Last October, China’s President Xi Jinping delivered the most consequential speech since Mikhail Gorbachev stepped before cameras to formally dissolve the Soviet Union. Addressing the Communist Party’s 19th Party Congress, Xi made it clear that China was ready to claim its share of global leadership. As he begins his second five-year term, Xi has consolidated enough power at home to redefine China’s external environment and set new rules within it. His timing is perfect; China is stepping forward as a politically embattled and distracted US president is scaling back US commitment to traditional allies and alliances. The US has created a vacuum and China stands ready to fill it. For decades, western leaders have assumed that a new Chinese middle class would force China’s leaders to liberalise the country’s politics. Instead, western democracy now appears under siege as citizens, angry over the toll that globalisation has taken on their lives and livelihoods, demand change while state...

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