One is Barack Obama, yesterday re-elected for four more years as president of the United States. The other is Xi Jinping, expected to be named chairman of the Chinese Communist Party later today, thus automatically becoming president of China next March.
We think we know everything about Obama and his problems: a national debt that is nearly 100 percent of gross national product, faltering economic growth, huge unemployment; not to mention the foreign affairs of Iran, Afghanistan, Mali and Syria, etc.
For the other guy, most of us don't yet know how to pronounce his name correctly.
Xi, his family name, is 59 years old and has been described by former French Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin (who should know) as the political equivalent of a crocodile -- apparently asleep, unmoving, harmless, until he gets a grip on you with one flash of his mighty jaws, and you just wait for the lights to go out.
He is part of a political dynasty, with his father having served as deputy prime minister under Mao.
Xi has managed, through either honesty or dexterity, to avoid being damaged by the political and financial scandals of recent Chinese history. And he has built up a political network sufficiently strong to counteract the fact that the current president, Hu Jintao, doesn't like him and would have preferred a different successor.
He likes Hollywood war movies, has a daughter at Harvard, and is married to the Chinese version of Carla Bruni, Peng Liyuan.
The Chinese are worried about Xi, says Aujourd'hui en France, because he's a relative unknown, and may have a negative impact on economic growth. For most Chinese, the important question is not more or less democracy, but ever more purchasing power.