
July 10, 2023
‘Is Xi Coup-proof?’ (after the march on Moscow, I have to ask)
What about the guys without guns? So if Mr. Xi doesn’t face a rogue army or a military coup… How about a coup by Party elites?
keep reading
December 30, 2021
Q&A 4 | Is China Exporting Inflation?
'‘China has its own issues. If you look at the CPI inflation, it looks more moderate. ‘If you look at the producer price inflation, it looks more severe.’
keep reading
December 30, 2021
Q&A 2 | Will the Gender Imbalance Keep Housing Prices Firm in the Medium Term?
‘The part of housing prices caused by gender-ratio imbalance is not going to go away in the medium term. But the government has ways to create volatility in the housing market.’
keep reading
December 30, 2021
Q&A 3 | Property 2022: Stabilization or Growth?
‘The goal is to stabilize housing prices while having housing sector grow.’
keep reading
December 30, 2021
Shang-jin Wei Presentation-3 | Analyzing the Gender Imbalance Data
‘Compare these with graph showing the impact of the same factors on rental prices...'
keep reading
December 30, 2021
Shang-jin Wei Presentation-2 | Gender Imbalance as a Driver of Housing Prices
‘Why does gender imbalance have such an outsize impact on China’s housing prices?'
keep reading
December 30, 2021
Q&A 5 | Will Xi Continue to Favor the State Over the Private Sector?
‘He wants to see a bigger role for the state in the economy. But in the last two years, he has done some course correction. For example, after talking up the role of state-owned firms and building stronger, bigger state-owned firms, he is talking about the equal importance for the private sector.’
keep reading
December 30, 2021
Q&A 7 | Why Did Beijing Ban Online Tutoring?
‘Each policy in isolation – whether its banning online tutoring or protecting data or enforcing anti-monopoly regulations or any other - has its rationale.’
keep reading
December 30, 2021
What Are Your Top of Mind Concerns?
I asked the participants what are their top of mind concerns about China.
keep reading
December 7, 2021
Getting (Xi Jingping's) Priorities Straight
How do you make investment or business decisions in the face of the uncertainties created by Xi Jinping's reshaping China's economy? In this issue, I'll give you a few different ideas on how you might deal with that uncertainty.
keep reading
December 7, 2021
Look Through the Rights Lenses
Getting down more to the nitty-gritty, if you’re evaluating a sector or a company, get your lenses right to get the details right.. Stonehorn’s Sam Le Cornu gives a good example of this in a Bloomberg interview.
keep reading
December 7, 2021
Sometimes You Just Have to Roll the Dice
Telling someone to align him or herself with Beijing's priorities still is generally good advice.And, when I tell you what those priorities are, I know I am right - until I'm not.
keep reading
December 7, 2021
Watch What Beijing Says - and Does
Besides listening to Xi Jinping, you can discern Beijing’s priorities and its likely actions through its big policies - and this is my point here.
keep reading
November 23, 2021
'Biden Has a Summit With Xi, but No Strategy for China'
‘Neither Taiwan nor strategic arms are a hot campaign topic, and China is not yet at the forefront of public consciousness. To ensure America’s eventual strategy is workable, political leaders need to debate the challenges so citizens can appreciate the implications of the choices they will have to make.’
keep reading
November 23, 2021
Xi Jinping's Leadership: 'The Inevitable Outcome of History'
Mr. Xi is the hero of a Resolution on the history of the Chinese Communist Party that painted his leadership as the inevitable outcome of history and all but gave him his third term. Tony Saich of the Harvard Kennedy School did a terrific analysis on this - you'll find it below, after my take.
keep reading
November 23, 2021
'Xi Jinping has made sure history is now officially on his side'
‘While there are murmurs of opposition, the historic plenary session would suggest that the future is in Xi’s hands. However, when politics is so deeply personalised and centralised, there is only one person to blame if things go wrong. Unless, of course, we get a new resolution on history that tells us who led the party astray, despite Xi’s earnest attempts to keep policy on the straight and narrow.’
keep reading
November 9, 2021
'America's China Plan: A Proposal' by Clyde Prestowitz
Outcompeting China and avoiding global extension of its authoritarian and coercive policies and practices is not really about China. It’s about America.
keep reading
October 27, 2021
Why China Won't Invade Taiwan - Yet
Forget Evergrande and the energy crunch. After the recent flurry of alarming headlines, here’s the question I get most often these days from CEO’s and institutional investors: Will China invade Taiwan in the next few years?
keep reading
October 17, 2021
An Energy Crunch. China's Latest Crisis. They Just Keep Piling Up.
