NüVoices Podcast #84: A Conversation with Sue-Lin Wong on ‘The Prince’ podcast & China’s 20th Party Congress

“People have been asking me…what do people need to know about Xi Jinping? And over the course of this podcast, I learned he really fears chaos and he’s obsessed with control. And a lot of that comes from his incredibly traumatic and chaotic childhood, but I think that also helps us understand what drives him today.” 

Sue-Lin Wong, NüVoices Podcast

This week, Sue-Lin Wong of The Economist discusses her new podcast ‘The Prince: Searching for Xi Jinping’. This eight-part series details the life of Xi Jinping — from his tumultuous youth during the Cultural Revolution, his early political career in Fuzhou, to his ascent as the leader of China. Sue-Lin talks about the challenges of creating a podcast about China from abroad, and finding sources to talk about sensitive topics such as internet censorship, surveillance, and more. 

Sue-Lin Wong reporting on the ground in Iowa for ‘The Prince’ podcast with producer Claire Read. President Xi Jinping visited Muscatine, Iowa twice – first in 1985 then in 2012. Sarah Lande, pictured here on the left, has kept in touch with China’s leader throughout the years, despite worsening relations between the US & China.

Sue-Lin and Joanna also recap the highlights from China’s 20th Party Congress — including Hu Jintao’s unusual exit from the meeting — and the political challenges Xi Jinping faces at the start of his third term. 

About Sue-Lin:

Sue-Lin Wong is The Economist’s China correspondent, focusing on society and politics in mainland China and Hong Kong. Prior to joining The Economist, she was South China correspondent at the Financial Times where she covered Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in 2019 and the rise of China’s technology companies. Before that, she was a correspondent at Reuters covering topics including the Chinese economy and North Korea. She opened the Shenzhen bureaus of the Financial Times and Reuters.

About ‘The Prince: Searching for Xi Jinping”

“Xi Jinping is the most powerful man in the world. But the real story of China’s leader remains a mystery. The Economist‘s Sue-Lin Wong finds out how he rose to the top and what it will mean for China—and the world—when he secures an unprecedented third term in October.

The decisions Mr Xi makes affect us all. He will probably rule China for the rest of his life. But his story remains hidden by a strict censorship machine.

Our podcast series investigates Mr Xi’s turbulent past to reveal how he seized control of China. We hear from officials who have dealt with him up close, ordinary people whose lives have been upended by his ambitions and insiders who share his background. From his cloistered childhood in Beijing, to his political education in the booming port city of Xiamen, via popcorn diplomacy in rural Iowa, the contours of Mr Xi’s epic life come into view.”

Show notes:

China Digital Times

The CR/10 Project, an Oral History Collection of the Cultural Revolution (see Sue-Lin Wong’s interviewee from the first episode of The Prince, Li Nanyang here)

‘Why Iowa is Xi Jinping’s favourite corner of America’ (The Economist)


The Economist’s Chaguan column, by David Rennie

Li Yuan’s podcast 不明白