from Asia Program

The Third Revolution

Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State

The Third Revolution argues that Xi Jinping’s dual-reform trajectories—a more authoritarian system at home and a more ambitious foreign policy abroad—provide Beijing with new levers of influence that the United States must learn to exploit in order to protect its own interests.

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

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Xi Jinping

Political Transitions


In The Third Revolution, eminent China scholar Elizabeth C. Economy provides an incisive look at the transformative changes underway in China today. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has unleashed a powerful set of political and economic reforms: the centralization of power under Xi, himself, the expansion of the Communist Party’s role in Chinese political, social, and economic life, and the construction of a virtual wall of regulations to control more closely the exchange of ideas and capital between China and the outside world. Beyond its borders, Beijing has recast itself as a great power, seeking to reclaim its past glory and to create a system of international norms that better serves its more ambitious geostrategic objectives. In so doing, the Chinese leadership is reversing the trends toward greater political and economic opening, as well as the low-profile foreign policy that had been put in motion by Deng Xiaoping’s “Second Revolution” thirty years earlier. Through an exploration of Xi Jinping’s top political, economic, and foreign policy priorities—fighting corruption, managing the Internet, reforming the state-owned enterprise sector, improving the country’s innovation capacity, enhancing air quality, and elevating China’s presence on the global stage—Economy identifies the tensions, shortcomings, and successes of Xi’s reform efforts over the course of his first five years in office, assesses their implications for the rest of the world, and provides recommendations for how the United States and others should navigate their relationship with this vast nation in the coming years.

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Xi Jinping

Political Transitions



Reviews and Endorsements

Economy [. . . ] offers an engaging look at how areas such as internet regulation, reform of state-owned enterprises and foreign policy are evolving under Xi’s leadership

Christopher Beddor, Reuters Breakingviews

To understand and navigate China in the coming years, this is the book to read. At the heart of doing business in this opaque and contradictory country is understanding Xi Jinping, a masterful and complex politician. Elizabeth Economy’s exceptionally clear account gives you the tools to do just that.

Fred P. Hochberg, Former Chairman and President, Export-Import Bank of the United States

The Third Revolution is enormously valuable for anyone seeking to understand the ways in which China is changing (and not changing) under Xi's leadership, and how the U.S. should best approach its relationship with China. Essential.

Robert E. Rubin, Former Secretary of the Treasury

The one book that tells you all you need to know about how China has changed under Xi Jinping. A clear-eyed, richly researched, and engaging account by one of America’s most knowledgeable China experts.

Susan L. Shirk, University of California, San Diego

A timely and sobering analysis of the profound—and disturbing—political change that has occurred since the rise of Xi Jinping. This is by far the most insightful and illuminating study of China’s new political landscape, and should be required reading for those concerned with China’s future under strongman rule.

Minxin Pei, Author, China’s Crony Capitalism

Elizabeth Economy provides a clear-eyed net assessment of China under Xi Jinping: its global ambitions, domestic limitations, and the paradox of its external hubris and internal insecurities. The Third Revolution should become staple reading for all who want to understand China today and where it is headed in the future.

David Shambaugh, Author, China Goes Global

Americans are slowly realizing that they live in a bipolar world with China, a nation that is incontrovertibly rising despite the destabilizing effects of serial self-reinvention. The advent of the latest progenitor of rejuvenation, Xi Jinping, has raised a host of vexing questions, but Economy's wonderfully lucid and well-researched book fills in many of the blanks regarding Xi’s strengths and weaknesses.

Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director, Asia Society Center on U.S.-China Relations

For the first time in modern history, we have a communist country poised to be the biggest and most important driver of the global free market. That’s astonishing. And we still don’t know what makes China’s political leadership—and Xi Jinping in particular—tick. If that freaks you out (and it should), Liz Economy’s book is the place to start.

Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group