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Philosopher George Santayana famously observed that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Navigating the many challenges of 2015 will demand a good grasp of history, not only to observe the lessons of the past but also to avoid the seductive, yet spurious, analogies that inevitably tempt policymakers.

In Asia, perhaps the most important task will be understanding the personality and the politics of China’s top leader, Xi Jinping. For some, the search for historical context should focus on Mao Zedong, for they see in Xi a parallel with Mao: a strong leader who seeks to control the sprawling party and political bureaucracies. Reformers insist a strong hand is needed to overcome obstacles to domestic reform and that once Xi has purged the opposition, real economic change will follow.

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