Chinese President Xi Jinping
My wife and I just returned from nearly two weeks in China and a week in South Korea. As a U.S. Army reporter for Stars & Stripes, I covered South Korea for 15 months in the mid 1960s and as editor with Knight-Ridder I wrote on China, once interviewed Jiang Zemin, president of China in the late 1990s.
The media is full of stories about U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, citing them as the most influential and powerful leaders of the world. But without doubt, China President Xi Jinping today holds the key to the future of the world’s peace and prosperity more than any other world leader.
Xi (sounds like she) is entering a second five-year term as president of China and General Secretary of the Central Committee of the 89 million member Communist Party. He has almost absolute control of 1.4 billion people, the second largest economy in the world and the world’s largest standing army of 1. 6 million.
Xi, 64, also is the only one who can possibly resolve somewhat peacefully the threat North Korea Supreme Leader Kim Jung Un poses for South Korea, Japan and the United States.
My wife and I spent time in Beijing, China’s capital, Xi’an, the Emperor’s capital of China, and Shanghai, the economic driving force of China. Although China is still a security dominated country, it was very apparent that President Xi is admired by most Chinese and is considered hugely responsible for the economic growth that China has experienced under his leadership.
As I stood in Tiananmen Square September 30, which was being prepared with huge flower displays to celebrate the October 1 birthday of China since founded in 1949, I remembered that the U.S. State Department met with me at dinner in Washington, DC shortly after the June 4, 1989 revolt by Chinese students in Tiananmen Square.
State Department officials and the Ambassador of China attempted to dissuade me from writing any further columns critical of how the Chinese government squashed the revolt of several hundreds of students with 300,000 Chinese solders and tanks.
Tiananmen Square / October 1
Across the square is the Great Hall. President Xi presented his master plan October 18 for future prosperity of China during a nearly three and half hour speech. Most knowledgeable observers noted that Xi’s comments indicated he is attempting to reign in risky entrepreneurial capitalistic enterprises greatly responsible for the economic growth of China over the last ten years.
Xi is very aware of his people’s 5,000-year tendency to revolt when there is unprecedented economic dislocation. Xi’s own father was a political leader in China until the Cultural Revolution in 1968 sent him to prison and his son to a farm to be re-educated in Communist doctrine. Xi was fortunate he was considered sufficiently re-educated to obtain a degree in chemical engineering and a law degree.
Now why do I assume that Xi is best able to save the world from North Korea Supreme Leader Kim Jung Un? For two reasons.
One, Xi rightly yearns to be recognized for his pre-eminence as a world leader.
Secondly, Xi considers North Korea part of the 10,000-mile wall that protects China from incursion by barbarian invaders—a 5,000-year concern. But an unstable leader in North Korea who tends to disregard the advice of President Xi might encourage dissidents in China to show similar disrespect for President Xi and the Communist Party. Xi cannot continence that.
Kim also is very aware that President Xi might remove him as the Hermit Kingdom’s Supreme Leader. Kim placed his own uncle before a firing squad primarily because of his close relations with China and presumably had his half-brother who resided in China recently murdered. I assume China has sufficiently infiltrated Kim’s own cadre of leaders so any change in North Korean leadership would be quick and decisive.
As Sun Tzu advises in The Art of War, keep enemies closer than friends.
Stanford Erickson resides in Vero Beach , is a 40-year member of the National Press Club and frequent contributor to Vero Communiqué.