By Charlie Campbell October 10, 2022 9:00 PM EDT
Back in March 2018, I found my mind wandering inside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People as China’s rubber-stamp parliament voted to remove the two-term presidential limit. Ensconced in the building’s top tier with other journalists and dignitaries straining to hear the proceedings, I stared up at the huge red star ceiling motif that loomed over Chinese Communist Party (CCP) delegates. Nearby, two bored European diplomats gossiped noisily.
If we perhaps failed to grasp the magnitude of what was transpiring in that auditorium 4 1⁄2 years ago, it’s only too clear today. The world has since endured a pandemic that sprouted amid official obfuscation in China’s central city of Wuhan and spilled across every continent to claim an estimated 15 million lives. Beijing has led a campaign of incarceration and indoctrination of its Uighur Muslim minority that the U.N. on Aug. 31 decreed “crimes against humanity.” And China has backed Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, parroting Vladimir Putin’s excuses regarding NATO expansion, refusing to join international sanctions, and amplifying Kremlin propaganda. The architect of all this tumult was the man in the blue tie sitting below me who, that spring afternoon, was effectively anointed China’s leader for life: President Xi Jinping.