How China’s Xi Jinping came to embody a new, multipolar world

Special How China’s Xi Jinping came to embody a new, multipolar world
Chinese leader Xi Jinping attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Thailand earlier this year. (AFP)
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Updated 07 December 2022

How China’s Xi Jinping came to embody a new, multipolar world

How China’s Xi Jinping came to embody a new, multipolar world
  • Xi Jinping’s rule likely to prove transformative as China eyes title of world’s pre-eminent economic power
  • Since taking power in 2013, Xi has pursued what he has called a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” 

RIYADH: When Xi Jinping became China’s president in 2013, the world’s most populous country had already emerged as the second-biggest economy and appeared poised to reset the global geopolitical balance.

Nearly 10 years into his premiership, Xi has cemented China’s place as a regional power, expanded Chinese influence in Central Asia and Africa, and made enormous strides in everything from robotics and artificial intelligence to space exploration.

China today has the world’s largest internet infrastructure, with the number of users increasing from 564 million to 1.03 billion over the past decade, and a robust digital economy, which has increased in value from 11 trillion yuan ($1.6 trillion) to 45.5 trillion yuan.

In that time, China’s GDP has grown from 53.9 trillion yuan to 114.4 trillion yuan, now accounting for 18.5 percent of the world economy. Meanwhile, average life expectancy has risen to 78.2 years, and around 100 million people have been lifted out of poverty.

Over the course of his lifetime, Xi has borne witness to China’s transformative rise, from the first tumultuous decades after the communist revolution of 1949 to the nation’s rapid ascent to superpower status.

Xi was born in Beijing on June 15, 1953, the son of Xi Zhongxun, a senior Communist Party official, one-time deputy prime minister, and former guerrilla commander in the civil war that brought the communists to power.

As the son of a senior official, Xi spent his early years among China’s elite. However, in 1969 at the age of 15, Xi was among the many educated urban youths who were sent to live and work in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution — a period of immense social upheaval.

Xi would remain in the remote northeastern village of Liangjiahe, in Shaanxi province, for seven years, learning firsthand how the majority of his countrymen lived and worked. While there, Xi joined the Communist Youth League and then, in 1974, the Communist Party of China.

In 1975, Xi returned to Beijing to study chemical engineering at the prestigious Tsinghua University. It was the following year, on Sept. 9, 1976, that Mao died at the age of 82, ending a 27-year rule characterized by radical social and economic transformation.

Hua Guofeng, Mao’s handpicked successor, emerged as the nation’s new leader. However, he was soon sidelined by Deng Xiaoping, who would go on to introduce significant economic reforms in the 1980s, sowing the seed of China’s emergence as a global superpower.

After university, Xi joined the military as an aide in the Central Military Commission and the Defense Ministry. Then, in 1982, he was given his first position of authority as deputy and then leader of the Communist Party in Zhengding county, south of Beijing, in Hebei province.

In 1985, having proved himself as a skilled provincial official, Xi was appointed vice mayor of the city of Xiamen, a manufacturing hub in coastal Fujian province — a post he would hold for the next 17 years.

It was during this time, in 1987, that Xi married Peng Liyuan, a popular singer in the People’s Liberation Army’s song and dance troupe. The couple had one daughter, Xi Mingze, who went on to study at Harvard University in the US.

With the new millennium, Xi’s national standing grew rapidly. In 2000, he was appointed governor of Fujian province. Two years later, he was transferred to neighboring Zhejiang province, where he was appointed party chief — a post that outranks governor.

Now a rising star within the CPC, Xi was appointed party chief of Shanghai in March 2007. He was to remain in this post for only a few months, however, as that October he joined the national leadership as part of the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee. The following year, in March 2008, he was named vice president.

Xi then began building his international profile. The same year he became VP, he was placed in charge of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing  — an event that marked China’s own re-emergence on the world stage.

In Aug. 2011, Xi hosted then-Vice President Joe Biden on his visit to China, nearly a decade before Biden became US president.

Then, in Nov. 2012, Xi secured the top job in the CPC, replacing Chinese President Hu Jintao as general secretary, beginning his first five-year term as president of China in March the following year.

Since taking power, Xi has pursued what he has called a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” with his “Chinese Dream” vision.

Under his leadership, China has enacted reforms to combat slowing growth and has launched the multi-billion-dollar “Belt and Road” infrastructure project aimed at expanding China’s trade links with Central Asia and Europe.

The country has become more assertive on the global stage, from the South China Sea and Taiwan in the east to countries of Asia and Africa in the west.




It was in 2022 that China under Xi truly emerged as a global force with influence over world events. (AFP)

In Oct. 2017, marking the start of his second term, and in recognition of his transformational premiership, the CPC enshrined Xi’s ideology, known as “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” in its constitution, as well as his signature Belt and Road initiative.

