Xi Jinping by Aust and Geiges; China After Mao by Frank Dikötter review

China’s president is shoring up his authority but, as Dikötter’s weighty study of the country indicates, he might have less of it than he thinks

There are a number of problems with a tag line like “the most powerful man in the world,” the subtitle of this biography of Xi Jinping by German journalists Stefan Aust and Adrian Geiges, its publication shrewdly timed for the imminent confirmation of its subject’s third term in office, expected at next month’s party congress. For one thing, it begs more questions than it answers; it invites comparisons that can be deceptive, and it takes the display of power at face value. The reader would be wise to approach such claims with a degree of caution.

Xi Jinping does offer useful insights into the biography and the ascent to power of China’s president, Communist party general secretary and chairman of the military commission: that he is the son of a prominent party figure and therefore a red princeling, that he was promoted to the position of mayor of Shanghai after the incumbent – chiefly memorable for his tally of 11 mistresses – was arrested for corruption; that he was head of the organisation committee of the 2008 Olympics, spending three times the budget of the Athens Games, previously the most expensive in history.

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