Broadcasting a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing, May 2022
Tingshu Wang / Reuters

After Chinese President Xi Jinping secured a historic third term in October 2022, many Western analysts heralded him as a modern-day emperor. But just four months later, a glance at the headlines suggests he is under pressure at home and his grip on power may be looser than many thought. A messy exit from China’s “zero COVID” policy and a rogue spy balloon—allegedly the work of a Chinese military seeking to prevent Xi from stabilizing relations with Washington—are seen by some observers as evidence that the Chinese leader is suddenly on the back foot. But such analyses ignore

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