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China’s Assumed Future Leader Xi Jinping Visits US

(Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping waves to Thai students during a visit to Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok on December 24, 2011.)

Photo by PAIROJ/AFP/Getty Images

The big news in American politics this week may have little to do with American politicians.

Xi Jinping, the likely future leader of China, is visiting the United States, and his time in America may signal how the world’s fastest-growing economic and military power may conduct itself in the coming decades.

The 58-year-old Xi comes from a family steeped in China’s volatile history; his father both served as one of Mao’s trusted advisors but later was persecuted and even jailed by the Communist leader. 

Xi senior also helped engineer some of the country’s economic reforms, contributing to China becoming a power that rivals the United States more every day. He also reportedly advocated for negotiating with Tibetans during an uprising, rather than using China’s military brute force against them.

Like father like son? Xi junior, who is poised to become the Communist Party’s general secretary, could also be reform-minded. It’s something we won’t know for some years, but American leaders are looking for clues.