‘It’s all ruined by the politics.’

Xi Jinping’s Empire of Tedium

Appendix XXXVI



In early March 2023, the ‘dual congresses’ representing China’s civilian government are convened in Beijing. Known by the shorthand expression the ‘Two Sessions’ 兩會 liǎng huì they are the annual plenary sessions of the National People’s Congress and of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. These two impotent bodies, one a formal national legislature, the other an advisory chimera, gather every spring at the Great Hall of the People in  the heart of the Chinese capital.

In 2023, the National People’s Congress will give full-throated endorsement to Xi Jinping continuing in the position as China’s president and install his hand-picked cabinet. In the process, a major administrative reform will further enfeeble the Chinese state in favour of the Communist Party and its party secretary, again, Xi Jinping.

For over a decade, political revanchism has reversed the hard-won disentanglement of the party from the state, a process that had evolved fitfully over the preceding decades. There has been a restoration of what, in the old days, was known as ‘monolithic Party rule’ 黨的一元化領導. These days it is called ‘comprehensive Party leadership’ 黨的全面領導 or ‘centrally co-ordinated management’ 集中統一領導. The new reality was encapsulated by the revival of a Mao-era dictum in January 2016: ‘Everything in China’, it was declared (echoing what Mao had said in December 1973), ‘is under the direction of the Communist Party: party, state, army, civilian life and education, as are all points of the compass, east, south, west, north and the centre’ 黨政軍民學,東西南北中,黨是領導一切的. From that point for all intents and purposes Xi Jinping has not only been China’s Chairman of Everything, he also became Chairman of Everywhere and Everyone.

[Note: For more on this topic, see A People’s Banana Republic, China Heritage, 5 September 2018.]

The National People’s Congress of March 2023 will merely rubber-stamp publicly behind-the-door decisions made by the Twentieth Central Committee of the Communist Party since October 2022.

We mark China’s legislative farrago by introducing readers of China Heritage to Next Year in Moscow, a seven-part podcast series produced by Arkady Ostrovsky for The Economist. Here we provide links to episodes in the series that have been published so far.

Previously, we traced the entwined histories of the Chinese and Russian autocracies in We Need to Talk About Totalitarianism, Again, the first chapter of Xi Jinping’s Empire of Tedium. In Next Year in Moscow, readers may well pick up on some of the eerie parallels between contemporary China and Russia, as well as the political trajectories of Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin from around the year 2008. Many would agree with Liza Osetinskaya, founder of the defunct YouTube channel ‘Russians are OK’ (Russkie Norm!), who observes in her conversation with Arkady Ostrovsky that:

‘It’s all ruined by the politics.’


The Chinese rubric of this appendix is 你儂我儂 nǐ nóng wǒ nóng — ‘you in me and me in you’ — a popular expression inspired by the ‘You-Me Song’ 我儂詞 by Guan Daosheng 管道昇. Guan was the wife of the renowned Yuan-dynasty painter Zhao Mengfu (趙孟頫, 1254-1322) and she is said to have composed her song after learning that her husband was planning to take a concubine:

Surely was never so loving a pair!
For the potter took clay
And he fashioned a me
And modelled a you:
Then, when the whim took him,
He smashed both the urns
And set to again:
Kneaded and worked the clay,
Fashioned another me,
Modelled another you:
So that, you see,
My body is partly you
And you are partly me.


trans. David Hawkes

One version of the ‘You-Me Song’ ends with the line: ‘In life we share a quilt, in death we will share a coffin’ 我與你生同一個衾,死同一個槨。

from my notes to Xu Zhangrun’s The State of a Civilisation, China Heritage, 8 March 2019

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
5 March 2023
Seventieth Anniversary of Josef Stalin’s Death


Related Material:

  • Chaguan, The Economist, from 13 September 2018
  • Drum Tower, The Economist, from 7 November 2022

From Xi Jinping’s Empire of Tedium:

Ceiling of conference venue at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, March 2012. Photograph by Feng Li for Getty Images


‘The past can destroy the future.’

Liza Osetinskaya 


Next Year in Moscow

A Podcast Series by Arkady Ostrovsky



When the shelling of Ukraine began a year ago, free-thinking Russians faced a fateful choice: lie low, resist or flee. Hundreds of thousands decided to leave. For them the war meant the future of Russia itself was now in doubt. The Economist’s Arkady Ostrovsky finds out what happened to these exiles for a new podcast series. Their stories help solve the mystery of why this senseless war began – and how it might end.

Listen on Apple Podcasts:



1: This damn year

For Russians opposed to Vladimir Putin, everything changed the moment they awoke to news of the invasion of Ukraine a year ago. They felt a range of emotions: pain, fury and shame. And they had to figure out what to do next.  The Economist’s Arkady Ostrovsky has been speaking to them, because their stories help solve the mystery of why this senseless war began – and how it might end.

Listen on Apple Podcasts:



2: A beautiful life

A decade ago Russia’s middle class was larger and richer than it had ever been. “Russians are OK” was the title of a popular YouTube channel. But Vladimir Putin’s return to power sparked unprecedented protests as two very different visions of Russia vied for dominance.

Listen on Apple Podcasts:



3: Baggage

In one sense, the war did not really begin in 2022. It did not even begin in Ukraine. It started the first time Vladimir Putin invaded one of Russia’s neighbours and got away with it. That was 15 years ago, in Georgia. And in the same place Joseph Stalin, author of the Soviet empire’s darkest chapter, was born.

Listen on Apple Podcasts:



4: Hostages

Chulpan Khamatova is one of Russia’s best-loved actors. Once courted by Vladimir Putin, she now lives in exile in Latvia. Her work and fame brought access to the key protagonists in Russia’s recent past. It’s a unique vantage point to contemplate the nature of evil⁠⁠—and its antidote.

Listen on Apple Podcasts: