My country, the Czech Republic, has bent over backwards for President Xi, with little benefit to citizens or the wider economy
The scrapping of limits on Xi Jinping’s presidential term last month drew attention to the profound changes the Chinese leader has imposed on his country’s political system. But the significance of this move is global – and it concerns Europe in many ways. China has identified a “window of historic opportunity” for itself across the world. To make the best of this, so its logic goes, the country must be united and disciplined under a strong leader and supreme commander. Xi has been compared with Mao Zedong in that he’s created an entirely leader-centric political system – but to think this has consequences only for China risks missing the wider picture.
In my country, the Czech Republic, we’ve seen up close how China intends to expand its reach. Central Europe is very much part of China’s ambition to “move to the centre of the world stage” – the expression used by Xi during last year’s Communist party congress. The basic tool China relies on is the Belt and Road initiative, a trade and infrastructure project spanning Asia and Europe which encapsulates the regime’s overarching foreign policy goals, in what Xi has dubbed the “new era”.