Departures Podcast featuring Frank Dikötter, author of ‘China After Mao: The Rise of a Superpower’

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Is Xi Jinping the most powerful political figure in the world? Or are his efforts to secure tighter control at home and project influence abroad more a sign of underlying weakness?

As Xi sails toward an unprecedented third term at the 19th Party Congress in China, Departures is pleased to feature special guest author Frank Dikötter whose new book, “China After Mao: The Rise of a Superpower,” presents a compelling and detailed portrait of the major events which led us to today.

In his discussion with Robert Amsterdam, Dikötter discusses how China presented its recovery plan on 40 years of economic transformation based on reform and opening up to the world, but finds that there was actually very little reform and even less opening up.

“There’s a major misconception that I hope will be corrected when readers go through my book,” Dikötter says. The idea that Xi Jinping is some sort of dictator who wants to go back to the Mao period – and if only we could go back to where we were before Xi Jinping, maybe there was a chance for China to develop in a different direction. Highly unlikely, Dikötter argues, as since as far back as 1972 the party has shown a very clear commitment to the monopoly on power and controlling the economic means of production.

“What we are getting from Xi Jinping is hardly a departure from what has happened under other leaders,” he says.

Dikötter’s rigorous examination of rare government archives makes this book stand out for its detailed and colorful history of this period, and contributes enormously to understanding how the West has failed to anticipate China’s vision for the world order.