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Chinese president Xi Jinping. Photo: TPG / Getty Images

The only surprising thing about the proposal advanced by China’s Communist Party to eliminate term limits for the country’s president and vice president is that anyone is surprised.

Throughout his first term, President Xi Jinping worked assiduously to enhance his power and prolong his tenure at the expense of the collective leadership. The important question now is where will an untethered Xi focus his attention?

Here are three likely priorities:

  1. Rectifying imbalances. On the home front, Xi will try to tackle problems tied to his legitimacy: rampant corruption, rising levels of debt, environmental degradation and income inequality among them. This is where he shines.
  2. Reunifying China. A unified China is essential to Xi's ambitious “rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation.” He has made repeated reference to integrating Taiwan with the mainland, ensuring Hong Kong’s loyalty and reclaiming sovereignty over 80 percent of the South China Sea. The use of force is not out of the question.
  3. Remaking the world in China’s image. Look for Xi to hammer home a Chinese vision on Internet governance, push forward his “Community of Common Destiny” in an effort to undermine the U.S.–led alliance system and export Chinese political values to interested partners in the developing world. (Ethiopia is already a fan.)

The bottom line: There is not much reason for the United States to celebrate this turn of events, but it should serve as a wake-up call. Xi’s China is here to stay, and Washington needs to develop a China strategy that will protect and advance U.S. interests not simply over the coming months but for the coming decades.

Elizabeth Economy is the C. V. Starr senior fellow and director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Go deeper

Minneapolis braces for a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial

National Guard soldiers posted on a street corner near downtown. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Minneapolis is waking up to images of an occupied city on Monday, as the city and the world await a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

What it's like: Residents running errands, picking up dinner and heading to the dog park in recent days encountered heavily-armed National Guard troops stationed throughout the city.

34 mins ago - World

Russian authorities say Navalny has been transferred to prison hospital

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been transferred to a hospital in another penal colony, one day after his doctor warned that the jailed Putin critic "could die at any moment," Russia's prison service said Monday.

Why it matters: News that Navalny's condition had severely deteriorated on the third week of a hunger strike prompted outrage from his supporters and international demands for Russia to provide him with immediate medical treatment.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
45 mins ago - Economy & Business

The state worst hit by the pandemic

Data: Hamilton Place Strategies; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the job facing governments was to save lives and save jobs. Very few states did well on both measures, while New York, almost uniquely, did particularly badly on both.

Why it matters: The jury is still out on whether there was a trade-off between the dual imperatives; a new analysis from Hamilton Place Strategies shows no clear correlation between the two.