The Prince Podcast

The Economist Group Ltd

Xi Jinping is the most powerful person in the world. In October this year, he secured a third term as leader of China’s communist party. Set to rule for life, he is forging a world very different to the one we know. Yet the real Xi remains a mystery.

The Economist launched an eight episode narrative podcast in September ahead of the Chinese Communist Party Congress called The Prince, exploring the rise of China’s leader. Hosted by The Economist’s China correspondent Sue-Lin Wong, The Prince podcast traces the lessons the young Xi Jinping learned from his traumatic childhood and his rise during China’s boom years. The result is a compelling picture of what he learned about power and how to wield it. Ms Wong talks to people who shared Xi’s background, people affected by the way he changed China, and top officials who have seen him up close. Over the past ten years, Xi Jinping has gathered enormous personal power. Now, the future of China’s 1.4 billion people – and maybe world peace – hinge on the mind of this one man. Each 40-minute episode tackles a different theme surrounding Xi, and seeks to find the answers to questions surrounding the leader including: Why did Xi retain such faith in the Communist Party even as bitter struggles tore apart his childhood? What lessons did he learn from the collapse of the Soviet Union? How did he rise through the ranks to take control of a regime on the brink of collapse? How did he build the world's most sophisticated surveillance and censorship machine? How is he exporting the brutal lessons he has learned about power politics to the rest of the world? Correspondent Sue-Lin Wong said, “Chinese politics is a black box. Nobody at the top talks. Even ordinary people are afraid to express their opinions. Despite those challenges, I was able to gain access to fascinating people who illuminate Xi Jinping’s story. I hope listeners of The Prince learn not just about Xi, but also about China and its place in the world.” The response to the Prince podcast has been overwhelmingly positive. When the podcast launched, it immediately hit the top of the Apple podcast charts in the UK and US. Notable press included reviews from the FT and The Times. Notable people have listened to it including former CIA head David Patraeus, who sent through positive feedback on the podcast. There is a lot to digest here, and Wong doesn’t patronise us by only giving us the headline moments. The Prince takes its time, building a picture of a quietly ruthless figure emerging in an unsettled political climate that seemed to call for firm stewardship. Listen to any of the recent podcasts on Vladimir Putin and you get the sense of a man who is increasingly divorced from reality. By contrast here, and perhaps most chilling, is how Xi comes over as cool-headed, clever and incredibly successful in exerting control both over his party and the Chinese people.”