If Xi’S Gotta Have It, Xi’ll Get It

China’s communist party has moved to eliminate presidential term limits, in a shock move that opens the way for President Xi Jinping to dominate Chinese politics for the next decade or more.


Since taking office five years ago, Mr. Xi has already amassed more power than any Chinese leader since Mao, and at last year’s party congress he pointedly broke with tradition by declining to anoint a successor. To be fair, it’s still not a lock that he’ll choose to stay in power after his current term ends in 2023. But why might he want to leave the door open to that possibility?

Consider: over the next ten years, we will learn the answer to two critical questions about China. On the international front, can China really become a superpower to rival the United States as Xi has pledged it will? And domestically, as China’s middle class grows, can the government continue to pull off the trick of wedding authoritarian politics to a market economy?

Xi may decide that the moment is too pivotal to leave it to anyone else, and perhaps he’s right. But if he sticks around, the challenge is this: the flipside of total power is total responsibility. If things get choppy in economic or geopolitical terms, both the public and the Party will have one man to blame, and the consequences of an internal rupture in China would be felt globally, and fast.

It’s a gamble. In film buff terms, call it the Godfather principle: once you go beyond two installments, the chance of things going horribly wrong increases exponentially.

On the latest episode of Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Ken Burns explores the opportunity to come out of this moment as better versions of ourselves — and reveals whether a film about this year is in the cards.

Listen to the new episode here.

The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Former Spanish King Juan Carlos I's decision to leave the country after being investigated for corruption has reignited the debate over the future of the monarchy in Spain. Opinions are divided between mostly older Spaniards who defend the institution's role as a symbol of national unity, and the younger generations and nationalist regions who want Spain to become a republic. More than three quarters of the world's countries are now republics, but 44 still have a king or queen as their head of state — among them the 16 Commonwealth countries officially ruled by British Queen Elizabeth II and 5 countries where the sovereign is all-powerful. We take a look at which countries remain monarchies today, and those that sent their royals packing in the post-World War II waves of decolonization and republicanism.

Modi riles up his base: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday set the first stone for a new Hindu temple to be built over the remains of a Mughal-era mosque in Uttar Pradesh state. The site, in the town of Ayodhya, has been disputed for decades by Hindus and Muslims, but the Supreme Court last November ruled, based on archeological findings, that construction of the temple could begin. The ruling dismayed many of India's 180 million Muslims, who worry that Modi — who was accompanied at the ceremony by Mohan Bhagwat, an ultranationalist Hindu activist whose followers helped to destroy the old mosque amid a wave of sectarian violence in 1992 — wants to replace India's secular foundations with his more explicitly Hindu vision of the country's identity. Although months ago Modi saw sizable protests over a controversial new citizenship law that discriminated against Muslims, he has so far proven to be extremely resilient and remains widely popular in India.

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280 million: Democratic candidate Joe Biden plans to spend $280 million on campaign ads in his battle against US President Donald Trump. Although Trump trails the former vice president by 7 points in an average of national polls, the incumbent has set aside less than half that amount for ads of his own.

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