Ian Johnson: China's Xi Jinping 'a Cipher'

Last week at Asia Society in New York, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ian Johnson appeared alongside Harvard University professor Rod MacFarquhar and Asia Society's Orville Schell for a discussion entitled "How Stable is China?" You can watch some highlights above and the complete program here. A written summary of the event is here.

While discussing China's upcoming leadership change, the topic of conversation naturally turned to Xi Jinping, the presumptive heir to Hu Jintao's role as leader of the country. Johnson, now a Beijing-based correspondent for The New York Review of Books, remarked how little the world knows about Xi.

"I just don't think people know very much," Johnson said. "He has never made any programmatic statement, he's never come out in favor of anything — and that is why he got where he is. He's a cipher."

Schell, Arthur Ross Director of Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations, added, "It is interesting. Even after 10 years in office, Hu Jintao has never really revealed himself."

About the Author

Profile picture for user Dan Washburn

Dan Washburn is Asia Society's Chief Content Officer. The Financial Times named his book, The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream, one of the best of 2014.