Such was Xi’s prestige at the outset of his second term that China’s legislature voted in March 2018 to abolish the nation’s two-term limit on the presidency.

Xi’s second term was not without its challenges, however. In July 2018, the US, under then-President Donald Trump, imposed tariffs on Chinese imports, triggering a trade war. China retaliated with tariffs on US goods.

Then, in Jan. 2020, China locked down the city of Wuhan as a new virus sparked what would become the COVID-19 pandemic. Although China has seen one of the world’s lowest per capita death rates, its “zero-COVID” policy has required the imposition of periodic lockdowns.

As one of the world’s major industrial powerhouses, and one of its top manufacturers, China has been eager to play its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, weaning its power grid off coal, developing clean renewable technologies, and promoting sustainability.

In Sept. 2020, in a video speech to the UN General Assembly, Xi announced China’s aim to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

It was in 2022 that China under Xi truly emerged as a global force with influence over world events. In February, at the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics, Xi met Russian President Vladimir Putin, announcing a renewal of the Sino-Russian relationship.

Three weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine, leading to Western sanctions and NATO efforts to shore up the Ukrainian defenders. China, meanwhile, like many equidistant nations, refrained from criticizing Russia’s operation, but stopped short of backing Moscow militarily. This episode alone demonstrates just how far China has come in the new, multipolar world.

In October, Xi began a third five-year term as CPC leader, setting him on a course to become the nation’s longest-serving leader since Mao, and very likely its most transformative, as China eyes the possibility of becoming the world’s pre-eminent economic power.


‘We support women’s empowerment as Vision 2030 goal,’ says US Embassy

‘We support women’s empowerment as Vision 2030 goal,’ says US Embassy
Updated 08 February 2023

‘We support women’s empowerment as Vision 2030 goal,’ says US Embassy

‘We support women’s empowerment as Vision 2030 goal,’ says US Embassy

RIYADH: The US Embassy in Riyadh welcomed US Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, commander of the US Transportation Command, as she met female members of the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces, saying that it supports women’s empowerment as a Vision 2030 goal.

Van Ovost, who is on a tour of the Kingdom, expressed her happiness at exchanging ideas and sharing experiences with Saudi Arabian Armed Forces female members.

“Ending my day energized after speaking with Saudi Armed Forces service members. We talked about one of my favorite things — mentorship. No one overcomes challenges alone. We all need someone to help us stay with it, remain confident, and provide opportunities to let us shine,” Van Ovost tweeted with photos of her meeting, which was retweeted by the US Embassy.

US Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, commander of the US Transportation Command, interacts with female members of the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces. (Supplied)

The US Embassy also tweeted: “Lt. Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost @USTRANSCOM_CDR Commander, US Logistics Command @US_TRANSCOM focuses on women’s empowerment and STEM education. The US government proudly supports women’s empowerment as a Saudi Vision 2030 goal.”

She also visited Prince Sultan Military Air Base and the Apple Developer Academy in Riyadh, which is supporting female developers and entrepreneurs in the Kingdom.

“#TogetherWeDeliver! @usairforce Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost,@USTRANSCOM_CDR, visited #TeamPSAB, where she learned more about the 378th AEW mission, our strong partnership with Saudi Arabia, and engaged with US service members who keep the mission successful,” tweeted the embassy.

In another tweet the US Embassy said: “Lt. Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost @USTRANSCOM_CDR Commander of the US Logistics Transport Command @US_TRANSCOM toured the Apple Developers Academy @ADA_TWQ during her visit to the headquarters of Princess Noura University @_PNU_KSA. The US Government proudly supports women’s empowerment.”

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, an Arab News sister publication, Van Ovost said that her first visit to Riyadh as commander of US Transportation Command focused on consolidating the strong relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Defense, in the national interest of Saudi Arabia and the US, as well as to achieve security goals.

The US Central Command is working with Saudi Arabia to establish an integrated air defense system to counter missiles and unmanned aircraft, among other technological initiatives, she said.

Van Ovost described US military relations with the Kingdom as solid, saying that the two countries fought side by side during the Gulf War in the early 1990s, and that their partnership is a cornerstone of security and stability in the Middle East.


New initiative to empower 10,000 Jeddah students

New initiative to empower 10,000 Jeddah students
Updated 08 February 2023

New initiative to empower 10,000 Jeddah students

New initiative to empower 10,000 Jeddah students

JEDDAH: Integrated solutions provider Johnson Controls Arabia has announced its participation as founding partner in Saudi Arabia’s new Future Industrialists initiative.

