John Key and Xi by Susan Grimsdell

Xi Jinping is the paramount leader of China and has been since 2012.  That means he is the power behind whatever actions China takes on the world scene and no doubt at home.   Over that time period China has crushed democracy in Hong Kong, and now threatens Taiwan with extreme violence. 

Uyghurs in a re-education camp

China has also imprisoned about a million Uyghurs.  Prisons in China are unlikely to be pleasant places to serve out sentences, if indeed the victims have had the formality of a trial and a finite sentence.  It’s hard to imagine so many people – a million – in some ghastly compounds, with many of them no doubt starving to death as I write.  We can only assume their lives are completely wretched thanks to Xi Jinping.


By any standard Xi is a ruthless brutal oppressor.  Yet recently, John Key, NZ Prime Minister 2008-2016, was reported as saying “I personally like him.” 

John Key with Xi Jinping on a visit to China in 2019

I have to wonder what this means.  Is Key saying that he admires it when a leader exercises such power, solving a perceived problem so easily – don’t want them, throw them in prison.  Excellent!  No one could accuse Xi of harbouring so much as a shred of softness or weakness.  Perhaps it’s that cold pitilessness that Key finds likable.  Is Key a closet tyrant perhaps? 

Or maybe Key isn’t too worried about the gross brutality of Xi’s actions, and just finds him good company over dinner.  Maybe it’s as simple as John getting a warm fuzzy when Xi directs his charming smile his way.   What is it you “like” about Xi, John?  Do tell. 

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