The New York TimesThe New York Times

'Uncle Xi' to exalted ruler: China's leader embodies his authoritarian era

By Chris Buckley

14 Oct 2022 · 7 min read

Editor's Note

As the Communist Party congress opens on Sunday, The New York Times dives deep to show how China's leader is casting himself as a “spiritual seer” who will assure the nation’s ascendance.

In his first years as China’s leader, Xi Jinping paid for his own steamed dumplings in a cheap diner, casually rolled up his trouser legs to avoid splashes in the rain, and was serenaded with sugary pop tunes. His image-makers cast him as “Xi Dada,” the people’s firm but genial “Uncle Xi.”

How vastly different now. A decade on, Xi looms over the country like a stern Communist monarch, reflecting on China’s fallen ancient dynasties and determined to win its lasting ascendancy in a turbulent world.

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content