Implemented by the Association for Distinguished Initiatives, General Directorate of Education in Jeddah, and the Industrial Council of the Chamber of Commerce in Jeddah, the company announced that it was supporting the scheme as part of its strategic commitment toward empowering young talent in the Kingdom.

The initiative will involve more than 10,000 male and female high school students competing in three categories for awards worth SR100,000 ($26,650).

Thirty student winners will be offered summer internships at the manufacturing plants of companies taking part in the initiative — including the YORK Manufacturing Complex — and training sessions will be run for 1,000 students.

Johnson Controls Arabia provides services including heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment, fire and security systems, and building management systems and controls throughout the Middle East and North Africa region.

Mohanad Al-Shaikh, chief executive officer of Johnson Controls Arabia, said: “We are proud to be the founding partners of the Future Industrialists initiative as part of our ongoing commitment and efforts toward fueling innovation and sustainability, especially in the development of talent and future leaders, in partnership with the public sector.

“As a leader in the vital industrial sector on a local and global level, we will be introducing students to the latest innovative and integrated industrial processes and mechanisms used at our YORK Manufacturing Complex, YORK’s largest manufacturing facility in the region.

“Johnson Controls Arabia continues to work toward its long-term objectives of shaping and preparing students with the needed skills and experience to excel in the competitive industrial labor market,” he added.

The Future Industrialists initiative’s creative category award will recognize students who present distinctive ideas to raise a factory’s financial or marketing productivity through the suggestions of quality products.

The discoverer category will reward students with ideas for improvement of daily operations, productivity, and quality assurance, while the ambassador class will celebrate those who develop interesting content on factory output, distinctive products, and the company’s role in servicing the community.

Targeting students at public secondary schools in Jeddah, the initiative aims to broaden young talents’ vision and knowledge through conducting field visits and training at local firms and manufacturing facilities, while educating them on the Kingdom’s industrial potential, mainly in Jeddah.

In alignment with Vision 2030 goals, the Future Industrialists initiative aims to boost the economy through motivating students to join the industrial sector in partnership with the private sector.


TONOMUS launches competition to find high-tech solutions for a billion people

TONOMUS launches competition to find high-tech solutions for a billion people
Updated 08 February 2023

TONOMUS launches competition to find high-tech solutions for a billion people

TONOMUS launches competition to find high-tech solutions for a billion people
  • NEOM subsidiary seeks proposals in energy, food, mobility
  • Aim to foster global entrepreneurship, new ways of living

RIYADH: TONOMUS, the cognitive multinational subsidiary of NEOM, has announced the launch of its second venture startup competition at LEAP23 in Riyadh.

Led by the firm’s TONOMUS Venture Studio, the competition started on Feb. 6, and is titled “The Next Billion.” It is an initiative that invites participants to consider new technologies and innovations that a billion people in the world would require for energy, food and mobility.

“We’re looking to recreate that here just like they did in Silicon Valley,” said Beverly Rider, CEO of TONOMUS Venture Studio.

The aim is to foster global entrepreneurship that will nurture the environment and create new ways of community living.

Rider added: “TONOMUS Venture Studio has a bunch of different objectives. So it’s a programmatic display of how you bring entrepreneurship and startups to our region. So what we found when we got NEOM is that one of the things we were missing was an entrepreneurial ecosystem and the small businesses that really fuel the economy, and they take the large companies and create the value around them.”

Rider said Saudi Arabia’s entrepreneurial vision and diversification of the economy stemming from Vision 2030 makes it an interesting hub prospect in the world.

“Come to the Kingdom? So actually, you would think that that would be the hard part, but that’s been our easy part. Everybody wants to come. The great thing about having a recession in the rest of the world is that people are really interested in looking into new horizons and new geographies. But more importantly than that, the megaprojects have given us an opportunity to basically, you know, start from the bottom and work our way up,” said Rider.

Up to 20 semifinalist teams will receive individualized coaching by experts from TONOMUS Venture Studio, and up to four winning teams will be invited to a 12-week program to incubate their ideas. The competition will welcome submissions until April 12, 2023.

Rider stressed that creating a community is key. “We asked people to come and talk to us about these solutions, their startup, or their ideas. So at about 100 people showed up yesterday. We’re going to do six more of them next year.”

TONOMUS Venture Studio comprises both established and emerging entrepreneurs. It aims to cement NEOM’s reputation as the epicenter of innovation, and the Kingdom as a place where the world’s brightest minds and top tech talent can bring their ideas to life.
 


