Confronting security forces in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, June 2009
David Gray / Reuters

Xi Jinping is in a race against time. The glow of China’s early economic rebound and containment of COVID-19 is fading. The international media have moved on to celebrate vaccine efficacy and vaccination rates elsewhere, and other economies have started posting solid growth rates. Yet President Xi continues to advance a narrative of Chinese exceptionalism and superiority. “The East is rising and the West is declining,” he trumpeted in a speech last year. Senior Chinese officials and analysts have adopted and amplified Xi’s message, pointing out the relative decline in Europe’s and Japan’s shares of the

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