Op-Ed: Xi is positioning China as the world's indispensable economy — and Biden's greatest challenge | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Op-Ed: Xi is positioning China as the world's indispensable economy — and Biden's greatest challenge

It’s now Biden’s America, but whose world will it be?

Expect China’s President Xi Jinping to answer that question unequivocally on Monday with his keynote at the World Economic Forum’s first global virtual meeting. It will leave little doubt that managing relations with China will be both President Joe Biden’s most immediate and most defining foreign policy challenge.

It’s hard to imagine more dramatic timing for Xi’s “special address,” coming in the wake of Biden’s inaugural, Trump’s second impeachment and the Capitol insurrection that prompted it.

Whatever words Xi chooses, his message will be clear: this is China’s historic moment. With modifications for global listeners, it will echo the theme he delivered a few days ago to a gathering of provincial and ministerial level officials at the Communist party school.

“The world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century,” Xi said, kicking off a celebration-strewn hundredth anniversary year of the Chinese Communist Party’s creation. He declared that the “time and situation” had turned in China’s favor. “This is where our determination and confidence are coming from.”

In a relieved Washington this week, all eyes were on President Biden. He sounded his determination to heal and unify the United States, and he announced his audacious move to unleash the U.S. economy with a $1.9 trillion Covid relief package, and infrastructure spending bills to follow. Internationally, Biden’s focus will be on rallying democratic partners and allies to counter China’s authoritarian gambits.

Yet 2021 may instead be more the year of Xi Jinping than of Joe Biden. The Chinese leader is leveraging the centennial of his Communist Party and China’s emergence as the first major economy to return to growth after Covid-19 to strengthen his individual authority, to tighten the party’s unrivalled control, and to accelerate China’s rise and increased global influence through new investment and trade deals.