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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

Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbers

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Two new Biden administration initiatives — mailing at-home COVID-19 tests to those who ask and making free N95 masks available — are hugely popular, each backed by 84% of Americans in the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Yes, but: Those who may need these most — the unvaccinated — are less likely to take advantage of the offerings, the survey found. And neither has boosted President Biden's numbers so far, meaning it's too little too late, or too soon to see a change.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Alabama's new congressional map rejected by federal judges

The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Federal judges on Monday night blocked Alabama's newly drawn congressional map and ordered the Republican-led State Legislature to create a new one that includes two districts, rather than the planned one.

Why it matters: "Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the panel of three judges wrote in their ruling.