During China’s National Day holiday in early October, several expatriate friends and I took our young children – who are of mixed races and tend to stand out in a Chinese crowd – to the Great Wall on the outskirts of Beijing.
As we climbed a restored but almost deserted section of the ancient landmark, a few local families on their way down walked past us. Noticing our kids, one of their children exclaimed: “Wow foreigners! With Covid? Let’s get away from them…” The adults remained quiet as the group quickened their paces.
That moment has lingered on my mind. It feels like a snapshot that illustrates how China has changed since its strongman leader Xi Jinping took power a decade ago – it’s become an increasingly walled-in nation physically and psychologically – and such transformation will have long-term global implications.
Understanding the big picture is timely as Xi is poised to break convention to assume a third term as the head of the Chinese Communist Party – the real source of his power instead of the ceremonial presidency – at the ruling party’s twice-a-decade national congress, which opened in Beijing on Sunday.
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