‍‘Over the next six months or more, the energy crunch in China will be an even bigger challenge than Evergrande. Will make the Evergrande problem look tiny and has huge global implications. The lights go out in China!’ one experienced and very well-respected reader of long residence in China wrote to me in response the last issue on Evergrande.
keep reading
October 7, 2021
Just How Contagious is Evergrande?
Just as a personal crisis can lead you to dig deeper into yourself, so the rapid-fire events in China - with trillions of dollars of business and investment on the line - have led us to (finally) go deeper into how China works – and to come to grips with uncertainties caused by Xi Jinping’s recent moves to reshape the Chinese economy and the Party’s social contract with the Chinese people.
keep reading
September 27, 2021
'This Time Feels Different'
Just when we thought we were getting used to Xi Jinping’s tech reforms and social-engineering regulations, the Evergrande crisis heats up.
keep reading
September 19, 2021
AUKUS: A New World Order?
‍In case you passed over the news of AUKUS, the new strategic alliance among the U.S, the U.K., and Australia, here a few headlines to encourage a deeper look.
keep reading
September 7, 2021
Xi Jinping: Today, video games. Tomorrow, well ... just be good.
Today's issue is a heads up on what may be Xi Jinping's efforts to reshape Chinese society.
keep reading
August 28, 2021
The Taliban: 'China's Perfect Partner'?
Breaking through the blow-by-blow reporting that started when the Taliban began its sweep to victory are the geopolitical analyses of who gains and who loses in Afghanistan.
keep reading
August 15, 2021
'Xi’s Dictatorship Threatens the Chinese State'
‘Mr. Xi is determined to bring the creators of wealth under the control of the one-party state.’
keep reading
August 15, 2021
'Are you tired of losing yet, America?'
As I write this, Taliban forces have entered Kabul and are reportedly occupying the Presidential Palace.
keep reading
August 15, 2021
China Economy: Industrial Production Down, Demand Resilient
China’s industrial production down 10%. Demand resilient.
keep reading
August 15, 2021
'China Signals More Regulation for Businesses in Coming Years'
‘The State Council’s statement provides a guiding context to interpret current regulatory thrusts. The blueprint as an attempt by Chinese authorities to help investors understand the motives behind the regulatory push.’
keep reading
August 5, 2021
‘Global investors shocked to have discovered that China is run by Communists.’
‘Global investors are shocked to have discovered that China is run by Communists.’
keep reading
August 5, 2021
'Shocked Investors Scour Xi’s Old Speeches to Find Next Target'
‘While China’s policy moves can feel ad hoc particularly to foreign investors, the changes are quite targeted on certain sectors.’
keep reading
August 5, 2021
Don't Say Xi Jinping Didn't Warn You
‘Global investors are shocked to have discovered that China is run by Communists.’
keep reading
August 5, 2021
'China Wants Manufacturing—Not the Internet—to Lead the Economy'
‘Social media, e-commerce and other consumer internet companies are nice to have. But in his view national greatness doesn’t depend on having the world’s finest group chats or ride-sharing.’
keep reading
August 1, 2021
'Stock Market: China Doesn’t Care How Much Money Investors Lose'
‘Does Beijing not care how much money foreign investors have lost? Does the government really want to close China Inc.’s access to the deep pool of global capital? The short answer is, no, the government doesn’t care.
keep reading
August 1, 2021
'Xi's Four Pillars of Regulation'
‘Broadly, Beijing is concerned about four pillars of stability: banking, anti-trust regulation, data security and social equality. All of Beijing’s major interventions reflect these concerns.’
keep reading
August 1, 2021
China's Tech Crackdown: 'Nobody Saw It Coming.' — Huh?
‘Carnage in China's financial markets signals the beginning of a new era as the government puts socialism before shareholders, and regulatory changes rip apart the old playbook,’ writes Reuters’ Tom Westbrook.
keep reading


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.