• U.S.

The Middle Kingdom’s Superpower Politics

2 minute read
Richard Stengel

China’s vigorous new President, Xi Jinping, is an unabashed promoter of what one could call Chinese exceptionalism–the idea that China has a special place in the community of nations. He has also talked about a “new type of great-power relationship” with the U.S. His entrance on the world stage comes at a time when President Obama is executing a “pivot” toward Asia in U.S. foreign policy. Now, as they sit down for an unprecedented round of one-on-one talks in California, it is possible that the two leaders will pave the way for a more candid and productive relationship between the world’s two largest economies.

Our cover story this week is a kind of guide to those talks. We’re all pretty familiar with how the U.S. sees the world, but how does China? When negotiating with one’s rivals and competitors, it helps to understand how they see things. The story, by our Beijing bureau chief, Hannah Beech, reveals China’s unique mix of confidence and insecurity. It is proud of having lifted hundreds of millions of people out of absolute poverty, yet many of the business leaders who have benefited from that rise are looking to immigrate to the West. “While reporting this story,” Beech says, “what struck me most was how unconvinced many Chinese I spoke to were about their nation’s future supremacy.”

The striking cover image is itself a work of artistic supremacy, and it was created for us by Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei. The image represents his acknowledgment of the country’s centrality in the world while at the same time challenging China’s leaders to make the future a freer and more democratic one.

Richard Stengel, MANAGING EDITOR

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