Xi Jinping

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Xi Jinping (Getty)

Xi Jinping (Getty)

Fresh from his “surprise” election as president of China last week, Xi Jinping is about to set off on his first foreign trip. Later this week, he will travel to Moscow. The choice is a traditional one, and redolent of the Cold War, when Russia and China were the twin pillars of the Communist world.

Back then, China was the junior partner in the relationship. These days, although the Russians would be reluctant to acknowledge it, China is the more important partner – simply because of the sheer size and dynamism of its economy.

That said, there is a time lag in the way the two countries behave on the international stage. Russia is no longer a superpower, but still has the instinct to demand a central role in the settlement of the big international issues – just look at the role that the Russians have assumed over Syria. By contrast, China is an emerging superpower, but is still loath to take the lead on international issues outside of its immediate neighbourhood. Read more

Peng Liyuan performs in 2007 (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty)

Peng Liyuan performs in 2007 (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty)

The talking point of the Chinese leadership transition has so far centred on the President-elect and his austerity drive on gift-giving. But today his celebrity folk singer wife – Peng Liyuan – swept to centre stage, following the revelation that she will not only be accompanying him on his first foreign tour, but also giving a speech.

The move is a departure from the treatment afforded to the wife of the outgoing President, Hu Jintao. It would seem that, rather than the silent companion of yore, Xi Jinping is keen for his wife to play a key ambassadorial role.

A cursory look at pictures of her performing across China show an array of brightly coloured outfits – her repertoire of different looks could rival those of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the wife of the former French President. Another link between the two women is that both were independently famous as singers before marrying their politician-husbands. Read more

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China’s new leadership
China has just completed its carefully-scripted, once-in-a-decade leadership transition. The Politburo was cut from nine to seven members and incoming general secretary and president Xi Jinping will also become head of the military. With these remaining uncertainties settled, Jamil Anderlini, Beijing bureau chief; James Blitz, diplomatic editor, and David Pilling, Asia editor, join John Aglionby to discuss how the new leadership will cope with an increasingly demanding population and whether the world will engage with Beijing any differently

The past week has offered a unique chance to compare politics in the world’s two biggest powers. The opaque formality of the Communist party congress in China makes an almost comic contrast with the made-for-television razzmatazz of the US presidential election.

These are the pieces that prompted discussion on the world desk today: 

By Ruona Agbroko

Here are some of the articles that have grabbed our attention from today’s FT and elsewhere: