In a speech at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted the political and diplomatic challenges arising from Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s decision to remain in office for life. This move not only poses domestic challenges within China but also complicates the bilateral relationship between China and the United States.
Tensions between Beijing and Washington have been escalating on multiple fronts, including military activities in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, as well as U.S. restrictions on technology exports and investment. Clinton raised concerns about Xi Jinping’s goals, stating that his decision to remain in office indefinitely creates challenges within the Chinese system and has a chilling effect on international relations.
Clinton emphasized the impact of Xi’s life tenure on accountability, asking, “How do you deal with somebody who’s not going to be held accountable?” She pointed out that this decision has led to the removal of top officials and economic problems in China, contributing to a complex and strained international relationship.
Xi Jinping secured a third term as China’s leader during the annual session of the country’s parliament in March, solidifying his status as the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. The removal of term limits on the state chairman position in 2018 allowed Xi to extend his rule indefinitely. Despite the largely ceremonial nature of the state chairman role, this move has significant implications for the political landscape in China.
Clinton contrasted Xi’s approach with his predecessor Hu Jintao, who chose not to stay in office for life, allowing for a constant renewal of leadership in both the Chinese government and international relationships.
As tensions persist between China and the United States, Clinton anticipated significant developments from the upcoming meeting between Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco on November 15. This meeting will mark the first in-person encounter between the two leaders in nearly a year.
Clinton acknowledged a “real chill” from China regarding American businesses operating in the country, coupled with pressures from the U.S. Congress to address the challenges posed by China. She sees the Biden-Xi meeting as an opportunity for the world’s two largest economies to “reset the table.”
Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States from November 14 to November 17 comes amid heightened geopolitical tensions, economic challenges, and declining confidence from foreign investors. The real estate sector, a significant contributor to China’s GDP, is facing a crisis, and Western businesses’ confidence in China has reached historic lows, according to recent surveys from business lobbying groups. Concerns include tensions with the West, the crackdown on foreign businesses, and increased regulatory scrutiny in areas such as data, national security, and espionage. Clinton sees the meeting between Biden and Xi as a chance to address these challenges and reshape the trajectory of U.S.-China relations.