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Xi Jinping a man on a mission

By Giles Chance | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-03 08:04

What message can we see from China under President Xi Jinping's leadership? With respect to China's position in the world, Xi's speech at the Bo'ao Forum in Hainan province in April stressed global interdependence and emphasized the country's peaceful and cooperative intentions.

At home, Xi has linked China's multi-millennial history with the nine-decade history of the Communist Party of China to create the background for his idea of a "Chinese dream". In his dream, everyone in China has access to four things: education, a job, a house and a good income.

In a recent speech to the CPC Central Committee, the president emphasized that without the backing of the Chinese people, the Party cannot achieve anything. It's a clear message that the Party can lead China to a better future only if its officials take stock of and adjust their behavior.

It's not difficult to perceive ordinary people's extreme level of cynicism which years of high-level corruption and cover-ups have produced in China. Xi is right to sound the alarm.

But is it too late to rescue the situation by fighting corruption?

China is too large and populous a country for the central government to monitor officials outside the main cities. So, in a way, the task has fallen on weibo, and its successor weixin. Social media brings subtle changes to China's political landscape. The technological revolution has also had a profound impact on China.

As a result, public opinion is becoming a powerful force in China. For many Chinese, the drama surrounding senior officials' fall from power have come as big shocks. The after-effects of these events still reverberate, and social media keep magnifying them.

Xi has realized that social media have provided the Chinese people with an alternative channel to express their opinions.

But do local officials in far-away Chinese provinces listen to the president's warnings? As an old Chinese saying goes, "The hills are high, and the emperor is far away."

Chinese history is full of well-intentioned uprisings that went nowhere. A key theme in the aftermath of revolutions, from Britain in 1639 to France in 1789, is "plus ca change, plus la meme chose" ( the more everything changes, the more everything stays the same). For Chinese people who are highly practical, the absence of any obvious alternative to status quo is a strong argument against sudden change, pointing instead to something more considered and gradual.

Xi's mission is to invigorate the Party by meeting the aspirations of ordinary Chinese people. His call for the Party to understand and respect the needs of the people should be appreciated. No one can argue with his analysis that the Party depends on the people. Without the people, the Party obviously cannot exist.

Social media seem to have introduced a new political landscape to China. In this new world, the Party's wish to identify with the Chinese people prompts it to provide them with a stronger voice in Party policies.

And although the search for a new equilibrium in China that balances the power of the people with social stability and economic success may take many years, today we may be witnessing the early stages of a home-grown Chinese system of political representation. "Government of the people, by the people, for the people." Doesn't that sound familiar?

The author is a visiting professor at Guanghua School of Management, Peking University.

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