Both Pope Francis and Chinese President Xi Jinping happen to be in America this week, receiving quite different receptions though. The Pope has been treated like a rock star, constantly on TV, real time. In contrast, President Xi has received, from the TV media, one of the most civilized forms of mistreatment: neglect!
For me, this is a rare opportunity to compare the two powerful men, as they actually have more in common than many realize. Most importantly, they both have been, and will hopefully continue to be, hugely positive to the world!
Here is a table comparing the two at a very high level:
Let me briefly explain the six comparing aspects one by one:
Leadership: Pope Francis leads the Vatican as well as Catholics around the world, while Xi leads China.
“Subjects” population: Each leads a huge portion of the world's population, with Xi's share about 30% more.
Climbing to the top: Both have proven to be savvy in politics, climbing to the top via their respective hierarchies - Neither was democratically elected by the people per se! But China is actually a bit more democratic than the Vatican in terms of transparency at least. For example, the selection of a new Pope is much more secretive, unpredictable, and non-democratic than the selection of a new Chinese President!
Term-limit: China is more “modern” than the Vatican!
Agent of change: Both have been the agent of change for their respective countries (and “constituents”).
Core concern/value: Pope Francis seems to be deeply concerned about inequality, while President Xi loudly advocates the China dream, in which the rich pulls up the poor, not the other way around!
Today, Pope Francis and President Xi are among the top four most powerful men in the world, with the other two being President Obama and Russian President Putin!
In terms of democracy, the Papal hierarchy is no better than the CPC (Communist Party of China) hierarchy!
In terms of the top leadership, China is actually a bit more “modern” (e.g. term-limit) and more democratic (e.g. transparency in leadership nurturing and selection) than the Vatican!
4. Pope Francis in America
Pope Francis has met mostly with the people, including their representatives in Congress.
During his speech in Congress, the Pope specifically highlighted four Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day. Since I had never heard about the last two, I Googled them - both were Catholics! What a Pope! He is not only a proven savvy politician, but also a marketing genius!
5. President Xi in America
President Xi has been meeting business people mostly! He too has shown that he is not only a proven savvy politician, but also a good salesman!
Most Americans view Pope Francis favorably (e.g. a better Pope and a nice guy), to which I agree, but President Xi unfavorably (e.g. a communist and a tough guy), to which I disagree.
Arrogance: Many Americans do not seem to realize that other people (e.g. the Chinese) have the same rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", as Americans do! The Chinese have been working very hard over the past few decades with remarkable results, such as lifting some 600 million people out of poverty in a short time span of 35 years, which is totally unprecedented in human history!
Democracy: Most Americans are so brainwashed about democracy that not only do they fail to realize that democracy has been a proven failure throughout human history, they think democracy is the only thing - anything else (e.g. "state capitalism" in China) is wrong or worse at least, despite the mounting evidence suggesting otherwise! For more, read: Towards an Ideal Form of Government.
It was wrong for John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, to have repeatedly invited Popes to address Congress! Why? Because it mixes church with state, in violation of one of the most basic founding principles of our nation! Any doubt? Can you imagine a Muslim leader addressing Congress?
It was wise for Pope Francis to have accepted the invitation! Why? Because he is a salesman and there is no better sales opportunity than this!
Will President Xi have hard feelings about his inferior treatment by American politicians and America’s mainstream media? No! Why not? He knows America very well, far better than the other way around!
The world is too big to be monolithic: no single country (e.g. America or China), religion (e.g. Christianity or Islam), or ideology (e.g. democracy or communism) has been dominating the world for a long time!
In an increasingly globalized world like ours, it's important to have global forces able to coordinate and even police each and every country. The UN has been a good try, and it's fitting that both Pope Francis and President Xi will address the UN this time! Additionally, the Vatican should have a positive global role to play (e.g. climate and poverty), given its influence over Catholics worldwide!
Both Pope Francis and President Xi have, so far, been very positive not only to their own "subjects", but also to the world. It would be interesting to have them meet, but I doubt it would ever happen. Three main reasons:
China will never become a Christian country, let alone Catholic, or even "seriously" religious. For more, read: Religions.
It will take at least another decade (i.e. beyond Xi's tenure in China) for the world to realize that democracy will again prove to be a total failure and the China model is actually the best available in the world today. For more, read: Democracy: to be or not to be?
Hopefully, both Pope Francis and President Xi will continue to be very positive to the world!
Very importantly, it's time for America to learn the very core they both seem to share: peace!
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