By Ian Johnson

Last November, China’s newly installed leader, Xi Jinping, asked his fellow Chinese to help realize a “Chinese dream” of national rejuvenation. In the months since then, his talk has been seen as a marker in the new leadership’s thinking, especially as Xi has pursued a policy of robustly defending territorial claims and called on the United States to explore “a new type of great power relationship.” These actions, unthinkable a decade ago when China was still a much smaller, less important global player, were evidence that Xi intended to realize his dream.

Xi carefully chose the stage where he made his call. It wasn’t at a meeting of parliament or a trip abroad, but during a visit to an exhibition in the National Museum of China. Located on the east end of Tiananmen Square, the museum is a cavernous structure of severe columns adorned with a national crest and a stylized billowing red flag. The architecture’s overtly political themes are reflected in the building’s tumultuous history: since its launch in 1959, the museum has been closed more often than open, as successive leaders have squabbled over what should be presented inside. In its present incarnation, it was redesigned by a German architecture firm to be the world’s largest museum and reopened in 2011.1 One of its permanent exhibitions is the show Xi visited, “The Road to Rejuvenation.” (Read the rest of the article)