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Why Xi Won’t Leave China?

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Floyd Ciruli

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Xi Jinping, the president of China, not surprisingly, did not attend the recent Zoom Summit of Democracy. He leads the world’s most powerful autocratic country as head of sole-ruling 95 million-member Communist Party. Xi is expected to be elected for a third term this spring, which will break a two-term precedent and will likely secure his position for the indefinite future.

After several years of traveling frequently, Xi has not left China for a foreign trip or welcomed a foreign leader in two years. Vladimir Putin, the authoritarian leader of Russia, will be his first leader to visit during the February Winter Olympics. Why has Xi self-isolated? The claim is covid worries, but that may be more related to China’s reputation for being the origin of COVID-19 than concerns of contracting it.

Xi’s reluctance to leave China beyond the official statements is not known. Divining motivation in the opaque governing environment of China involves speculation with a few facts:

  • Xi is according the Pew polls the least respected major power leader tested. Only former President Donald Trump exceeded him in the last test. In more developed democracies, the unpopular Xi could be booed.
  • The authoritarian sales pitch has its fans, but they are a small minority in the West.
  • His foreign and domestic policy is so aggressive and the “Wolf Warriors” so strident, he’s put off more parties than made friends among major power leaders and interest groups.
  • His economic transition for party control and more “equity” is slowing the economy. Free trade is on the defense. Entrepreneurs are wary as to the government’s shift.
  • Every new lockdown reminds the world of the origin of the pandemic and the unwillingness of Xi to own up to it and collaborate with an international investigation.

Read: As Xi Gets Another Five Years, China’s Woes Mount