Who’s Who: Abdullah Bahanshal, Lenovo Group country manager for KSA

Who’s Who: Abdullah Bahanshal, Lenovo Group country manager for KSA
Updated 09 February 2023

Who’s Who: Abdullah Bahanshal, Lenovo Group country manager for KSA

Who’s Who: Abdullah Bahanshal, Lenovo Group country manager for KSA

Abdullah Bahanshal was appointed Lenovo Infrastructure Solutions Group country manager for Saudi Arabia in January, and is responsible for managing and expanding company revenue in the Kingdom.

Bahanshal has over 20 years of experience in the information and communications technology industry, especially in leadership, strategic sales and development.

Before joining Lenovo ISG, he was country sales leader for the productivity solutions and services sales team at Honeywell International Inc. for two years.

He also focused on end-user relationships through channel parties across the Kingdom, while also developing country growth strategic plans.

Before that, he worked with global ICT brands, including Huawei, Cisco Systems, and Cerner. During his time at previous ICT firms, he won awards for performance, sales and strategy, and also became one of the first Saudis certified by the International Coaching Federation.

Bahanshal holds a bachelor’s degree of science in pharmaceutical science and a master’s of science in health informatics from King Saud University in Riyadh. 

He is also certified in project and program management, and is a certified coach specializing in personal and career coaching. He is currently pursuing his master of science studies in psychology. 

Bahanshal has also volunteered with Monsha’at as a business mentor to help and support entrepreneurs.

Alaa Bawab, Lenovo’s general manager of Middle East and Africa, said: “Abdullah brings with him years of senior experience in the ICT industry and has worked with some of the biggest names. His knowledge, talent and skill make him a vital part of our expansion into the Kingdom. We believe in his leadership experience and are confident that he can take forward our presence in the Kingdom to new heights and establish Lenovo as an industry leader.”


Souq from life of Prophet Muhammad located in Makkah

Souq from life of Prophet Muhammad located in Makkah
Updated 08 February 2023

Souq from life of Prophet Muhammad located in Makkah

Souq from life of Prophet Muhammad located in Makkah
  • Habasha was a major Arab market during pre-Islamic, early Islamic eras

JEDDAH: A Saudi scientific team has located the site of an ancient souq in the Makkah region that served as one of the most important Arab markets during the pre-Islamic and early Islamic eras.

Dubbed Souq Habasha, the site was discovered in cooperation between the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives, the Ministry of Culture and its Heritage Commission.

Souq Habasha was an ancient seasonal Arab market and one of the largest in the Tihamah region west of the Arabian Peninsula. The souq was held every year for eight days starting on the first day of Rajab in the Islamic calendar, and was annually held until the Islamic year 197 (813 A.D.).

Fahd Al-Samari, secretary-general of the foundation and head of the scientific committee of Souq Habasha, delivered a statement in a video that was published on Darah’s official Twitter account.

He said: “Documenting historical information must be within a specific methodology. Therefore, the department has entered a number of experiences in documentation, such as documenting the Okaz market, and some sites from the Prophet Muhammad’s biography in the Kingdom. The Habasha market will be an ancient historical and cultural asset for the Kingdom.”

Abdullah Al-Zahrani, a member of the Souq Habasha scientific committee, said: “This collaboration project was made to locate the souq and it is a good example of joint cooperation between many parties as well as researchers, historians, geographers and prophet’s biography experts who will add a lot to verify this site.”

Studies and research projects have attempted to trace the location of the market for more than 40 years, with field sites proposed by the committee finally being inspected last year.

Abdullah Al-Welaie, another member of the Souq Habasha scientific committee, said: “We worked on drawing complete caravan routes, including the coastal road, the Tihama road, peaks of the Sarawat Mountains, as well as the Elephant road. Four tracks were drawn on accurate maps that really helped determine the location of the market and were then handed over to historians.”

Historians said that the market was mentioned in the biography of the Prophet Muhammad, who had taken part in the souq to trade before his mission.

The team conducted studies, verified sources and carried out an archaeological survey, following up discussions with qualified sources to determine the location of Souq Habasha.

Historical markets in the region were typically located in areas with an abundance of water, rainfall and grazing land. Accordingly, Souq Habasha was located on the southern bank of Wadi Qanuna in Ardiyat, a coastal city in the Makkah region.

It is positioned in the middle of a vast floodplain, bound by the Al-Durbat mountains to the east, Al-‘Irm mountains to the west stretching for five km, and Umm Al-Rimth mountains to the south, in a vast area where water sources and plant cover are prominent.

The market also passes through Al-Janad street, which served as one of the most important landmarks in determining the location of the souq.

Souq Habasha offers experts the chance to examine ancient economic, literary and cultural activity, with its integration into Okaz market — which has been revived — becoming a prominent cultural event in the Kingdom and providing benefits in the scientific, cultural and tourism fields.