After Xi Jinping took over as head of China’s Communist Party in December, some liberals dared to hope that change was in store for the world’s most populous nation.
Xi’s father, a veteran party leader, had a reputation for open-mindedness and moderation; Xi quickly embraced the idea of economic reform and even seemed to hint at some loosening of China’s one-party system.
Xi's push to abolish term limits means he will likely remain the most influential leader of the emerging superpower for life and have more time to dedicate to his quest to rejuvenate China's influence at the expense of the US.
Trump now has the dubious honor of being the President in office alongside the most powerful Chinese leader of the modern age, at a time when China has never been more politically and economically assertive.
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on Wednesday, October 25, as the new lineup was unveiled for the Chinese Communist Party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee.
The new lineup did not include an heir apparent to Xi, who analysts predict will dominate the country's politics for decades to come.
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He was among the millions of urban youths who were "sent down," forced to leave cities to work as laborers in the countryside.
The White House has indicated that President Donald Trump is not overly concerned by Chinese leader Xi Jinping's recent move to consolidate power by abolishing presidential term limits, but perhaps he should be.
Trump's press secretary, Sarah Sanders, told reporters on Monday that the decision is one "for China to make about what's best for their country," but by clearing the way for his own indefinite rule, Xi has presented Trump with a challenge unique to any president since Richard Nixon in the 1970s.
Xi's elevated status also further emphasizes the power imbalance between his relative strength and Trump's own more compromised political position -- a situation that analysts say sometimes worries China as it fears unpredictability in the US relationship but that senior officials in Beijing also often see as a sign of a political system trapped in an inevitable cycle of decline.
But the speed of Xi's stunning capture and consolidation of power and emergence as a strongman comfortable with domestic repression has surprised many observers and prompted questions about the US approach.
There was, after all, no election campaign to introduce him to China; instead, his ascent came about as the result of compromises between factions in the Communist Party, reached entirely behind closed doors.